Mit mutations that disrupt function of the mitochondrial electron transport chain can, inexplicably, prolong Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan. In this study we use a metabolomics approach to identify an ensemble of mitochondrial-derived α-ketoacids and α-hydroxyacids that are produced by long-lived Mit mutants but not by other long-lived mutants or by short-lived mitochondrial mutants. We show that accumulation of these compounds is dependent on concerted inhibition of three α-ketoacid dehydrogenases that share dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase (DLD) as a common subunit, a protein previously linked in humans with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. When the expression of DLD in wild-type animals was reduced using RNA interference we observed an unprecedented effect on lifespan – as RNAi dosage was increased lifespan was significantly shortened, but, at higher doses, it was significantly lengthened, suggesting that DLD plays a unique role in modulating length of life. Our findings provide novel insight into the origin of the Mit phenotype.