Circulating hyaluronan (HA) levels were investigated as a function of age and diet in Fischer 344 male rats. A biphasic pattern of age-related changes was observed in rats fed ad libitum a diet in which the protein source was soya/fish meal. HA levels in 3- to 6- and 22- to 29-mo-old rats were not statistically different. However, HA levels in 12- to 20-mo-old rats were 10-29% of the levels in younger or aged adults. HA levels were also measured in rats fed ad libitum a semisynthetic diet in which the protein source was hydrolyzed casein. Whereas the two colonies exhibited similar biphasic age-related changes, HA levels differed 4- to 20-fold at every age examined. Caloric restriction affected HA levels in 19-mo-old casein-fed rats; HA levels were 2.3 times higher than age-matched controls and were not statistically different from young or aged animals. Serum and plasma HA levels were identical in the same individuals at all ages tested. These data suggest that HA turnover and metabolism in the rat are affected by age, dietary composition, and caloric intake.