Little is known about the biochemical mechanisms responsible for the biological aging process. Our previous results and those of others suggest that one possible mechanism is based on the loss of glutathione (GSH), a multifunctional tripeptide present in high concentrations in nearly all living cells. The recent finding that life-long dietary restriction of the GSH precursor methionine (Met) resulted in increased longevity in rats led us to hypothesize that adaptive changes in Met and GSH metabolism had occurred, leading to enhanced GSH status. To test this, blood and tissue GSH levels were measured at different ages throughout the life span in F344 rats on control or Met-restricted diets. Met restriction resulted in a 42% increase in mean and 44% increase in maximum life span, and in 43% lower body weight compared to controls (P < 0.001). Increases in blood GSH levels of 81% and 164% were observed in mature and old Met-restricted animals, respectively (P < 0.001). Liver was apparently the source for this increase as hepatic GSH levels decreased to 40% of controls. Except for a 25% decrease in kidney, GSH was unchanged in other tissues. All changes in GSH occurred as early as 2 months after the start of the diet. Altogether, these results suggest that dramatic adaptations in sulfur amino acid metabolism occur as a result of chronic Met restriction, leading to increases in blood GSH levels and conservation of tissue GSH during aging.