It has been known for some 70 years that restricting the food intake of laboratory rats extends their mean and maximum life span. In addition, such life extension has been observed over the years in many other species, including mice, hamsters, dogs, fish, invertebrate animals, and yeast. Since this life-extending action appears to be due to a restricted intake of energy, this dietary manipulation is referred to as caloric restriction (CR). CR extends life by slowing and/or delaying the ageing processes. The underlying biological mechanism responsible for the life extension is still not known, although many hypotheses have been proposed. The Growth Retardation Hypothesis, the first proposed, has been tested and found wanting. Although there is strong evidence against the Reduction of Body Fat Hypothesis, efforts have recently been made to resurrect it. While the Reduction of Metabolic Rate Hypothesis is not supported by experimental findings, it nevertheless still has advocates. Currently, the most popular concept is the Oxidative Damage Attenuation Hypothesis; the results of several studies provide support for this hypothesis, while those of other studies do not. The Altered Glucose-Insulin System Hypothesis and the Alteration of the Growth Hormone-IGF-1 Axis Hypothesis have been gaining favor, and data have emerged that link these two hypotheses as one. Thus, it may now be more appropriate to refer to them as the Attenuation of Insulin-Like Signaling Hypothesis. Finally, the Hormesis Hypothesis may provide an overarching concept that embraces several of the other hypotheses as merely specific examples of hormetic processes. For example, the Oxidative Damage Attenuation Hypothesis probably addresses only one of likely many damaging processes that underlie aging. It is proposed that low-intensity stressors, such as CR, activate ancient hormetic defense mechanisms in organisms ranging from yeast to mammals, defending them against a variety of adversities and, when long-term, retarding senescent processes.