Fattening Up Monkeys to Test Human Obesity Drugs
Have you ever wondered how scientists come up with those miracle weight-loss drugs?
They force monkeys to become fat and lazy by keeping them in cages and stuffing them with rich foods and syrupy drinks – making them morbidly obese and sick.
According to a story from the New York Times monkeys from the Oregon National Primate Research Center are routinely fattened to twice their normal weight to test weight-loss and diabetes medications for humans.
Monkeys are preferred by researchers because they “resemble humans much more than laboratory rats” both physically and emotionally. For instance, primates will eat to entertain themselves when they get bored.
One young adult monkey named Shiva was fattened up to a morbidly obese weight of 45 pounds to test medications for human weight related illnesses. He gained 15 pounds in six months.
He was fed a diet of pellets with about one-third of the calories coming from fat. He also snacked on peanut butter, popcorn, peanuts and fruit-flavored punch made with high fructose.
And although Shiva grew up in a colony of monkeys and craved social interaction, he was kept in a private cage so his food intake could be accurately monitored.
The cage also forced Shiva to become a “couch-potato” so that he didn’t skew the test results by doing any exercise.
With all of the obese people in the United States you might wonder why research on human obesity isn’t being done with human subjects. After all, any new drug will eventually need a human trial before it can be released.
Dr. Kevin L. Grove, a neuroscientist who manages the “obese resource” section of the Oregon research center gave this answer,“Nonhuman primates don’t lie to you. We know exactly how much they are eating.” He accused people of “fudging” when they reported their daily calorie intake.
Currently there are 150 “rotund” rhesus monkeys at the Oregon primate center. Some receive daily insulin shots to treat diabetes and some have clogged arteries. One monkey died from a heart attack.
Once the primates are fat enough, they are given experimental weight-loss drugs or made to undergo weight-loss surgery, such as one study that tried to determine the success of bariatric operations.
There have even been experiments using pregnant monkeys to test what happens to their babies when their mother is fed a high-fat diet.
This study found the babies had chemical changes in their brains and were more prone to anxiety.
Animal rights organizations like PETA protested this study and tried to stop the research.
Dr. Grove wasn’t fazed by PETA’s criticism. He told the New York Times, “I applaud them for that pressure because it makes us do our job better.”
Dr. Grove also warned that using obese monkeys is a growing trend, especially in countries like China where pharmaceutical research is cheap.
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