The hidden costs of dietary restriction: Implications for its evolutionary and mechanistic origins

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  21 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 8, eaay3047
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay3047


Dietary restriction (DR) extends life span across taxa. Despite considerable research, universal mechanisms of DR have not been identified, limiting its translational potential. Guided by the conviction that DR evolved as an adaptive, pro-longevity physiological response to food scarcity, biomedical science has interpreted DR as an activator of pro-longevity molecular pathways. Current evolutionary theory predicts that organisms invest in their soma during DR, and thus when resource availability improves, should outcompete rich-fed controls in survival and/or reproduction. Testing this prediction in Drosophila melanogaster (N > 66,000 across 11 genotypes), our experiments revealed substantial, unexpected mortality costs when flies returned to a rich diet following DR. The physiological effects of DR should therefore not be interpreted as intrinsically pro-longevity, acting via somatic maintenance. We suggest DR could alternatively be considered an escape from costs incurred under nutrient-rich conditions, in addition to costs associated with DR.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances