What is autophagy?
Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells, according to Priya Khorana, PhD, in nutrition education from Columbia University.
“Auto” means self and “phagy” means eat. So the literal meaning of autophagy is “self-eating.”
It’s also referred to as “self-devouring.” While that may sound like something you never want to happen to your body, it’s actually beneficial to your overall health.
This is because autophagy is an evolutionary self-preservation mechanism through which the body can remove the dysfunctional cells and recycle parts of them toward cellular repair and cleaning, according to board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Luiza Petre.
Petre explains that the purpose of autophagy is to remove debris and self-regulate back to optimal smooth function.
“It is recycling and cleaning at the same time, just like hitting a reset button to your body. Plus, it promotes survival and adaptation as a response to various stressors and toxins accumulated in our cells,” she adds.
The main benefits of autophagy seem to come in the form of anti-aging principles. In fact, Petre says it’s best known as the body’s way of turning the clock back and creating younger cells.
Khorana points out that when our cells are stressed, autophagy is increased in order to protect us, which helps enhance your lifespan.
Additionally, registered dietitian, Scott Keatley, RD, CDN, says that in times of starvation, autophagy keeps the body going by breaking down cellular material and reusing it for necessary processes.
“Of course this takes energy and cannot continue forever, but it gives us more time to find nourishment,” he adds.
At the cellular level, Petre says the benefits of autophagy include:
- removing toxic proteins from the cells that are attributed to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease
- recycling residual proteins
- providing energy and building blocks for cells that could still benefit from repair
- on a larger scale, it prompts regeneration and healthy cells
Autophagy is receiving a lot of attention for the role it may play in preventing or treating cancer, too.
“Autophagy declines as we age, so this means cells that no longer work or may do harm are allowed to multiply, which is the MO of cancer cells,” explains Keatley.
While all cancers start from some sort of defective cells, Petre says that the body should recognize and remove those cells, often using autophagic processes. That’s why some researchers are looking at the possibility that autophagy may lower the risk of cancer.
While there’s no scientific evidence to back this up, Petre says some studiesTrusted Source suggest that many cancerous cells can be removed through autophagy.
“This is how the body polices the cancer villains,” she explains. “Recognizing and destroying what went wrong and triggering the repairing mechanism does contribute to lowering the risk of cancer.”
Researchers believe that new studies will lead to insight that will help them target autophagy as a therapy for cancer.
“Fasting is [the] most effective wayTrusted Source to trigger autophagy,” explains Petre.
“A cetose, uma dieta rica em gordura e pobre em carboidratos traz os mesmos benefícios do jejum sem jejum, como um atalho para induzir as mesmas alterações metabólicas benéficas”, acrescenta. “Por não sobrecarregar o corpo com uma carga externa, dá ao corpo uma pausa para se concentrar em sua própria saúde e reparação.”
In the keto diet, you get about 75 percent of your daily calories from fat, and 5 to 10 percent of your calories from carbs.
This shift in calorie sources causes your body to shift its metabolic pathways. It will begin to use fat for fuel instead of the glucose that’s derived from carbohydrates.
In response to this restriction, your body will begin to start producing ketone bodies that have many protective effects. Khorana says studies suggest that ketosis can also cause starvation-induced autophagy, which has neuroprotective functions.
“Níveis baixos de glicose ocorrem em ambas as dietas e estão associados a níveis baixos de insulina e altos níveis de glucagon”, explica Petre. E o nível de glucagon é aquele que inicia a autofagia.
“When the body is low on sugar through fasting or ketosis, it brings the positive stress that wakes up the survival repairing mode,” she adds.
One non-diet area that may also play a role in inducing autophagy is exercise. According to one animal studyTrusted Source, physical exercise may induce autophagy in organs that are part of metabolic regulation processes.
This can include the muscles, liver, pancreas, and adipose tissue.
Autophagy will continue to gain attention as researchers conduct more studies on the impact it has on our health.
For now, nutritional and health experts such as Khorana point to the fact that there’s still much we need to learn about autophagy and how to best encourage it.
Mas se você estiver interessado em tentar estimular a autofagia em seu corpo, ela recomenda começar adicionando jejum e exercícios regulares à sua rotina.
However, you need to consult your doctor if you’re taking any medications, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or wish to become pregnant, or have a chronic condition, such as heart disease or diabetes.
Khorana avisa que você não é incentivado a jejuar se se enquadrar em qualquer uma das categorias acima
Para inspirá-lo a fazer exercícios e comer bem, enviaremos nossas principais dicas e histórias sobre saúde, além de notícias de leitura obrigatória.
Last medically reviewed on August 23, 2018
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