Fitness benefits of dietary restriction

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Dietary restriction (DR) improves survival across a wide range of taxa yet remains poorly understood. The key unresolved question is whether this evolutionarily conserved response to temporary lack of food is adaptive. Recent work suggests that early-life DR reduces survival and reproduction when nutrients subsequently become plentiful, thereby challenging adaptive explanations. A new hypothesis maintains that increased survival under DR results from reduced costs of overfeeding. We tested the adaptive value of DR response in an outbred population of Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies. We found that DR females did not suffer from reduced survival upon subsequent re-feeding and had increased reproduction and mating success compared to their continuously fully fed (FF) counterparts. The increase in post-DR reproductive performance was of sufficient magnitude that females experiencing early-life DR had the same total fecundity as continuously FF individuals. Our results suggest that the DR response is adaptive and increases fitness when temporary food shortages cease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20211787
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1963
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021


  • ageing
  • dietary restriction
  • lifespan extension
  • senescence

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