Autophagy: How Fasting Keeps You Young

A few years ago, the final secrets of autophagy, cell renewal in the body, were unlocked. Since then it has been clear: fasting cleanses the body and acts like a fountain of youth. What autophagy is all about and which fasting method is best suited for it?

A few years ago, the Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi achieved something that no one before him had achieved. He was the first to demonstrate the genetic basis of autophagy in the body. This mechanism allows cells in the body to repair and renew themselves. Ohsumi’s discovery was not only a groundbreaking success for science, but it was even awarded the Nobel Prize in 2016. She also provided evidence that autophagy can be accelerated by fasting.

How does autophagy work?

Autophagy is what doctors call the self-digestion of the cells (auto = self, aphagia = eat). Cell components that are damaged or no longer needed are broken down by the cells themselves with the help of digestive enzymes and proteins. You have to imagine this self-cleaning like cleaning up: everything is examined, and defective, and old cell parts are sorted out and transported away – or used to generate energy. Because the breakdown process of the cells generates a lot of energy. Only when the “cell waste” has been disposed of can the body start producing new tissue and repairing the cells.

Autophagy thus has short-term and long-term effects: On the one hand, it provides the body with an alternative energy source in an emergency. On the other hand, it ensures that the cells remain young and healthy for longer. Thus, the self-cleaning process of the cells is a natural anti-aging program that is of essential importance for our health. Healthy cells reduce the risk of disease.

Researchers, therefore, suspect that strong autophagy can contribute to longer life and slow down aging. Low autophagy, on the other hand, causes defective cells to accumulate in the body – including in the brain. This increases the likelihood of developing a disease, especially in old age. Decreased autophagy is associated with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

When does autophagy start?

Cell repair is ongoing at a low level in the body. Although it is partly genetic in how efficient the cells are – Yoshinori Ohsumi was able to show that a total of 15 genes are involved in autophagy. However, the process can be accelerated by fasting. Because only when the body does not get any energy from food for a longer period does autophagy kick in.

The reason: If we don’t eat anything for several hours, the body falls into a state of emergency. As a result, he resorts to an alternative source of energy that can compensate for the deficit from the lack of food intake, namely the cell structures. However, the body first draws on the glucose and fat stores before it uses the cell’s recycling program to generate energy.

Therefore, autophagy is only activated after at least 14 hours without food. But that also means: If you like to eat snacks in between and don’t take long breaks between meals, you block the body’s cell regeneration

Activating autophagy through fasting: Intermittent fasting brings the greatest success

There are different types of fasting, but only one boosts autophagy: intermittent fasting. Precisely timed phases are specified during which nothing may be eaten. Juices and broth are also not allowed due to the calories they contain. Depending on the model, the length of the fasting periods varies.

The 16:8 method makes the most sense: fasting for 16 hours at a time, followed by eight hours of eating. The fasting period can be easily observed by consistently avoiding snacks and skipping either breakfast or dinner.

Alternatively, a full day of fasting can be inserted once a week. However, intermittent fasting according to the 16:8 principle has the advantage that it activates autophagy daily. If there are no previous illnesses, there is nothing wrong with intermittent fasting permanently. Die-hards can also try the so-called warrior diet, in which the fasting period is extended to 20 hours.

Promote autophagy with food

Autophagy can be boosted not only by fasting but also by diet. A study has shown that coffee can support cell renewal processes. This effect was seen in mice one to four hours after they were given coffee. Researchers suspect the polyphenols contained in coffee beans are behind this. These are secondary plant substances that are already responsible for their health-promoting

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