A One-Day Starvation Secret Got the Nobel Prize

 

BRIGHT SIDE says:

You probably know that most tissues in your body regularly replace their cells with new ones. Different organs need their own time to renew completely. And some tissues don’t replace their cells at all.

Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, spent years studying how human cells get rid of their waste. If this process in the body doesn’t work correctly, a person can develop type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, some age-related diseases, and even cancer. It turned out that when you fast, your cells live longer and produce more energy!

Does Autophagy Improve Quality of Life?

The holy grail of science, when it comes down to it, is for people to live long and healthy lives, free from disease. 

The state of human health across the world leaves something to be desired. Is it possible to increase both longevity and health in humans?

Dieting is a huge industry and there is plenty of confusion about the best decisions to make for keeping at a healthy weight and staying physically healthy.  

We give you a bit of background on our current health crisis then talk about how a process called autophagy helps reduce the risk of developing health problems, such as those linked to obesity in adults and children.

Health problems caused by obesity

There is no escaping the fact that obesity is a worldwide health crisis. In 2018, the World Health Organization said that obesity had tripled since 1975. 

There are plenty of health risks associated with obesity. A high body mass index (BMI) leads to an increased risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, gout, stroke, and a whole range of nasty conditions that seriously degrade people’s quality of life. 

Being overweight and obesity are tough problems to treat. It is possible to prevent them.

Managing excessive calorie intake and eating reasonable portion sizes is a key to managing obesity. Evidently, the type of food a person eats plays a large factor in this. What is the best method for managing what and how much a person eats? 

What about the foods that cause obesity?

Foods that are the most associated with unhealthy body weight are: potatoes and potato chips, drinks with a high sugar content, processed meat and unprocessed red meat. Cutting down on these kinds of food is always a great idea. Read more on Understanding Food And Health Problems.

However, it’s not just food that causes obesity (although diet plays a huge part). Some of the other causes are medication, polycystic ovaries, and genetics. 

Yet, even if one of these factors plays a part, it does not mean that it is impossible to manage obesity. This is where choosing the right type of diet could be beneficial.

Which diet should you choose to protect against disease?

There are plenty of diets and eating plans to choose from. Keto, Paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Raw Food… There are a lot of conflicting recommendations about whether you should cut out carbs, lower fat, or count calories. 

The key is, for weight loss, the type of diet that you pick actually doesn’t matter as long as you adhere to it. However, some of these types of diets have come under fire for not being overly healthy, such as the Atkins diet. 

So, what are the best methods for managing weight and staying in shape? 

Fasting has gained a lot of attention in recent years as a way of managing how many calories you consume, as well as protecting against diseases. You may have heard of the 5:2 diet, or the 16/8. These types of diets are different forms of intermittent fasting, where you have a period of time for eating a normal amount of calories, and a period of time where you eat fewer or no calories. 

Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce overall fat and there is evidence that it improves cardio-metabolic health. Studies have also found that mice live longer when they fast.

You should note that the research into fasting is still in the early stages. There have been a lot of studies on mice, not as many in humans as we need for us to be able to draw firm conclusions about the best way to fast. The knowledge that we do have is helpful; though we have a way to go. 

Something that we have a bit of insight into from these studies is that a natural process called autophagy, which appears to be ramped up by fasting, might help protect against some of the diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes.

For more, see Intermittent Water And Autophagy Fasting An Introduction.

The Autophagy Process

Essentially, autophagy is (to put it slightly dramatically) a process of self-cannibalism. It’s a critical clean-up process that is going on in your body all the time. 

The body cleans itself by recycling bits of used cells and incorporating them into new cells. When autophagy gets going, your body chomps down on dead, worn-out or diseased pieces of old cells. They then recycle these bits and use them as the building blocks of new cells. 

Having less than optimal autophagy has been described as like never taking out any rubbish or recycling. Food begins to rot and the place becomes unhygienic. When autophagy is doing what it’s supposed to, your body is like a clean kitchen.  

The process is thought to happen because when extreme starvation starts to take hold, you are more likely to survive because the cells are nourishing themselves from within the body.  

Linked to this, there is evidence that extreme fasting boots autophagy into gear. This suggests that certain fasting behaviours could encourage this process.

How to Induce Autophagy

The science suggests that there are a few ways to kick off this process.

Is it possible to increase autophagy?

Mice studies have shown that autophagy is initiated by exercise. 

Being physically active is always going to benefit you when your aim is to improve your health. 

One thing to bear in mind is that you should be careful not to do too much cardio exercise in a fasted state, as this may deplete muscle mass. Stay strong by doing resistance and weight training to keep your muscles healthy. 

What is autophagy fasting? Are there benefits of autophagy?

The reason that people try to induce autophagy is to protect themselves against disease. It’s not just about weight loss for the purposes of aesthetics. The focus of autophagy is more about health than aesthetics. The dangers of obesity may be curbed by autophagy. 

Optimal fasting for autophagy 

Unfortunately, we’re still not quite sure what the autophagy fasting peak is at this stage. Some researchers suggesting fasting for around 24 hours. This is because you need low liver glycogen, and for that to happen, you need to fast for at least 14-16 hours. 

Another good way of decreasing your liver glycogen is to lower how many carbs you eat. 

One question that often arises is the frequency that one should fast. Recommendations have been made that people should only do extended fasts for the purposes of kicking off autophagy a few times a year. 

The best thing to do if you’re unsure about how best to fast, is consult a medical practitioner. 

What breaks autophagy fasting?

A fast is broken by any calorie consumption. We’re not yet sure what this means for autophagy and whether it is necessary to have zero calories when fasting. 

There is debate about whether eating a few calories during a fast is okay and still beneficial. Some argue that black coffee will not have any adverse effects for your fast, or that consuming a few calories that won’t spike your blood sugar. You may even be able to consume some bone broth. 

There has been some research that consuming some calories is fine for keeping you in ketosis, though for autophagy, it’s not yet clear.

Autophagy impact factor

From the research that has been done on autophagy, it looks like it plays a role in a whole range of conditions and illnesses, including: 

  • Metabolic conditions
  • Infectious illnesses
  • Cancer
  • Neurodegenerative diseases

However, there may be risk factors involved in trying to induce autophagy.

One study that found autophagy could exacerbate multiple sclerosis (MS), and there is considerable debate about the role that it plays in cancer, as autophagy could encourage the progression of tumors.

Another thing to be aware of is that if you try autophagy fasting, you could become tired, irritable or have sleep problems. You should try to achieve a balance and make sure that you feel well while you fast. 

Fasting & Autophagy: What the Science Actually Says

From: High Intensity Health

Science says eating just one meal per day can improve your health.

Is Intermittent fasting actually a scientifically validated tool to enhance autophagy?

Well, surprisingly, there’s a lack of evidence to suggest this. HOWEVER, tons of data suggests exercise is a great way to give autophagy a lift – in your muscles and beyond.

Note, though this is a long video, and boring in places, it is jam packed with fasting information and insights.

Conclusion

With our current scientific understanding, autophagy is a pretty mysterious process so far. There’s evidence that exercise and extreme fasting gets it going, we’re not yet sure exactly what the optimal amount of each is. 

It’s important to remember that a lot of these studies have been done on mice. And many of the other pieces of advice and recommendations about how to fast for autophagy have been from studies which study other processes. 

More research is needed, and what we do know is promising for improving our health and longevity and worthwhile experimenting with.

It is always wise to consult a medical practitioner before fasting, especially while you are uncertain or unfamiliar with fasting.

Contributing Sources