• Gerry Davies

Autophagy: What is it and why should I care?

Most people have heard about DNA the blueprint for protein synthesis. Autophagy is the opposite of protein synthesis; it is the orderly dismantling and recycling of proteins and is equally essential for life. Knowledge of the simple lifestyle choices that hinder or enhance autophagy can greatly improve our healthspan. The process of life generates large amounts of redundant and damaged protoplasm that must be recycled and repaired daily for example mitochondria, the structures which generate energy in cells have a life cycle of just 20-30 days. Dysfunctional components of mitochondria are removed by “autophagy” and their amino-acids recycled. Inefficient maintenance of mitochondria can precipitate cell death in various age related diseases such as neurodegeneration, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, arthritis, atherosclerosis and so on.
Autophagy has many other functions including mobilization of energy from stores of fat and glycogen, so fasting switches it on. Three meals a day and snacking in between suppresses autophagy and is a recipe for accelerated aging. On the other hand autophagy can be enhanced by:
  1. A ketogenic low protein diet also called a Fasting Mimicking Diet

  2. Fasting or Time Restricted Feeding: e.g. eating during a 6-hour window, or one meal a day (OMAD)

  3. Exercise

  4. Word of warning for HIGH PROTEIN DIETS: replacing carbohydrates with excessive protein is ill advised where consuming 0.8 gm/kg body weight may be ideal for optimal autophagy.

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