Suppose there was a way in which you could slow or possibly even reverse ageing
What if you could increase your learning abilities and cognitive energy while reducing your risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease?
What if you could lower your risk of cancer and improve your immune system by getting rid of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that cause infection? And what if, in addition to the above, you can lose unwanted fat, increase your insulin sensitivity and drastically reduce metabolic conditions like diabetes, vascular disease and inflammation?
Lucky for us, we have a natural way to achieve all of the above and best of all, it’s free! It’s called …
You know the old saying, “if something sounds too good to be true … it is”… autophagy is unequivocally an exception to the rule.
Autophagy (pronounced ah-TAH-fah-gee) is derived from Greek and means self-eating. Autophagy is an all-natural cellular waste management system that can virtually “slow” and even “reverse” the symptoms of ageing.
In 2016, cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries of the mechanisms behind autophagy, a cellular maintenance process – stimulated by fasting – critical in disease resistance, longevity and general body and brain vitality.
Every living thing produces waste, and if that waste is not removed, it will soon overwhelm its environment, especially at the cellular level. So to keep things working at optimum levels, all we need to do is encourage our bodies to eat ourselves!
“Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program,” says Colin Champ, a radiation oncologist.
“Autophagy is the body’s system of cleaning house: Your cells create membranes that hunt and consume scraps of dead, diseased or worn-out cells; they eat them and use the energy to make new cell parts. The result is greater cellular efficiency and reduced risk of cancerous growths and metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes. (1)
Autophagy: The Fountain of Youth
Throughout most of our evolutionary history, food was anything but a certainty. All animals living in the wild experience feast and famine regularly, and we humans (until recently), were no exception.
In our evolutionary development, we had to adapt to the inevitable stretches of famine. When energy became scarce, and cells were starved, they wisely consumed their worn-out parts for energy.
In our modern society of eating “3-squares-a-day … plus snacks,” we tend to think that if we miss a meal or two, our bodies turn catabolic and start consuming our muscles for energy, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
Most of us – in developed countries – are walking around with weeks (if not months) of “emergency” famine fuel; it’s called fat.
When our ancestors (like most animals) were deprived of food for days at a time, they required their muscles and faculties to be working at optimum on an empty stomach, or they wouldn’t have survived. As hunters and gatherers, they would engage in frequent high-intensity activity by lifting heavy objects, throwing spears, attacking animals and running from predators … all of which would occur without a pre-hunting protein shake, amino acid drink, or energy bar!
Fed or Fasted: Store additional fat or burn it off
Our bodies are always in one of two states; fed or fasted. While in a fed state, most of our resources are dedicated to digesting and storing those nutrients for future use. It’s only when in an unfed state (fasted) that our bodies can turn to the business of cleaning and repair. Our bodies want to be (scratch that, NEED to be) in an unfed state to look after the critical business of cellular housekeeping. That’s autophagy, and the benefits are nothing short of extraordinary.
Benefits of Activating (Autophagy) Your Cellular Cleanup Crew
- Reduces inflammation, so the immune system can quickly repair damage caused by both infection and inflammation.
- Improves cardiovascular health and reduces resting heart rate and blood pressure
- It slows and even reverses ageing. Ageing is defined as the slow accumulation of dysfunctional proteins and organelles in our cells, – resulting in cell dysfunction and/or death. Fasting (which stimulates autophagy) can virtually slow and even reverse the process of ageing by identifying and consuming or repairing damaged or malfunctioning parts of a cell.
- It suppresses cancer and tumour formation by blocking the over-proliferation of cells. Fasting triggers a change from growth to repair. When our body switches to repair mode (autophagy), any damaged cells or parts are broken down, and their bits are reused to make new cells. This mainly affects cells that might turn cancerous. The decrease in blood glucose starves cancer cells of fuel because they generally can’t use fats or ketones for energy – they only use glucose. In contrast, our normal cells can manage with fats or ketones; cancer cells are starved.
- Reduces risk of neurodegenerative diseases by removing dysfunctional brain cells
- Improves brain health and cognition by reducing stress and inflammation in the brain by removing damaged molecules and stimulating the production of antioxidants while reducing the neuronal dysfunction from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurogenerative diseases.
- Performs cellular remodelling; a form of internal cleaning
- Boosts the immune system when fighting an infectious disease by removing certain microbes from the inside of cells or toxins created by infection
- Improves muscle performance by repairing microtears and inflammation caused by exercise
- Improves digestive health. The human body always functions in one of two states: fed or fasted. When we’re in a fed state, the body is focused on digestion. When we’re in a fasted state, it gets to focus on cellular repair and regeneration, which allows the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract a chance to repair and heal.
