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Dietary caloric restriction (CR) is the only experimental intervention that can reliably retard the development of cataract in a normal animal model. Here we have studied the possible mechanisms by which CR retards the age-related degeneration of the lens of Brown Norway rats. We have found that CR slowed protein insolubilization and blunted declines of the total soluble thiols, protein thiols, reduced glutathione and ascorbic acid levels in the lenses of old BN rats. From the lens protein point of view, the development of cataract in rat lenses has 3 stages: (1) the precipitation of γ-crystallin, (2) the insolubilization of β-crystallin, and (3) the final precipitation of α-crystallin which was saturated with other denatured lens proteins. A similar sequence is also observed when the lens proteins are subjected to oxidative stress in vitro. These data are the first to suggest that CR may retard the age-related degeneration of the lens by attenuating the oxidative stress in the lens. Since oxidative stress is likely a main cause of human cataract, CR intervention may be relevant to humans as well.