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Benefits of Autophagy: Why You Need It

Autophagy: Why You Need It
Image by skylarvision from Pixabay
Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog

Benefits of Autophagy: What is it?

Autophagy is the process by which our cells remove damaged parts such as mitochondria, misfolded proteins, and intracellular pathogens. This “housekeeping process” is being studied by scientists to determine the health benefits of autophagy.

Autophagy may play a role in preventing diseases such as neuropathies, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and liver disease.

For your body to maintain homeostasis, healthy levels of autophagy are needed at the cellular level.

With aging and poor diet, the process of autophagy degenerates, prompting researchers to find ways to reverse this trend.

Published studies are now demonstrating that maintaining autophagy is integral to improving longevity and healthspan.


Benefits of Autophagy: Why it’s Important

Maintaining healthy autophagy is essential for cellular homeostasis and longevity, contributing to a long, healthy life.

In research conducted on mice, overexpression of the autophagy 5 protein enhanced autophagy and resulted in the mice living 17.2% longer.  The mice that lived longer also had improved resistance to oxidative stress.

Enhancing autophagy has also been shown to be instrumental in ensuring vascular and cardiac health.

Autophagy functions as a survival mechanism in response to nutrient deprivation, allowing the healthy functioning of cells, tissues, and organs.


Strategies for Increasing Autophagy

1. Autophagy Foods

Everyone wanting to maintain healthy levels of autophagy throughout their lives should eat foods that promote the process.

The flavonoid luteolin, which is found in numerous foods, has demonstrated the ability to stimulate processes that activate healthy autophagy.

The processes which stimulate autophagy are inhibition of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and increasing AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity.

AMPK is a sensor of low, intracellular ATP levels.  (mTOR) is a kinase that regulates autophagy, cell proliferation, and apoptosis (programmed cell death).

The following foods contain luteolin:

  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Parsley
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Apples


Another nutrient which stimulates autophagy is piperlongumine, a compound found in the long pepper plant.

Piperlongumine was able to restore the cellular balance between apoptosis (programmed cell death) and autophagy in a study published in the journal Autophagy.

Luteolin and piperlongumine are also available in supplement form.


2. Intermittent Fasting

Another approach health-conscious people are using to maintain healthy levels of autophagy is caloric restriction, or intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting inhibits mTOR activity and induces healthy autophagy. Intermittent fasting, or only eating within an 8 hour time period, also reduces the risk of cancer, facilitates weight loss, and lowers blood pressure.

A fasting state also increases AMPK activity, which stimulates autophagy.


3. Reducing Carbohydrates

Reducing carbohydrates in your diet is a good strategy for improving autophagy, as well as improving health and longevity.

Excess carbohydrates, which are converted to glucose, stimulate insulin secretion, activating mTOR and hindering autophagy.

High levels of glucose are associated with shortened lifespans, especially the nematode C. elegans. Increased glucose levels also elevate ATP levels which suppresses autophagy.


4. Exercise

You can add another item to the list of benefits you get from regular exercise. Exercise has the ability to stimulate autophagy beyond baseline levels.

It’s important to maintain youthful levels of autophagy since the suppression of autophagy results in the gradual dysfunction of organs.

Exercise also stimulates AMPK activity, thus increasing autophagy. Increasing AMPK activity is also involved in regulating glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity which is necessary for prevention of diabetes.


Making Autophagy Work For You

As you can see, autophagy is necessary for maintaining the healthy function of your cells, tissues, and organs.

When more research is done, we may discover more ways to stimulate autophagy for health and longevity.

Right now, it’s possible to use all four strategies outlined here to increase autophagy for health and longevity.

If you need additional assistance with implementing these different approaches for increasing autophagy in your body, consult a fitness professional or registered dietitian.

Then it’s just a matter of fine tuning the strategies to make the benefits of autophagy  work for you.


Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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Hi, I'm Kent

As a personal trainer, exercise physiologist, and bodybuilder, I’ve dedicated my life to optimal nutrition, fitness and natural remedies. And putting it all into practice. Now I’m taking my experience and knowledge to the next level by helping others through blogging.


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