Autophagy and fasting: How to induce autophagy for amazing health benefits
Why autophagy fasting is so popular and is it bad or good for your health? Is autophagy a diet for health, what are the health benefits and risks of autophagy?
So many questions and we will try to find the answers for you in this article.
What is Autophagy?
Autophagy (or autophagocytosis) (from the Ancient Greek αὐτόφαγος autóphagos, meaning “self-devouring” and κύτος kýtos, meaning “hollow”) is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It allows the orderly degradation and recycling of cellular components.*
When somebody fasts, he/she goes without food for a longer period of time-hours or sometimes days or more. Fasting is a possible trigger of autophagy and no, it is not like traditional calorie restriction.
In calorie restriction, a person reduces their regular intake of food. With autophagy fasting person may or may not result in calorie restriction, depending on how much food a person consumes during feeding periods.
Research from 2018 suggests that fasting and calorie restriction can trigger autophagy.
Fasting and calorie restriction put the body’s cells under stress. When a person limits the amount of food that goes into their body, their cells receive fewer calories than they need to function correctly.
When this happens, the cells must work more efficiently. In response to the stress brought on by fasting or calorie restriction, autophagy causes the body’s cells to clean out and recycle any unnecessary or damaged parts.
It’s one way your body cleans the house. In this process, your cells create membranes that hunt down scraps of dead, diseased, or worn-out cells; gobble them up; strip ’em for parts; and use the resulting molecules for energy or to make new cell parts.*
Scientists are unsure about which cells respond to fasting and calorie restriction in this way. People trying to induce autophagy by fasting should be aware that this may not target fat cells, for example.
How To Trigger Autophagy
Here are the three main ways to boost autophagy in your body.
1. Intermittent fasting
Skipping meals is a very stressful activity that the body will not like at the start but in longer stages, the body benefits from it.
In research named: Autophagy and intermittent fasting: the connection for cancer therapy? says that intermittent fasting and autophagy can make cancer treatments more effective by protecting normal cells and reducing side effects.
Another research for intermittent fasting shows that it is good for health. It may have an array of positive effects, ranging from healthier body weight and lower risk of diseases to an increased lifespan.
If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting here is an article for you that will explain in detail what is intermittent fasting and how it works!
Keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not recommended for children, pregnant women, or other issues with blood sugar.
2. Lower Your Carb Intake
Another great way to activate autophagy is to reduce carbohydrates to low levels and the body will have no other choice than to start using fat as a fuel source. It is called ketosis. This is the core of the widely popular keto diet.
Keto diets are low in carbs and high in fat. Between 60 and 70 percent of your overall calories come from fat. Protein makes up 20 to 30 percent of calories, while only 5 percent comes from carbs.
Colin Champ, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says that:
“Ketosis is like an autophagy hack,” “You get a lot of the same metabolic changes and benefits of fasting without actually fasting.”
If someone has health issues with kidneys or liver problems should talk to a doctor before starting with a keto diet.
Exercise puts stress on your body.
Working out damages your muscles, causing microscopic tears that your body then rushes to heal. This makes your muscles stronger and more resistant to any further “damage” you might cause them.
Regular exercise is the most popular way people unintentionally help their bodies cleanse themselves. (So there’s something to that fresh, renewed feeling you get after working out.)
It’s hard to figure out the amount of exercise required to switch on the autophagy boost.
“[These] are hard questions to answer at the moment,” says Daniel Klionsky, Ph.D., a cellular biologist at the University of Michigan who specializes in autophagy. “Clearly exercise has many benefits, aside from the possible role of autophagy.”
Is there an easier way?
Not yet. But there’s a lot of money to be made if researchers can distill the benefits of autophagy into a pill, so you can be sure they’re trying.
“Of course people are looking for ways to induce autophagy through chemicals because it would be easier than dieting,” Klionsky says, but he warns that we’re a long way off.
Champ notes that anti-epileptic drugs that mimic ketosis already exist.
In 2018, for instance, the FDA approved a stiripentol, which can imitate the effects of a ketogenic diet. It’s used for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy.
Still, don’t get your hopes up. “There are so many metabolic changes that take place during ketosis that mimicking all of them with a pill might not be possible,” Champ says. “The bodily stress that comes with entering ketosis might be necessary for the benefits.”
Just remember: You don’t have to stay in ketosis, fast, or exercise intensely all day, every day to experience these benefits. Even a few hours here and there can help.
Benefits of Autophagy
Some evidence suggests that autophagy plays a role in boosting immunity, controlling inflammation among other benefits. In research published in 2012 (study on mice), scientist found out that autophagy protects against:
- inflammatory disease
- neurodegenerative disorders
- insulin resistance
Another study from that year showed how a lack of autophagy can be harmful. Researchers found that removing the autophagy gene in mice caused weight gain, lethargy, higher cholesterol, and impaired brain function.
“Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes,” Champ says.
Side Effects Of Autophagy
First, it is important to make a difference between the risks of autophagy itself and the risks associated with people’s attempts to induce autophagy.
Some studies show that excessive autophagy may kill cells in the heart and some scientists link excessive autophagy to heart problems.
Research has also found that inhibiting autophagy in mice could limit tumor growth and improve responsiveness to cancer treatment. This suggests that an increase in autophagy could theoretically worsen the outlook of somebody with existing cancer.
Many people are interested in using fasting and calorie restriction to induce autophagy, but there is little evidence on the precise effect this has on humans.
Final thoughts about autophagy and fasting for health:
Autophagy fasting or autophagy induced by fasting can be good for overall health. But science does not have the full picture of the health implications of autophagy.
Anyone who wants to make some changes in lifestyle and wants to trigger autophagy should consult with their doctor first.
Life is all about balance. The same is with autophagy – you get sick from too much autophagy as well as from too little. Balance, feast, and fast is the best way.
Not constant dieting. This allows for cell growth during eating, and cellular cleansing during fasting – balance.