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Comp Med. 2011 Dec;61(6):514-26.

Obesity in rhesus and cynomolgus macaques: a comparative review of the condition and its implications for research.

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Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada; Tulane National Primate Research Center, Covington, LA, USA.


Obesity is an increasingly important health issue in both humans and animals and has been highly correlated as a risk factor for hyperglycemic conditions in humans. Naturally occurring obesity has been extensively studied in nonhuman primates with a focus on the development of biomarkers for characterizing overweight individuals and tracking the progression of obesity to conditions such as type 2 diabetes mellitus. Animal models have provided a basic understanding of metabolism and carbohydrate physiology, and continue to contribute to ongoing research of obesity and its adverse health effects. This review focuses on spontaneous obesity in rhesus and cynomolgus macaques as a model for human obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, including associated risk factors for the development of obesity and obesity-related health conditions. Little is known about preventive measures to minimize obesity while maintaining a healthy colony of macaques, and numerous complexities such as social status, feeding behaviors, timing of feeding, food distribution, and stress have been identified as contributing factors to overweight body condition in both single and group housed nonhuman primates. As in humans, increased body weight and obesity in macaques affect their overall health status. These conditions may interfere with the suitability of some animals in various studies unrelated to obesity.

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