Obesity Study: Monkeys as Couch Potatoes

By Kelsey – March 2, 2011

Leah Nash for The New York Times

As it turns out, monkeys are more similar to humans than we thought. Maybe it’s something about our opposable thumbs that allows us to grip our precious Coke cans so well; research centers across the globe are studying our primate friends to see exactly how a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating leads us to our grave of obesity and diabetes.

Researchers “induce the couch-potato lifestyle” to mimic the health issues we currently face in the US. It’s a practice that animal rights activists are fighting, but researchers say primates the optimal test subject because they’re similar to humans both physiologically and in their eating habits, as they’re more likely to snack when bored– whether they’re hungry or not.

So what does an obese monkey’s diet look like? It seems to be a primate equivalent of eating a chicken fried steak and Dr. Pepper every day. They can have as many dried chow pellets as they want (1/3 of the calories in these are from fat, much like the American diet), snack on chunks of peanut butter and drink a fruit punch with the same fructose level as a can of soda.

Some researchers have noted the link between high-fructose corn syrup and increased obesity and diabetes rates.

While animal rights activists question the necessity and approach of the studies, it doesn’t look like the research is going to stop anytime soon. Pharmaceutical companies are sending the research to less expensive research centers around the world, and it’s already a “booming industry in China.”

For the full story, click here.

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