Having it all: historical energy intakes do not generate the anticipated trade-offs in fecundity

S L Johnston, T Grune, Lorna Margaret Bell, S J Murray, D M Souter, S S Erwin, J M Yearsley, I J Gordon, A W Illius, I Kyriazakis, John Roger Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)


axiom of life-history theory, and fundamental to our understanding of ageing, is that animals must trade-off their allocation of resources since energy and nutrients are limited. Therefore, animals cannot 'have it all'-combine high rates of fecundity with extended lifespans. The idea of life-history trade-offs was recently challenged by the discovery that ageing may be governed by a small subset of molecular processes independent of fitness. We tested the 'trade-off' and 'having it all' theories by examining the fecundities of C57BL/6J mice placed onto four different dietary treatments that generated caloric intakes from -21 to +8.6% of controls. We predicted body fat would be deposited in relation to caloric intake. Excessive body fat is known to cause co-morbidities that shorten lifespan, while caloric restriction enhances somatic protection and increases longevity. The trade-off model predicts that increased fat would be tolerated because reproductive gain offsets shortened longevity, while animals on a restricted intake would sacrifice reproduction for lifespan extension. The responses of body fat to treatments followed our expectations, however, there was a negative relationship between reproductive performance (fecundity, litter mass) and historical intake/body fat. Our dietary restricted animals had lower protein oxidative damage and appeared able to combine life-history traits in a manner contrary to traditional expectations by having increased fecundity with the potential to have extended lifespans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1374
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1592
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2006


  • life history
  • trade-off
  • resource allocation
  • oxidative stress
  • life span
  • calorie restriction
  • dietary restriction
  • C-elegans
  • mice
  • mass
  • age
  • mechanisms
  • longevity
  • nutrition


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