This word has only recently entered my vocabulary, but I can clearly see it’s a powerful factor for long term health & longevity. The fact that Japanese cell biologist, Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Piece Prize in Physiology/medicine last year for his discovery of mechanism for autophagy, means we all should be paying attention.
The word literally means “to eat oneself”. Sounds ghastly, but let me explain further. In simple terms, autophagy is the body’s mechanism of getting rid of all the broken down, old cell machinery where’s there’s no longer enough energy to sustain it. In essence, the old cells are destroyed, and replaced with new ones. It’s the bodies natural detox.
How is autophagy activated? A low carb diet & exercise have been shown to assist activation, but by far nutrient deprivation (fasting) is the key. The is because when we fast, our hormone insulin goes down. A reduction in insulin allows for an increase in the hormone glucagon... and it’s glucagon that stimulates autophagy. When we fast and insulin goes down, glucagon goes up. Dr. Jason Fung describes insulin & glucagon as opposites. When one is up, ones is down. But fasting doesn’t just stimulate autophagy. It also stimulates growth hormone, which tells our body to start producing some replacement cellular parts - giving our bodies the complete renovation.
So what are some the benefits they are finding with autophagy? In the literature I’ve seen:
- slowing, even reversing, the ageing process
- Weight loss without excess skin
- The potential to reverse Alzheimer’s disease & cancer (the junky old protein accumulation can be seen in abundance in both these diseases)
- Improved mental clarity
- Improved digestion & cardiovascular health. .
By far the guru on intermittent fasting and all its benefits is Canadian nephrologist, Dr Jason Fung. If you google his name, you will find lots of info on this online, as well as through his books on intermittent fasting. Personally I feel that introducing intermittent fasting in to your lifestyle may be one of the best things out can do for your health. Do you intermittent fast? I would love you to share your experience so others may learn.