Autophagy is a process in which our cells recycle old or damaged materials. With more data tying efficient autophagy to various longevity benefits, how can you unlock the benefits of this metabolic process?
Luckily, there are several biohacks that you can implement in order to leverage autophagy for your health. These range from eating certain foods, exercising, or even taking certain supplements.
This article will discuss these various techniques.
Ways to Induce Autophagy
- Following Certain Types of Diet
- Eating Certain Types of Foods
- Doing Exercise
- Taking Specific Supplements
Dietary Approaches to Induce Autophagy
There are a few types of diets that have been shown to possibly activate autophagy.
- Autophagy Fasting
New research has begun to show that autophagy can be induced by prolonged periods of fasting. The current thinking behind this mechanism is that when the body is sent into a starvation-like mode, our cells are forced to fuel themselves by finding alternative sources of energy that can be accessed through autophagy.
The minimum time one needs to fast in order to induce autophagy is estimated to be about 14-18 hours per day, based on current research.
- Ketogenic Diet
Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet, a carbohydrate restricted diet, has potent autophagy inducing effects. When people eat low carbohydrate diets, the body turns to ketosis to utilize fat for energy.
Simultaneously, an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is activated. AMPK exerts its effects by signaling autophagy to start, thereby creating more energy for the cell. It also inhibits slightly less important processes like protein synthesis or cell proliferation.
Foods That Induce Autophagy
There are also a variety of foods that are now being tied to autophagy.
Studies in mice have shown that coffee can begin to induce autophagy within the first several hours of consumption, regardless of how much is consumed. Researchers therefore believe that the autophagy inducing effects are likely from the polyphenols in coffee, not the caffeine.
- Green Tea
It is well known that green tea exhibits potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its high concentrations of epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG for short. Green tea also now has evidence backing its ability to induce autophagy owing to its high concentrations of polyphenols.
One study that evaluated berberine found that this compound may also have the ability to induce autophagy. Berberine can be found in bar berries, tree turmeric, and a handful of other herbs.
Turmeric has a number of health benefits with autophagy being one of them. Curcumin, the main polyphenolic compound in turmeric, is shown to induce mitophagy, a specific form of autophagy that assists with recycling mitochondria in cells.
- Olive Oil
In a study in mice that investigated alternative treatment pathways for neuronal degeneration in conditions like Alzheimer’s, researchers found that olive oil is likely a potent inducer of autophagy by causing activation of AMPK as well.
Exercise Induced Autophagy
Exercise has a variety of benefits for human health from promoting cardiovascular health to muscle and bone health. It also has now been linked to healthy autophagy.
According to research, high intensity interval training, commonly referred to as “HIIT,” can induce autophagy quickly in humans.
However, even if you are not performing HIIT activities, regular exercise of any form may promote healthy autophagy.
Supplements that Induce Autophagy
You should always check with your own physician before starting any supplement. That being said, there are several supplements that may be able to promote autophagy based on growing research.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is involved in a wide range of bio-metabolic pathways and processes. One study found that it can induce autophagy, thereby regulating oxidative stress and cell proliferation.
As mentioned, curcumin is found naturally in several food sources. It is also available as a supplement and may be beneficial when added to a diet to induce autophagy.
Spermidine is another compound that may help promote healthy autophagy. It is not only abundant in various foods, but also available in supplement form.
Biomedical research is continuing to tie autophagy to healthy aging and disease prevention. There are various approaches one can take to leverage autophagy as discussed in this article such as certain dietary approaches, exercising regularly, eating certain foods known to induce autophagy, and if needed, adding autophagy inducing supplements to your diet.
How Long to Induce Autophagy?
The length of time required to induce autophagy can vary depending on the individual and the method used. Fasting for at least 17 hours can turn on autophagy.
Can You Induce Autophagy Without Fasting?
Yes, it is possible to induce autophagy without fasting by eating certain foods, eating a ketogenic diet and taking specific supplements like spermidine.
Does Intermittent Fasting Induce Autophagy?
Intermittent fasting has been shown to induce autophagy in some studies. However, it is important to note that the relationship between intermittent fasting and autophagy is still being studied, and the results are not always consistent.
- Li et al. . Berberine mitigates high glucose-induced podocyte apoptosis by modulating autophagy via the mTOR/P70S6K/4EBP1 pathway
- Bhutia . Vitamin D in autophagy signaling for health and diseases: Insights on potential mechanisms and future perspectives
- Mancin et al. .Lifelong Football Training: Effects on Autophagy and Healthy Longevity Promotion
- Paoli et al. . Ketosis, ketogenic diet and food intake control: a complex relationship
- Pietrocola et al.  Coffee induces autophagy in vivo.
- Prasanth et al. . A Review of the Role of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) in Antiphotoaging, Stress Resistance, Neuroprotection, and Autophagy
- Richter and Ruderman  AMPK and the biochemistry of exercise: Implications for human health and disease
- Wang et al. . Ketogenic diet attenuates neuronal injury via autophagy and mitochondrial pathways in pentylenetetrazol-kindled seizures
- Rihani et al. . Oleocanthal-Rich Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Restores the Blood–Brain Barrier Function through NLRP3 Inflammasome Inhibition Simultaneously with Autophagy Induction in TgSwDI Mice
Tana Bao, BSN, MSN, APRN, NP
Tana is a family nurse practitioner dual board board certified through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (NP-C) as well as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (FNP-BC).