On 3rd October 2016 Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology & Medicine for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.
What is Autophagy?
So what is autophagy? The word originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning “self”, and phagein, meaning “to eat”. Thus, autophagy means “self-eating”. Essentially, this is how your body cells get rid of its broken, old parts.
Our body consists of about 100 trillion cells. Each cell (100 cells can fit on the head of a pin) has 6 million working parts. Sometimes these working parts need to be replaced. That is where the process of autophagy enters.
Membranes form inside the cell called autophagosomes which collect the broken parts and transport them again to the lysosome. The lysosome are a specialised organelle that contain enzymes to degrade these broken parts (proteins).
Autophagy was first discovered in 1962 by a Belgian scientist, Christian de Duve. He noted an increase in the number of lysosomes in rat liver cells after infusing glucagon and named the process autophagy.
Little was known about this process until a Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi did more studies and research in the early 1990’s into ‘The morphology of autophagy in yeast cells’.
‘Ohsumi’s discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection.
Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.
Autophagy, Fasting and Anti-aging
Now, what does all of this mean in terms of Anti-Aging? First, we need to understand autophagy a little better. As explained earlier the term autophagy means to ‘eat itself’. In other words parts of the cell are destroyed and replaced.
Our body cells can only go through this process in periods of fasting. Why? Because our glucagon levels (glucagon is a peptide hormone) goes up when we are fasting and insulin levels go down at the same time.
This is how our cells including skin cells are able to regenerate themselves, it’s a form of self-cleansing. In other words, old parts in the cells that are responsible for the effects of ageing are marked for destruction and removed.
So, when do I fast? And is it hard to do?
The short answer is you can fast every day and it is not hard to do once your body gets used to the routine of fasting daily. How do I fast daily, you might ask? Actually very easy: say you eat from 11am until 7pm (8 hour window) and then you fast until 11am the next day again (16 hour window), your body has a chance to restore and rebuild itself again and that is a key to anti-aging.
Intermittent Fasting Info-Graphic
Fasting Diet Caution
Note: If you are pregnant & or breast feeding or suffer from hypoglycemic & diabetic conditions, you are better off to avoid doing a scheduled Intermittent Fast until you’ve normalised your blood glucose & insulin levels or weaned your baby off breast feeding.
If you’re concerned before you start, please seek professional advice from your local health care provider. The information in this article & info-graphic is not intended to replace a one on one relationship with a qualified health care professional.