Although calorie restriction has been reported to extend lifespan in several organisms, animals subjected to calorie restriction consume not only fewer calories but also smaller quantities of food. Whether it is the overall restriction of calories or the coincidental reduction in the quantity of food consumed that mediates the anti-aging effects is unclear.
Here, we subjected mice to five dietary interventions. We showed that both calorie and quantity restriction could improve early survival, but no maximum lifespan extension was observed in the mice fed isocaloric diet in which food quantity was reduced. Mice fed isoquant diet with fewer calories showed maximum lifespan extension and improved health among all the groups, suggesting that calorie intake rather than food quantity consumed is the key factor for the anti-aging effect of calorie restriction.
Midlife liver gene expression correlations with lifespan revealed that calorie restriction raised fatty acid biosynthesis and metabolism and biosynthesis of amino acids but inhibited carbon metabolism, indicating different effects on fatty acid metabolism and carbohydrate metabolism.
Our data illustrate the effects of calories and food quantity on the lifespan extension by calorie restriction and their potential mechanisms, which will provide guidance on the application of calorie restriction to humans.