The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been subjected to dietary restriction (DR) by a number of means, with varying results in terms of fecundity and lifespan. Two possible mechanisms by which DR increases lifespan are reduction of metabolic rate and reduction of insulin/IGF-1 signalling. Experimental tests have not supported either possibility. However, interaction studies suggest that DR and insulin/IGF-1 signalling may act in parallel on common regulated processes. In this review, we discuss recent developments in C. elegans DR research, including new discoveries about the biology of nutrient uptake in the gut, and the importance of invasion by the bacterial food source as a determinant of lifespan. The evidence that the effect of DR on lifespan in C. elegans is mediated by the TOR pathway is discussed. We conclude that the effect of DR on lifespan is likely to involve multiple mechanisms, which may differ according to the DR regimen used and the organism under study.