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EarthSky // Earth, Human World, Science Wire Release Date: Jan 14, 2014

Primates, including humans, burn half as many calories as other mammals

The study suggests that our remarkably slow metabolisms explain why humans and other primates grow up so slowly and live such long lives.

“A human – even someone with a very physically active lifestyle – would need to run a marathon each day just to approach the average daily energy expenditure of a mammal their size.” – Herman Pontzer. Image via Wikimedia Commons

A study published January 14, 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that humans and other primates burn 50% fewer calories each day than other mammals of similar size. This slow metabolism, the researchers say, may help explain why humans and other primates grow up slower and live longer than most mammals.

An international team of scientists examined 17 primate species in zoos, sanctuaries and in the wild. Using a safe and non-invasive technique, they measured the number of calories the primates burned over a 10-day period. Herman Pontzer,Associate Professor of Anthropology at Hunter College, led the study. Pontzer said:

The results were a real surprise. Humans, chimpanzees, baboons and other primates expend only half the calories we’d expect for a mammal. To put that in perspective, a human – even someone with a very physically active lifestyle – would need to run a marathon each day just to approach the average daily energy expenditure of a mammal their size.

The study also found that primates in captivity expend as many calories each day as their counterparts living in the wild. The researchers say this suggests that physical activity may have less of an impact on daily energy expenditure than was previously believed.

Read more from Hunter College

chimp-family

Primates, including humans, burn 50% fewer calories each day than other mammals of similar size. Image of chimpanzee family via Science Museum of Minnesota

Bottom line: Humans and other primates burn 50% fewer calories each day than other mammals of similar size. This slow metabolism, the researchers say, may help explain why humans and other primates grow up slower and live longer than most mammals.