"There is an emerging survival advantage for the monkeys on caloric restriction and 50 percent of the normally-fed animals have died. And maybe 25 percent of those on caloric restriction," Dr. Weindruch explains.
"That's a pretty remarkable number. Surely those are strong indications that restricted calorie intake among humans would be extremely beneficial," Safer remarks.
"It appears to support that idea," Weindruch agrees.
But our record as humans staying on diets is pretty miserable and worsening. So it's a fat chance that we'll all be giving up our passion for greasy junk. We consume tons more calories than we need but, believe it or not, there are some Americans who just revel in their hunger.
Meet the members of CRS - the Calorie Restriction Society - a group that has been severely restricting their calories for years now. They are also part of a Washington University study to see if humans "mimic" the monkeys. Does this kind of self-denial makes them live longer, healthier lives?
60 Minutes joined them for what they call "happy hour," consisting of a cocktail of low-calorie soup for starters, and walnuts, and baby food - green bean puree on flour-free bread to top off this feast fit for a flea.
So far the participants have lowered their blood pressure, reduced body fat, and lessened risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. And what's more, to one husband anyway, starvation has its sexy side. "To be honest, if you saw her without any clothes, you'd see she looks pretty darn good, like a woman like of many, many years younger," the man told 60 Minutes.
Their emissaries travel the world, spreading the faith and the word: hunger turns on the survival gene.
The skinnies may not die young, but given their diet they just might die of boredom. But if the scientists at Sirtris are on the right track, it could mean forget dieting, forget the sweaty business of working out - just pop a pill and you are in guilt-free couch potato paradise.