People have been losing weight by counting calories for years. But some recent medical studies are trying to prove that if you want the ultimate benefit of better dietary habits — less diseases and a longer life — your body may need to think you’re eating less often, too.

Longevity scientists are studying food fasting to find out if regular periods of going without any food, or making your body think you are going without food, could be a key to lengthening the human lifespan.

“When you consume calories also plays a role,” said Sebastian Brandhorst, data analyst at the Longevity Institute, based at the University of Southern California, who is involved in pioneering studies with what is called the fast-mimicking diet (FMD), a way to eat that tricks the body into thinking that a person is fasting.

Backers of the research say the results are encouraging. Under the direction of the Longevity Institute’s Dr. Valter Longo, a fasting diet has been tested on yeast, rodents and a small group of humans. The effects produced lead researchers to argue for larger clinical trials in humans. Longo also has launched a for-profit start-up business, L-Nutra, to sell the fasting diet to the public.

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