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Article

Autophagy: Benefits and How to Optimize

Monday, June 19th 2023 10:00am 4 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Autophagy is a cellular process in which damaged or dysfunctional cellular components are broken down and recycled. This process is essential for maintaining cellular health and longevity. Here are eight benefits of autophagy:

  • Improved Cellular Function:
    Autophagy helps to remove damaged or dysfunctional cellular components, allowing cells to function more effectively. A study conducted on mice showed that autophagy plays a critical role in the maintenance of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which is responsible for protein synthesis and folding. The study found that autophagy deficiency led to ER stress and subsequent cell death (1).
  • Reduced Inflammation:
    Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system to injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation can lead to various diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Autophagy can help to reduce inflammation in the body by removing damaged cells that can trigger an immune response. A study conducted on human blood samples found that autophagy plays a crucial role in regulating the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (2).
  • Enhanced Immunity:
    Autophagy can help to remove viruses and bacteria from cells, strengthening the immune system. A study conducted on mice found that autophagy plays a critical role in the elimination of intracellular pathogens such as bacteria and viruses (3).
  • Improved Metabolism:
    Autophagy can help to regulate glucose and fat metabolism, promoting better overall metabolic health. A study conducted on mice found that autophagy deficiency led to impaired glucose metabolism and insulin resistance (4).
  • Protection Against Aging:
    Autophagy can help to protect against the cellular damage that contributes to aging. A study conducted on yeast found that autophagy plays a critical role in extending lifespan (5).
  • Reduced Risk of Cancer:
    Autophagy can help to remove damaged cells that could potentially become cancerous. A study conducted on mice found that autophagy plays a critical role in preventing the accumulation of damaged proteins and organelles, which can lead to cancer (6).
  • Increased Lifespan:
    Autophagy has been linked to increased lifespan in animal studies. A study conducted on mice found that autophagy plays a critical role in extending lifespan (5).
  • Improved Brain Function:
    Autophagy can help to remove misfolded proteins from the brain, which may contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases. A study conducted on mice found that autophagy deficiency led to the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the brain, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (7).

Here are six ways to improve autophagy:

  • Intermittent Fasting:
    Fasting has been shown to increase autophagy levels in the body. A study conducted on mice found that intermittent fasting led to increased autophagy levels in the liver (8).
  • Exercise:
    Regular exercise has been shown to increase autophagy levels in muscle cells. A study conducted on mice found that exercise led to increased autophagy levels in skeletal muscle (9).
  • Caloric Restriction:
    Reducing calorie intake has been shown to increase autophagy levels in cells. A study conducted on mice found that caloric restriction led to increased autophagy levels in the liver (10).
  • Resveratrol:
    Resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and red wine, has been shown to activate autophagy. A study conducted on human cells found that resveratrol led to increased autophagy levels (11).
  • Sleep:
    Adequate sleep is important for overall cellular health and can promote autophagy. A study conducted on mice found that sleep deprivation led to decreased autophagy levels in the liver
  • Protein Intake:
    High protein intake can inhibit autophagy, so moderating protein intake may help to promote autophagy. A study conducted on mice found that high protein intake led to decreased autophagy levels in the liver (13).

In conclusion, autophagy is a critical process for maintaining cellular health and promoting longevity. It helps to remove damaged or dysfunctional cellular components, reducing inflammation, enhancing immunity, improving metabolism, protecting against aging, reducing the risk of cancer, increasing lifespan, and improving brain function. There are several ways to improve autophagy, including intermittent fasting, regular exercise, caloric restriction, resveratrol, adequate sleep, and moderating protein intake. By incorporating these strategies into our lifestyle, we can promote autophagy and enhance our cellular health and longevity.

REFERENCES:

Lerner AG, Upton JP, Praveen PVK, et al. IRE1α induces thioredoxin-interacting protein to activate the NLRP3 inflammasome and promote programmed cell death under irremediable ER stress. Cell Metab. 2012;16(2):250-264. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2012.07.007

Deretic V. Autophagy in immunity and cell-autonomous defense against intracellular microbes. Immunol Rev. 2011;240(1):92-104. doi:10.1111/j.1600-065X.2010.00995.x

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