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BMC Syst Biol. 2011 May 19;5:78. doi: 10.1186/1752-0509-5-78.

A general life history theory for effects of caloric restriction on health maintenance.

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  • 1Department of Systems and Computational Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.



Caloric restriction (CR) has been shown to keep organisms in a relatively youthful and healthy state compared to ad libitum fed counterparts, as well as to extend the lifespan of a diverse set of organisms. Several attempts have been made to understand the underlying mechanisms from the viewpoint of energy tradeoffs in organisms' life histories. However, most models are based on assumptions which are difficult to justify, or are endowed with free-adjusting parameters whose biological relevancy is unclear.


In this paper, we derive a general quantitative, predictive model based on physiological data for endotherms. We test the hypothesis that an animal's state of health is correlated with biological mechanisms responsible for the maintenance of that animal's functional integrities. Such mechanisms require energy. By suppressing animals' caloric energy supply and biomass synthesis, CR alters animals' energy allocation strategies and channels additional energy to those maintenance mechanisms, therefore enhancing their performance. Our model corroborates the observation that CR's effects on health maintenance are positively correlated with the degree and duration of CR. Furthermore, our model shows that CR's effects on health maintenance are negatively correlated to the temperature drop observed in endothermic animals, and is positively correlated to animals' body masses. These predictions can be tested by further experimental research.


Our model reveals how animals will alter their energy budget when food availability is low, and offers better understanding of the tradeoffs between growth and somatic maintenance; therefore shedding new light on aging research from an energetic viewpoint.

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