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Autophagy - or the body's self-cleansing process

Autophagy means self-digestion. The word comes from the Greek words auto (self) and phagein (to eat)

  • It is a very finely regulated mechanism of the body to get rid of pathogens (viruses, fungi, bacteria), defective cell parts, and worn-out proteins, cell membranes, cellular components, cellular organs that no longer perform their function inside the cell.
  • It is a process that supports cell renewal and plays a major role in maintaining normal cell metabolism, preventing disease and delaying ageing.
  • The process involves the breakdown of the spent parts in lysosomes (cellular vesicles) specialised in the breakdown of proteins, with the help of various enzymes. The broken down parts are then transported to the liver where they are reused or used for energy production.

This process is known as home autophagy, which maintains the balance between the anabolic and catabolic processes of the cell, and thus cellular homeostasis. Proteins such as AMPK (an important metabolic regulator of cells) and mTOR (a central regulator of the intercellular communication network) play a major role in regulating this process. Defective proteins formed by autophagy during protein synthesis (protein production) can be converted into normal proteins. This is important because the defective proteins in the body produce toxic substances called amyloids which contribute to the development of many diseases (e.g. Parkinson's, Alzheimer's). It influences antigen presentation (i.e. the presentation of antigens to immune cells), the development and differentiation of T and B lymphocytes (a group of white blood cells involved in immune defence), the production and expression of anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory cytokines (signalling molecules involved in cell-to-cell communication), and the development of immune defence mechanisms.

The process is stimulated by an increase in the levels of the hormone glucagon produced by the pancreas in the absence of energy during starvation.

In this way, fasting, intermittent fasting can trigger autophagy in the body.

  • The process already starts during a 14-16 hour fast, when no nutrients are taken in, only fluids (clean water) are replenished.
  • At the same time, the meal (protein intake, glucose and insulin levels increase) stops. So fasting or calorie-restricted diets do not help!!!!

We can support the autophagy process with several things in the non-starvation phase:

  1. Cardio exercise (e.g. cycling, running)
  2. Foods (e.g. green vegetables - cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, coconut oil, avocado)
  3. With vitamins (B3 and D3)

Autophagy is recommended for anyone who cares about their health, wants to stay young or wants to get rid of a health challenge.

1.Az önemésztés, sejtpusztulás és megújulás molekuláris sejtbiológiája (G. Juhász és mtsai. 2013)
2. Lysosome biology in autophagy (W.W.Y. Yim és mtsai. 2020)
3. Autophagy: A lysosomal degradation pathway with a central role in health and disease (E.L. Eskelinen és mtsai. 2009)
4. Autophagy and the immune system (D.J. Puleston és mtsai. 2014)
5. The relationship between autophagy and the immune system and its applications for tumor immunotherapy (G.M. Jiang és mtsai, 2019)
6. Autophagy-Dependent Beneficial Effects of Exercise (J.F. Halling és mtsai, 2017

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