Dietary restriction (DR) increases the life span and retards aging, in part, by limiting free radical generation and oxidative damage. DR also reduces body mass, a major determinant of bone mass across the life span. We tested the hypothesis that DR has its most beneficial effects on bone in mouse strains with high free radical generation (sensitive to carcinogenesis [SENCAR] > C57 > DBA) versus the hypothesis that bone mass at weight-bearing sites is determined by body mass in DR and ad libitum (AL)-fed mice. Male mice of each strain were killed at 10 weeks of age (t(0)) or randomized to an AL-fed or 30% DR feeding regimen for 6 months. Food consumption by AL-fed mice was measured daily, and DR mice received 70% of the amount of food consumed by their respective AL-fed mice the previous day. Body fat (%) and bone mineral density (BMD) and content (BMC) were determined by PIXImus densitometry. There were strain-dependent effects on body mass, crown-to-rump length, percent body fat, and total body, femoral, and vertebral BMD and BMC under all conditions. SENCAR mice were heavier, longer, had larger bones, and generally exhibited higher total body, femoral, and vertebral BMC and BMD than C57 and DBA mice. DR had beneficial effects on BMD and BMC in the vertebrae of the SENCAR mouse model of high free radical generation and in the obese, diabetes-prone C57 mouse model of high end-stage protein glycation. DR DBA and SENCAR mice had lower femoral BMDs and BMCs than their respective AL-fed controls. Regression analysis confirmed linear relationships between total and lean body mass and total body and femoral BMDs and BMCs, suggesting that physiologic adaptation to a lower body mass accounts for the lower femoral bone mineral values observed in DR versus AL-fed mice. Thus, both hypotheses are, at least, partially valid. DR is beneficial in the trabeculae-rich vertebrae of animal models of high oxidant stress, and total/lean body mass determines BMD and BMC in the weight-bearing femur in DR and AL-fed mice.