In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists have suggested that eating less food or restricting your diet in the early years of your life could be beneficial for reproduction in later life.
The study by University of East Anglia researchers based their findings on eating and mating habits of the small fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Researchers found through their study that females that consumed less food for their entire lives lived longer, however they didn’t reproduce as well as their better-fed counterparts. But those that switched from a restricted diet to unlimited food, started mating and reproducing more. These flies produced three times more offspring than those that were kept on a restricted diet.
Meanwhile restricted diets didn’t have a noticeable impact on survival as those with restricted diet lived similar to females that had been fully-fed their whole lives.
The team investigated the effect of early life dietary restriction on survival, mating behaviour and reproduction in fruit flies. While some were given enough food, others were put on a restricted diet with just 40 per cent of their usual intake of yeast. A third group were put on a restricted diet in early life, followed by being allowed to consume as much as they liked.
Researchers say that dietary restriction is generally associated with better health and reduced reproduction. They found that when the test flies were switched from a restricted diet to normal eating, they started mating and reproducing more indicating that females reproduce little while they are eating little but they maintain their reproductive health and when they have unlimited food late in life, they immediately start reproducing a lot.
This shows that reduced reproduction due to eating less in early life can be fully compensated by switching to a rich diet late in life. “There have been very few studies on dietary restriction and reproductive health in humans – mainly because these sorts of studies have ethical and logistical limitations. However, the results from studies in model organisms suggest that it is worth exploring this further using approaches that are more suitable to humans.