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  1. News Release

  2. Oct 5, 2022

Doctors Group Files Federal Complaint Against Medical School Over Research Study Using Monkeys

Human Nutrition Should Be Studied in Humans, Group Says

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national nonprofit with more than 17,000 doctor members, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today, Oct. 5, 2022, over a Wake Forest University School of Medicine research study using macaque monkeys that the group says violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). 

For more than two years, experimenters at Wake Forest confined and socially isolated 43 female macaques to study the effects of a Mediterranean diet on mental and brain health. Throughout the experiment, two animals did not tolerate the diet, and three died. This violates the AWA’s requirement that experiments limit discomfort and pain to only that which is unavoidable in the production of scientifically valuable research. Since the Mediterranean diet is safe for humans, Wake Forest’s use of animals was neither scientifically valuable nor unavoidable. According to Janine McCarthy, MPH, of the Physicians Committee, a proper search for alternatives to animal experimentation, as required by the AWA, would have revealed that the effects of Mediterranean diets on mental health have been studied extensively in humans.

“Wake Forest can’t justify the pain, suffering, and death of animals to study a diet that’s safely eaten by people all over the world,” McCarthy said. “The experimenters would have been much better off using clinical and epidemiological studies that are actually applicable to human health.”

Wake Forest’s Mediterranean diet study has received $13.5 million in public funding via grants from the NIH since 2007. Furthermore, the primary investigator of this research at Wake Forest has received more than $20.4 million in NIH funding since 1998 to conduct research using monkeys. 

At federally funded research institutions, any use of live animals for research, testing, or training must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The Physicians Committee believes that inadequate oversight by Wake Forest’s IACUC is responsible for the improper approval and ongoing use of live animals for human nutrition research.

The Physicians Committee requested that APHIS and OLAW investigate Wake Forest’s macaque study and order correction and appropriate penalties. 

For an interview with Ms. McCarthy, please contact Kim Kilbride at 202-717-8665 or at kkilbride [at]

Media Contact

Kim Kilbride



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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