Autophagy: How Controlling One Thing Can Extend Your Life

For centuries man has been on a quest to discover immortality. From the fabled Fountain of Youth to the surge of interest in parabiosis, finding the right algorithm or equation or map that will lead to a longer life has gained more interest in the health and wellness community. And even though quality of life has progressed over the past decades and humans are arguably healthier than previous generations, what’s being discovered is that a longer life doesn’t necessarily mean a healthier one.

In my latest book, Getting Older…It’s Avoidable!: The Strategy to Keep the Youth of Your Cells and Your Body, I peel back the layers of autophagy (or your body’s natural toxin-cleaning method) to reveal just how important health and wellness are in the age of living longer.

Living Longer, but Not Healthier

In the mid-19th century, the average lifespan hovered between 40 and 50. Fast forward to today and humans are looking at another 30 years of life compared to then. But additional years, or decades, of life doesn’t necessarily translate to a happy and healthy life. In generations to come, humans will be knocking on the century mark for life expectancy, so it’s important to focus on healthy living practices to make sure the latter years aren’t spent sick and feeble. To make sure this becomes a reality, I suggest not only diet, exercise, and a solid relationship with your team of doctors, but also a focus on autophagy, or the detoxification of your body’s entire system.

Keeping It Natural

So-called health companies are trying to grab a piece of the pie in this health field, selling all sorts of supposedly detoxing or cleansing products. While partaking in cleanses is helpful for rejuvenation, spending money on something that comes naturally isn’t good for your bottom line. The body has multiple cleansing systems already in place, including autophagy. As mentioned above, autophagy is a cleansing system for your cells, acting as a recycling system for proteins and defective structures that accumulate within those cells. Autophagy prevents the accumulation of fats, cleans and protects damaged cells, and activates antioxidizing and anti-inflammatory processes.

Studies centered around autophagy have gained more recognition, especially since Japanese researcher Yoshinori Ohsumi received the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the subject. So how do we partake in autophagy? Tried and true methods of diet and exercise are good places to start. The old adage of eating healthy and going for a jog a few times a week to add years to your life is actually true. We can’t control outside risks like freak accidents or certain injuries that could cut our life short, but while we are alive and able we can still take steps to ensure a healthy life in the latter years.

Think Fast…ing

People who are healthy enough (i.e. cleared from their doctor, don’t have current illnesses or coming off an illness) should begin cutting calories and dive into fasting. As mentioned above, when cells lack energy, they are forced to recycle the waste that they have accumulated. This means that housekeeping is done within the cell, which promotes better cell function. Some studies have shown that animals, including monkeys, under calorie restriction developed fewer age-related degenerative diseases. What are some best practices in this?:

  • Try eating less on a daily basis, throughout life.
  • Fast for 24 hours once a week or every two weeks.
  • Set aside two days out of your week to reduce your caloric intake by 75%.
  • From time to time, about five days per month, skip lunch and spend at least 16 to 18 consecutive hours without eating.

The Long Haul

This natural approach to introducing autophagy into our lives is highly attainable. Through introducing this method into your daily life overtime the benefits will become clear. They include preventing  oxidation, inflammation, glycation, and activating autophagy and telomerase. All of this combined will result in a clear mind and a healthier body from the inside out.

No one should have to run the risk of aging poorly. Instilling a natural health regimen into your life will bring positive results over time. From better-looking skin to more energy in the morning, from less trouble with diseases to staying mentally sound, autophagy will only aid and not just a longer life, but a healthy long life. These lessons are important to learn now if you find yourself at an advanced age or getting close to it. But it also can act as a roadmap for younger people, under 40, who have more time to begin practicing certain methods.


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Dr. Daniel Minier

View posts by Dr. Daniel Minier
Dr. Daniel Minier is the author of Getting Older... It's Avoidable!. He is also a dermatologist and a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, and a member of the Jury for the Royal College of Physicians of Canada. Daniel and his family live in Quebec, Canada.

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