A new study from the University of East Anglia, England, has found that a restricted diet in your early life could be beneficial for your reproductive health in later life, according to Science Daily.
Researchers looked at the eating and mating habits of the small fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. They found that female flies that consumed less food for their entire lives lived longer. However, the female flies did not reproduce as well as their better-fed counterparts.
The researchers, however, found that those that switched from a restricted diet to unlimited food later in life started mating and reproducing more, producing three times more offspring than those that were on a restricted diet.
Lead researcher Dr. Zahida Sultanova said, “Dietary restriction is associated with longer life and better health in many organisms, including humans. We wanted to find out what happens when the dietary restriction in early in life is followed by eating a lot later in life.”
The authors investigated the impact of early life dietary restriction on survival, mating behavior, and reproduction. Some were given enough food, while others were put on a restricted diet with just 40% of their usual intake of yeast. The researchers also looked at a third group that was put on a restricted diet in early life and was allowed to consume as much as they liked.
Dr. Sultanova noted, “Dietary restriction is generally associated with better health and reduced reproduction. However, when our flies were switched from a restricted diet to normal eating, they started mating and reproducing more, while their survival became similar to fully-fed females.”
“These results in fruit flies show 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,” she added. “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,” Dr. Sultanova explained. “However, the results from studies in model organisms suggest that it is worth exploring this further using approaches that are more suitable to humans.”