Osumi Yoshinori “大隅 良典”, refers to himself as “just a basic researcher in yeast,” but 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, the causes of certain hereditary and neurological diseases, and cancer. Mr. Osumi Yoshinori’s book, Autophagy is available online.
What Is Autophagy?
Over time, our cells accumulate a variety of old organelles, cell membranes and damaged proteins that block the body’s inner workings. Our body has a unique way of ridding itself of those faulty parts and defending itself against disease, a process that is called autophagy.
Autophagy meaning 'self-eating' is the natural and regulated process by which the cell eats its own dysfunctional components and unused proteins, in order to make way for new cellular parts. After infection, autophagy can eliminate invading intracellular bacteria and viruses.
There is a similar process in the body called ‘apoptosis’ also known as programmed cell death. Cells after a certain number of divisions naturally are programmed to die, a process which is essential for maintaining good health.
It’s like; you own a building that you love because you have a lot of good memories from the past living there. The building normally lasts for a number of years and after that if you want to live there safely it needs an extensive renovation, especially if you live in a country like Japan with reoccurring natural disasters. For a while you can repair and replace things, but there will be a time that the building is not safe to use it as a place of living anymore. The building is old and that’s when you should construct a new one.
The same thing happens in the body. Cells die when they become old. The process of programmed cell death is called ‘Apoptosis’. Apoptosis takes place at the cell level meaning the cell dies and it will be replaced by a new cell. But, Autophagy happens at the sub-cellular level meaning parts within the cell are removed and replaced with new ones.
It is like; if after a typhoon your buildings’ windows are damaged. In that situation, you don’t have to build a new building; all you need to do is to repair the windows. That’s what the cell does; replacing some of the cell components. Autophagy is the body's way of cleaning out damaged and unwanted cell parts, and replacing them with new ones, which gives the cell longer life-span.
Fasting And Autophagy
When you activate autophagy, you boost immunity and your body’s natural ability to function; autophagy protects against diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, infections, inflammatory diseases, insulin resistance, and also increases longevity. But how you can activate autophagy?
While pharmaceutical companies are trying to create an elixir to stimulate autophagy, and others claim that certain supplements or diet can cause autophagy, there is only one proven way to trigger it: through fasting.
The key is nutrient deprivation. Autophagy is a response to stress. When nutrients are scarce, cells go into a preservation mode, where they are more resistant to cellular stress or disease. In the process the body identifies old and unneeded cellular materials and marks them for removal. This is in essence a form of cellular cleansing.
By stimulating autophagy body not only start cleaning out the old, defective proteins and other unwanted cellular components, but also stimulates growth hormone, which tells our body to start producing some new parts for the body. So, fasting in some ways reverses the aging process by getting rid of old cellular components and replacing them with new ones.
Autophagy is helping researchers to have a better understanding about degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's, or type 2 diabetes and other disorders that appear in the elderly. When autophagy does not take place frequently, the body collects a variety of cellular material, including proteins that show up in large quantities in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even cancer. Researchers believe that prolonged bouts of autophagy might be able to clear the brain of those excess proteins, thus potentially preventing the development of those diseases.
Eating turns off autophagy; there is a balance here of course, and the balance is the natural cycle of life; feast and fast – neither constant eating nor constant dieting. The cycle of feast and fast allows for cell growth during eating and cellular cleansing during fasting.
Despite these remarkable benefits, fasting is not recommended for everybody. Some people because of their specific medical conditions are advised not to fast; temporarily or permanently. Always check in with your healthcare providers.
Exercise And Autophagy
Autophagy is a bodily response to stress, and exercise is perceived by the body as a form of stress, thus stimulates autophagy. A study found that Autophagy is more readily induced when exercise is more intense, like in High-intensity interval trainings "HIIT".
High-intensity interval training and resistance training exercises both are capable of activating autophagy. For an optimally fit, healthy and strong body, both forms of training can be used alongside one another.
Exercising actually damages your muscles and bones, causing microscopic tears that your body then rushes to heal. This makes your muscles and bones stronger and more resistant to any further pressure in future.
Note that, exercise uses up energy reserves in specific muscle cells; therefore, primarily it should be thought of as a road for athletic performance, while fasting-induced autophagy is likely of more use for overall health and increasing longevity. For more details you can purchase the book autophagy online.
Fasting: An Ancient Wisdom
Throughout the history of humankind, fasting driven by religious beliefs has been part of health and healing practices; a traditional healing process which is only now being unraveled by science.
Muslims are profound believers in fasting. During the month of Ramadan fasting is observed from dawn to dusk. Muslims believe that fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. Fasting also includes abstaining from any falsehood in speech and action, abstaining from any ignorant and indecent speech, and from arguing, fighting, and having lustful thoughts. Therefore, fasting strengthens control of impulses and helps develop good behavior. During the month of Ramadan, believers strive to purify body and soul and increase their good deeds and God-consciousness (taqwa). This purification of body and soul harmonizes the inner and outer spheres of an individual. Muslims aim to improve their body by reducing food intake and maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Overindulgence in food is discouraged and eating only enough to silence the pain of hunger is encouraged.
This ritual is followed with rigor and discipline. Many traditional rituals are disappearing from modern civilization, but fortunately some are still preserved amongst ordinary people. They may not understand the significance of these rituals, but they have maintained their observance.
Among so-called educated people, they have issues when someone asks them why you are doing what you are doing. As a result, when they have no justifiable explanation, they avoid observing rituals for fear of being looked upon as people without real understanding. There are other subjects like autophagy that we have written about: Halal Meat & Science – Why You Should Avoid Pork. We need to study and try to find the significance behind most rituals.
Frequent fasting and regular exercise both carry mountains of benefits in addition to their impact on autophagy.
The least that could happen is a stronger, leaner, and cleaner body.