What is Autophagy? – Benefits and threatening diseases through an impaired cell wast collection
Spurned for a long time, autophagy is becoming increasingly important in the medical world today. It reached its early climax in the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the Japanese Yoshinori Ohsumi.
In the modern world, autophagy happens less often, as we have food always within reach. In the long term, this leads to a “littering” of the cells and the body.
Nowadays, we also see an increase in chronic inflammatory diseases and the well-known diseases of affluence.
Get an overview of autophagy, what happens in the body, what advantages it has and how you can benefit from it in everyday life.
What is autophagy?
The body is not a rigid structure, but a highly complex and dynamic masterpiece. Construction and dismantling take place in parallel at all times, also in parallel on the same line.
The breakdown can happen completely, and science is well aware of the utilization of carbohydrates and fats for CO2, water and energy in the form of ATP.
The incomplete breakdown of complex molecules into the individual components often gets overlooked.
In autophagy, the cell breaks down parts of the interior of the cell in small drops of fat (vesicles) and gains new building blocks (amino acids, sugar, nucleotides, etc.). Medicine refers to these fat droplets here as autophagosomes.
The term autophagy is composed of “auto” (Greek for self) and phagocytosis (“cell eating”). In colloquial terms, the cell partially eats/digests itself.
But this has little to do with suicide, more with recycling. Autophagy contributes to the degradation of old and damaged cell components and is essential for keeping the cell young and vital.
Autophagy is possible in every single cell in the body, and it also takes place outside the cell in the immune system.
Because in states of fasting, in which autophagocytosis gets activates, macrophages move around the entire body and increasingly search for infected cells, dead cells and pathogens.
When you are sick in bed with the flu, your body suppresses feelings of hunger to activate autophagy, which helps fight the infection.
Pinocytosis is a special form. This instrument, also known as “drinking cells”, is used by the cell to absorb new amounts of cell material from lymph, to recycle it and to use it itself.
The cell’s own garbage disposal in clear view
Imagine a cell like a small town: there are streets (cell filaments), power plants (mitochondria), the town hall with the city administration (cell nucleus), factories (ribosomes), a post office (Golgi apparatus), trucks (transport vesicles), … And, there is the garbage collection facility!
Without garbage disposal, this small town would not work and would quickly become contaminated with too much waste. Autophagy is like this garbage disposal.
Wherever there is waste, it is readily available to collect the waste and recycle it.
The advantages of autophagy at a glance
You now know that autophagy is important for every single cell in the body so that it does not become littered. It is also vital, so that the immune system activates during periods of abstinence from food.
What are the body-level benefits of autophagy?
It extends the lifespan. Studies in mice and worms have shown that increased autophagocytosis leads to an extended lifespan.
We can also transfer this phenomenon to humans and often observe it in very old people (centenarians). They fast more frequently, which activates autophagy and keeps the body young.
Autophagy also prevents depression. Scientific studies increasingly show that regular fasting, which is the strongest activator of autophagy, can prevent depression and one can use it as a treatment component for depression.
It strengthens the immune system, too. Everyone benefits from a stronger immune system. Autophagocytosis activates the phagocytes of the immune system to detect and destroy infected cells, dead cells and intruders.
Autophagy reduces inflammation in the body. Scientific studies show that inflammation causes chronic diseases.
Fasting and the associated processes of autophagocytosis very effectively reduce inflammation in the body. We can, therefore, refer to it as a treatment component for chronic inflammatory diseases.
What activates autophagy?
Up to this point, you have probably already identified some activators. Here are the four most important ones:
Fasting: From 12 hours of abstinence onwards, autophagy gets activated and continues to increase linearly until it reaches its absolute peak after about 2-3 days.
Calorie restriction: The Japanese are known to eat so much until they are 80% full. Autophagy plays an important role in your everyday life.
If you want to lose weight or generally do not eat to the point of full saturation, you are already taking a large and unconscious step towards autophagocytosis.
Sport: No matter whether aerobic sport (endurance sport) or anaerobic sport (highly intensive ball sport, Tabata, strength training); sport activates autophagy. That’s one reason why experts recommend sports several times a week, as it keeps the body young and fit.
Certain foods and nutritional ingredients.
Health problems that can arise without proper autophagy
If the body’s own garbage disposal gets too little activation or previous illnesses exist, some known diseases threaten. These relate to restricted or impaired autophagy:
Some autoimmune diseases
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