Most of us continue to look for that “magic bullet” when it comes to health and longevity. What if there was a magic bullet that could help you be healthier and live longer? It turns out the body already has a mechanism that can do all of this and more! It is something called “autophagy.” Autophagy (pronounced aw-taw-fuh-gee) is the body’s way of breaking down old or damaged cells and recycling their components into new, healthy cells. It’s a bit like an internal housekeeping process designed to remove cellular debris (including damaged proteins and organelles), eliminate pathogens and prevent the buildup of toxic cellular waste.
The word “autophagy” comes from the Greek meaning self-eating. The process was first discovered in the 1960s, but its real importance to human health wasn’t recognized until 2016 when scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for his discoveries into how autophagy protects against diseases like Parkinson’s disease and some types of dementia.
The body’s natural ability to initiate this process naturally declines, like other processes, with age. But a research suggests that making simple changes to diet and lifestyle can stimulate autophagy. Here are some of the most effective ways to enhance your own autophagy efficiency.
Intermittent fasting simply means going for a period of time every day or every week without eating. One of the most popular ways to fast is the 16/8 program, where you refrain from eating for 16 consecutive hours and then enjoy an eight-hour eating window. Another common fast is called 5/2 where you eat normally five days per week and then fast for two non-consecutive days per week.
Here’s why fasting works: When the body is in a fasting state, the number of times the pancreas secretes insulin throughout the day is limited. This prevents blood sugar spikes and allows the body to burn through the glucose stores in the liver. Once this occurs, the body is forced to burn fat for energy. This, in turn, stimulates autophagy.
Intermittent fasting has many immediate benefits, including weight loss and increased energy. One study conducted by the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, found that short-term fasting induced autophagy in the brain. This could reduce the risk for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“Keto” has become all the rage in weight-loss circles due to its ability to help people drop weight quickly, however, it’s triggers autophagy also. This diet typically contains 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and only 5 percent carbs, which causes the body to go into ketosis. When this happens, the body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat, instead of glucose, for energy, which helps to reduce body fat, while still helping retain muscle.
As we all know, exercise provides beneficial stress to the body and it is another way to help induce autophagy. Preliminary research conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center suggests that running for 30 minutes on a treadmill triggers autophagy. New research in the journal Aging Cell shows that both aerobic and resistance exercise can jumpstart autophagy also.
When it comes to efficient autophagy, sleep also matters. Too little, or interrupted sleep can turn down autophagy. A six to eight-hour block of good quality, uninterrupted sleep per night would give this repair and recycling process ample time to work its magic. Easier said than done, right?
Not hard to believe, but pharmaceutical companies are in a race to come up with drug that can enhance autophagy. But Mother Natural has already provided us with several nutrients that can do just that.
Here are 3 good ones:
Curcumin, the most active compound in the spice turmeric, has been shown to activate autophagy and help fortify healthy cells. New findings in the Journal of Cellular Physiology suggest that curcumin has anti-tumor properties and may play a preventive role in the development of cancer. In another preliminary study that appeared in the journal Bioscience Reports, researchers reported that curcumin improves joint health on a structural level by promoting autophagy.
French Grape Seed Extract is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that supports healthy aging. What’s grape seed’s secret? Research recently published in the journal Oncology Letters points to a type of tannin in grape seeds known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) and their ability to trigger autophagy.
Korean Red Ginseng appears to regulate autophagy so that it enhances the beneficial recycling process when needed, and turns it off when other processes like apoptosis (programmed cell death) are needed instead. Research in Oncology Reports found that red ginseng regulates adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a key enzyme involved in autophagy that impacts aging, inflammation, metabolic function and mitochondrial health.
Just be aware that many Korean red ginseng supplements may contain pesticide residue and can be lower in potency due to substandard growing and processing methods. However, a unique form of ginseng known as HRG80 is composed of 100 percent whole Panax ginseng roots cultivated under the strictest environmental and social European standards.
Autophagy is our built in clean up and recovery system. Knowing more about how it works can give you ideas of what can be done to keep things running smoothly and possibly even improve quality of life.
Focusing on supporting what your body does naturally by using the tools mentioned here maybe just the “magic bullet” you’ve been looking for. Changes to diet and eating schedule, adding more exercise, and making efforts to get quality sleep may not be new ideas but they do have a powerful effect on our bodies ability to clean up after itself on the cellular level.