Fucoidan Health News April: Autophagy: Self-eating to Regenerate Healthy Cells
Autophagy: Self-eating to Regenerate Healthy Cells
What Does Autophagy Mean?
Autophagy means “self-eating”. It is derived from Greek “auto”, which means “self”, and “phagein”, which means “eat”.
Autophagy, through lysosomes, turns useless, damaged cells and cell debris into different proteins and then amino acids to produce healthier and new cells. To put it simply, autophagy works like a small landfill and recycling center responsible for the cleanliness and safety of the whole body and providing nutrition to other organs. This makes our bodies younger and reduces the likelihood of infections.
Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2016 for his work on autophagy, attracting worldwide attention to the study of autophagy.
Three Types of Autophagy:
- Chaperone-mediated Autophagy (CMA)
This is the most common form of autophagy. It delivers cytoplasmic cargo to the lysosome through the intermediary of a double membrane-bound vesicle, referred to as an autophagosome, that fuses with the lysosome to form an autolysosome. Autolysosomes then turns substances into amino acids, lipids, nucleic acids, etc that can be used for producing new organelles or necessary proteins.
The process of micro-autophagy is comparatively simpler than macro-autophagy. Cytosolic components are directly taken up by the lysosome through invagination of the lysosomal membrane. There’s no autolysosome involved.
This is a special kind of autophagy as targeted proteins are directly translocated across the lysosomal membrane in a complex with chaperone proteins that causes degradation by the enzymes in lysosomes.
Are there other benefits of autophagy besides weight loss and anti-aging?
- Cell metabolism
- Removing toxins
- Reducing Cancer Risk
Autophagy plays a critical role in the metabolism and the processing of damaged organelles, proteins, and nucleic acids. It ultimately strengthens the quality control of cells. Autophagy takes place every day to gradually replace the substances inside our cells. While toxins are removed, proteins digest and break into amino acids to regenerate new proteins. For an adult male weighing 60kg, the body regenerates around 240 grams of protein every day via autophagy.
Autophagy can remove old proteins, macromolecules, old or damaged organelles. Many studies have also proved that autophagy can protect us by controlling bacterial and viral infections.
Autophagy shows significant impact on inflammation by influencing the development, homeostasis, and survival of inflammatory cells, including macrophages, neutrophils, and lymphocytes. They play vital roles in the development and causes of inflammation.
Cancer cells survive only because damaged and old mitochondria release more free radicals. Autophagy can remove damaged mitochondria, reducing the risks of cancer and many other illnesses. There are studies that point out that autophagy can control the growth of cancer tumors and prevent them from spreading to other organs during the early stage. However, it can benefit their development in later stages. In short, Autophagy helps reduce risks of cancer and the early stage. However, if you are a cancer patient, strictly follow your doctor’s advice.
How to effectively stimulate autophagy
- Intermittent fasting
Fasting can trigger autophagy. When cells are hungry, they can degrade protein to generate energy through autophagy. There are many ways of fasting, and we can adopt the one that suits our lifestyle habits the most.
- Alternate-day fasting: eat normally one day and fast or eat small meals (under 500kcal) the next day.
- The 5:2 diet: Eat normally five days a week and fast for the remaining two days.
- The 16/8 method: Concentrate your calorie intake within 8 hours and only consume zero-calorie foods and drinks, such as water, salt, black coffee, and tea, during the remaining 16 hours. Count the hours instead of calories.
According to Dr. Axe, an expert in fasting, autophagy is triggered after 12 to 16 hours of our last meal.
The keto diet is a high fat, low carb (5 to 10%) diet. The change of the source of energy changes your metabolic state. Your body starts using fat, instead of glucose in carbohydrates, as fuel and ketones, protective substances, are produced. Research has shown that ketosis can trigger autophagy, protecting our nervous system.
High-intensity exercise can trigger autophagy. Japanese research summarizes that low-intensity exercise can effectively trigger autophagy of skeletal muscles while high-intensity exercise can effectively trigger autophagy of the liver.
- Low-intensity: Walking around at home, hanging laundry, folding clothes, and doing morning stretches, etc.
- High-intensity: Jogging, cycling, rowing, and similar cardio exercises, along with strength training.
The intensity can be adjusted to individuals’ physical and health conditions.
Although it is true that autophagy can be triggered and is beneficial to many aspects of the body, please remember everyone’s health conditions are different. Long-term fasting, limiting calorie intake, and various foods can also negatively affect people with chronic illnesses and cancer. Hence, before taking any autophagy measures, please consult your doctor.