Hormesis is defined as a dose-response phenomenon characterized by low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition, and has been recognized as representing an overcompensation for mild environmental stress. The beneficial effects of mild stress on aging and longevity have been studied for many years. In experimental animals, mild dietary stress (dietary restriction, DR) without malnutrition delays most age-related physiological changes, and extends maximum and average lifespan. Animal studies have also demonstrated that DR can prevent or lessen the severity of cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, autoimmune disease, allergy, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. The effects of DR are considered to result from hormetic mechanisms. These effects were reported by means of various DR regimens, such as caloric restriction, total-nutrient restriction, alternate-day fasting, and short-term fasting. Mild dietary stress, including restriction of amount or frequency of intake, is the essence of DR. For more than 99% of their history, humans lived as hunter-gatherers and adapted to restrictions in their food supply. On the other hand, an oversufficiency of food for many today has resulted in the current global epidemic of obesity and obesity-related diseases. DR may be used, therefore, as a novel approach for therapeutic intervention in several diseases, when detailed information about effects of mild dietary stress on human health is obtained from clinical trials.
2010 Japan Society of Physiological Anthropology