Throughout history, numerous people have searched for the elixir of youth. Now, science is pointing to intermittent fasting as one possible option. Let’s find out how fasting has a magic touch on a youthful look.
Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy”, meaning a system that creates an anti-aging effect by cleaning out the damaged cells to replace them with new and healthy ones. Intermittent fasting is one of the main triggers of this cellular cleaning process.
What is autophagy?
Autophagy is a word derived from Greek, with “auto” meaning “self” and “phagein” meaning “eating”. It is a body cleanse system that brings longevity and protects you from many serious diseases that come with aging. In fact, your body ‘eats itself’ on a daily basis – but don’t let this worry you! This is a normal body clean-up mechanism to remove the old cells and make room for new ones.
Autophagy is also a perfect detox mechanism that prevents loose skin by triggering collagen production and making the skin more elastic and firmer.
Is autophagy healthy?
As you get older, proteins and organelles in your body become damaged, and they accumulate in your cells. This is the reason why you develop health problems due to aging. Autophagy removes these damaged parts of the cells so that you can generate new and functioning particles. It is a totally healthy and natural process that slows down aging symptoms.
Benefits of autophagy
Autophagy has been linked with many health benefits:
- Autophagy reduces loose skin: When autophagy is activated, your skin cells are repaired so you get less wrinkles or loose skin. It also improves the quality of the skin by cleaning out toxins that your skin has been exposed to, such as excessive sunlight, stress, or a poor diet.
- It enhances your longevity: Autophagy turns your body clock back by reducing aging symptoms.
- It protects you from serious diseases: Higher levels of autophagy have been linked to a reduced tendency to develop Alzheimer’s disease. It also reduces the risk of cancer, as it triggers the production of healthy new cells.
How does Intermittent Fasting boost autophagy?
Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways of boosting autophagy, because autophagy reaches its climax during temporary nutrition depletion states, which is the main point of the intermittent fasting diet. Although extreme levels of hunger may cause the death of healthy cells, an intermittent fasting diet offers a plan where you switch between eating and fasting periods, which is a great way to clean out the damaged cells while retaining the healthy ones.
How long do you need to fast for autophagy?
You need to fast for at least 14 hours to get the benefits of autophagy, because you need to consume your glycogen stores at a significant level to enter the autophagy phase. This happens 14 hours after your last meal so 14/10 or 16/8 patterns of intermittent fasting are the simplest and safest ways to support autophagy.
As the autophagy of the cells starts, your body slowly enters the ketosis stage around 18 hours of fasting, where you also start burning fat. This is key for lasting weight loss.
Fully-fledged autophagy starts after a 24-hour fasting period and peaks after 48 hours of fasting. You can get more autophagy benefits with longer fasting periods. But you need to do it wisely and listen to your body’s signals. It’s normal to experience some challenges during fasting but if you’re feeling extremely uncomfortable, end your fast and consult a medical professional if necessary.
The bottom line
Not a miracle or magic, autophagy is truly a scientific process that brings youth on a cellular level. And intermittent fasting is the tool that will lead you to this fountain of youth.
For fully healthy people, fasting has no side effects. But if you have type 1 diabetes, adrenal gland dysfunction, or hypothyroidism, fasting may not be suitable for you. You should at least consult your doctor first.
All in all, bear in mind that longevity is a holistic thing. Having healthy eating habits, getting good quality sleep, regular exercise, building healthy connections, and avoiding negative stress are integral parts of extending your lifespan.