In this post I’m going to talk about my favourite biohack (even over FOXO3 activation!) – autophagy. As we go through life, our cells and their content get damaged which can eventually lead to health problems. Autophagy is our way of clearing away this damage. What’s really cool is that we can trigger this process at will and even see it with our own eyes using powerful microscopes.
We can induce the process of autophagy through fasting, especially PROLONGED fasting (i.e. 3 or more days). When this happens, damaged components of the cells are literally eaten and digested and used for building brand spanking NEW cellular components. Here are the steps –
1. Imagine there is an autophagy ‘beast’. The ‘mouth’ of the beast will sequester damaged portions of the cell (including damaged organelles, proteins, bacteria) in the cytoplasm of the cells. This mouth is called the autophagosome.
2. The mouth of the beast will close and then fuse with the stomach of the beast (the lysosome).
3. The fusion of the mouth and stomach results in a structure called the autophagolysosome, in which all the damaged stuff is digested. Nom nom.
Autophagy is triggered in 3 keys ways, all associated to nutrient deprivation (which is why it is induced by fasting).
1. A decrease in the pool of acetyl CoA. Acetyl CoA’s main function is to deliver its acetyl group to the Krebs cycle to produce our ‘energy currency’ ATP. A key way Acetyl CoA is made is through carbohydrate metabolism. No food, no carbs, no acetyl CoA.
2. A decrease in IGF-1 resulting in a decrease in the mTOR pathway. mTOR is responsible for inducing protein synthesis. IGF-1 is triggered by protein consumption. No food, no protein, no mTOR activation.
3. A decrease in total cellular energy or ATP. Low cellular energy triggers a pathway called AMP kinase. AMP is involved in regulating cellular energy homeostasis (or balance) by inducing beta oxidation in the liver which in turn results in the production of, you, guessed it, acetyl CoA. Remember point 1, no food, no carbs, no acetyl CoA. SO, AMP kinase will seek to restore the balance by making more. Sweet.
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