Many age-associated pathophysiological changes are retarded by caloric restriction (CR). The present study has investigated the effect of CR on plasma lipoprotein (a) [Lp(a)], an independent risk factor for the age-associated process of atherosclerosis. Rhesus monkeys were fed a control diet (n=19 males, 12 females) or subjected to CR (n=20 males, 11 females fed 30% less calories) for >2 years. All female animals were premenopausal. Plasma Lp(a) levels in control animals were almost two fold higher for males than females (47+/-9 vs 25+/-5mg/dl mean+/-SEM, p=0.05). CR resulted in a reduction in circulating Lp(a) in males to levels similar to those measured in calorie-restricted females, (27+/-5 vs 24+/-4 mg/dl mean+/-SEM). For all animals, plasma Lp(a) was correlated with total cholesterol (r=0.27, p=0.03) and LDL cholesterol (r=0.50, p=0.0001) whether unadjusted or after adjustment for treatment, gender or group. These studies introduce a new mechanism whereby CR may have a beneficial effect on risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis in primates.