- Helps burn fat and supply energy during fasts and famine
Is that a one-stop-shop for health and longevity or what?
How Can We Activate Autophagy?
- Stress (Acute)
Although autophagy gets triggered mainly by nutrient deprivation (fasting), we can also induce autophagy through ketosis, exercise and acute stress (caused by either fasting and/or exercise).
Exercise (Acute Stress)
Exercise puts stress on the body. Suppose you’re doing resistance training, and you’re stressing your muscles. In that case, you’re causing tiny microscopic tears, which induces your body to repair the damage. This is the process of building muscle. Each time you damage the muscle fibres, they become stronger and more resistant to further damage. Stressing your muscles and bones is a form of cellular cleansing, not to mention anti-ageing.
In a study on mice, scientists found that the rate at which mice were healthily damaging their cells drastically increased after they ran for 30 minutes on a treadmill. The rate continually increased until they reached the 80-minute mark.
When we go for “long” periods without eating, our bodies burn off all the available glycogen. They then switch to lipolysis or, more specifically, lipid oxidation, burning fat. When we’re burning fat (ketones) for fuel, we’re in ketosis.
Keto diets are enjoying a surge in popularity. Dieters consume between 60 and 70 percent of their overall calories from fat. (Steak, butter, bacon and so on). Protein makes up 20 to 30 percent of calories, while carbs are kept below 50 grams per day. But that’s a story for another day!
Fasting (Acute Stress)
Our bodies are always in one of two states; “fed” or “fasted,” depending on which, our bodies are involved in very different processes.
When we’re in a fed state, we are in the storage business; we’re packing away additional fat.
When we’re in a fasted state, we’re in the building, cleaning and repair business; we’re creating new cells, repairing damaged muscle fibre, and rejuvenating dysfunctional organelles.
Most of our health problems in the industrialized world stem from the idiotic notion that we need to eat from morning till night. We don’t! Continually being in a fed state (except for the “theoretical” 8-hours of sleep we supposedly get) is a perfect way to keep autophagy at bay.
Acute stress (not chronic stress) is a natural and healthy experience for all living things because it is only through stress that our systems get stronger.
Being a wine lover, I look forward to a harvest that follows a long, hot, dry summer in which the vines were maximally stressed … it invariably results in the best vintage. It seems to apply to an acutely stressed human body as well!
So, here’s the thing, whenever we experience (acute) stress due to fasting, we induce autophagy. Studies have shown that autophagy kicks in after 12 -16 hours of fasting, and it can reach maximum benefits between 24 and 36 hours.
Autophagy and its influence on our health is a relatively recent scientific discovery; it’s NOT a scientific invention because nearly all living things experience naturally induced autophagy, and until the modern human diet, it was natural to us as well.
So, here’s the thing, give your body the recurring gift of acute stress through fasting, and not only will you encourage the effects of autophagy, but you will dramatically increase your energy, health and longevity.
- Champ, C., E., M.D., Misguided Medicine: The Truth Behind Ill-Advised Medical Recommendations and How to Take Health Back into Your Hands, CDR Health & Nutrition; Second Edition, 2016
- Fontana L, Weiss EP, Villareal DT, et al., “Long-term effects of calorie or protein restriction on serum IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 concentration in humans,” Aging Cell 7:681-7, 2008
- Lee, Changhan et al., “Fasting cycles retard growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy,” Science translational medicine vol. 4,124 (2012)
- Levine B, Deretic V., “Unveiling the roles of autophagy in innate and adaptive immunity,” Nature Reviews Immunology 7:767-777, 2007
- Martinez-Lopez, Nuria et al., “Autophagy and aging,” Advances in experimental medicine and biology vol. 847 (2015): 73-87
- Mattson M.P., “Energy intake and exercise as determinants of brain health and vulnerability to injury and disease,” Cell Metab. 2012;16(6):706-722
- Mehrdad Alirezaei, Christopher C. Kemball, Claudia T. Flynn, Malcolm R. Wood, J. Lindsay Whitton & William B. Kiosses, “Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy,” Autophagy, 2010; 6:6, 702-710
- Mizushima N, Levine B, Cuervo AM, et al., “Autophagy fights disease through cellular self-digestion,” Nature 451:1069-1075, 2008
- Raffaghello L, Lee C, Safdie FM, et al., “Starvation-dependent differential stress resistance protects normal but not cancer cells against high-dose chemotherapy,” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(24):8215-8220
- Sgarbi G, Matarrese P, Pinti M, et al., “Mitochondria hyperfusion and elevated autophagic activity are key mechanisms for cellular bioenergetic preservation in centenarians,” Aging (Albany NY). 2014;6(4):296-310