By LLOYD WATERS
11:55 PM EST, January 5, 2013
I remember traveling to the Chambersburg cinema to see “Gettysburg” when the movie first came out. I found the scene where several Confederate generals were smoking and discussing evolution around a campfire to be pretty amusing.
Do you remember the scene? One of the generals was sharing the story with the others that we are all descendants of the ape.
General Pickett’s response went like this: “Sirs, perhaps there are those among you who believe you are descended from an ape. I suppose there may even be those among you who believe that I am descended from an ape. But I challenge the man to step forward who believes that Gen. Robert E. Lee is descended from an ape.
James Kemper replied, “Hear, Hear.”
And Gen. Richard B. Garnett agreed, “Not likely.”
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you are descended from an ape.
But in August of this year, the New York Times reported on a study that was conducted for the last 25 years with a group of Rhesus monkeys.
Scientists, in their wisdom, believed that this study would prove conclusively that eating fewer calories would result in a longer life, not only for the control group of monkeys who ate 30 percent fewer calories, but also for their nearby relative, the human.
These two groups of Rhesus monkeys were studied and closely monitored for 25 years.
Rafael de Cabo, the lead author of the study, was both surprised and disappointed by the results when he learned that the monkeys fed a 30 percent reduced calorie diet did not live any longer than the group that ate a regular diet.
Both groups had the same rates of heart disease and cancer.
The group of Rhesus monkeys that ate the fewest calories over that 25-year study lived no longer than the other group. Are there similar ramifications for humans?
The 2012 America’s Health Rankings highlight troubling levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and sedentary behavior of Americans. The United Health Foundation further concludes that Americans are living longer than ever before but are sicker.
When I go for my annual physical, I am often reminded of good health practices. In 1984, when I was eating a lot better and walking or jogging 6 miles a day, I really felt great. I was a firm believer that proper eating and exercise would probably result in a longer life, but then I had some lingering thoughts about my past.
I would often share a story with my doctor. My great Aunt Mary, God rest her soul, was a very large woman. For sure, she didn’t eat 30 percent fewer calories than most people. I suspect she ate at least 30 percent more calories than many of her neighbors.
I would tell the good doctor that Aunt Mary always said she was going to make it to a hundred. She probably ate more fat (chicken, hog, beef, etc.) and homemade pies, candy and cakes than any person I ever saw. Exercise? I never saw her even walk fast in my entire life, I would tell my doctor.
“Now don’t get me wrong, Doc, I fully believe that a healthy lifestyle is better than an unhealthy lifestyle,” for sure. In fact, before this monkey study and results, I would have thought that eating less would increase one’s longevity.
Now back to my story about Aunt Mary.
“If I could take you, Doc, to the Samples Manor cemetery, I could show you Aunt Mary’s tombstone.” The dates recorded on that granite stone are 1886 to 1985.
She was buried on her 100th birthday.
Eating less, in fact, might have many rewards, including good health, but if you’re related to the Rhesus monkey, don’t expect to live any longer than I will.
Now, where’s the egg nog?
Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.
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