November 16, 2022

Can Autophagy Help You Stay Youthful?

Can Autophagy Help You Stay Youthful?
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Lately, research has emphasized a phenomenon that appears to prolong our life for the better. Autophagy can be defined as the body’s internal toxic cleanup system, freeing the body of debris and waste.


Autophagy can be considered a quality control system that sweeps up garbage. It gathers waste and delivers it to the lysosomes, upon which it is further destroyed into tinier bits and possibly reused.

Much is to be studied about this process as it is a recent discovery with certain areas requiring more exploration. Yoshinori Ohsumi did research on this which led to the newfound discovery. It even won a Nobel prize in 2016.

Autophagy appears to be more efficient and higher in healthy candidates. Specific genes influence the functioning of autophagy. Following a nutritious diet, performing adequate exercises, and taking supplements can enhance autophagy. 

Results Of Poor Autophagy

Poor functioning of autophagy has detrimental effects on a cellular level:

  • Insufficient mitochondria
  • Improper regulation of protein
  • Cellular damage from pro-oxidants
  • Decreased immunity
  • Accelerated cellular aging

The tissues are affected by this, particularly the brain, the most active organ in the body. Autophagy declines with age resulting in a decrease in muscular strength.

Autophagy And Aging

Another way to deal with cellular waste is to decrease the trash created. A prolonged period of inflammation that is low in intensity can hasten the process of aging. It is called ‘Inflammaging’ and is another factor that contributes to decreased autophagy activity. 

Several factors lead to inflammaging, like poor glucose regulation and insufficient nutrients in your diet. Facilitating the body with antioxidants like berries and leafy greens can be beneficial in fighting inflammaging.  

Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. It manufactures units of energy termed ATP and provides it sufficiently to the body. ATP production decreases as age progresses and even more so when inflammation is present.

How To Improve Autophagy?

The two main components towards improving autophagy would be to decrease the amount of garbage created and to facilitate the functioning of the mitochondria. Some of the ways to obtain this are:

  • Mobility or moving the body
  • Eating the rainbow - Adding colorful fruits and vegetables into the diet
  • Intermittent fasting - It can trigger autophagy
  • Taking dietary supplements like vitamin D, omega 3, curcumin, etc.,
  • Usage of condiments like herbs and spices while cooking can amp up the functioning of autophagy
  • Regulating the number of calories and sugar consumed
  • Taking superfoods like green tea, turmeric, and spirulina are known for their ability to fight inflammation
  • Utilizing Coenzyme Q10 and glutathione for mitochondrial health

Role Of Spermidine In Autophagy

Although more than 40 genes carry out the process of autophagy, one primary gene called ‘ATG5’ is associated with the phenomenon and the possibility of living longer.

The ATG5 levels reduce due to low mitochondrial function and oxidative stress. It is where mitochondria and antioxidants play a beneficial role.

Spermidine is associated with better autophagy. Anton Van Leeuwenhoek discovered spermidine in sperm and named it. It plays an important role not only in sperm but in all body cells.

Some activities it partakes in are protein synthesis, immune system functionality, antioxidant regulation, and cell growth, to name a few. We get anti-aging effects from it because it can fight inflammation and improve mitochondrial activity.

Dietary sources for spermidine include soy, mushrooms, wheat germ, legumes, fermented products, and animal liver. Our body forms spermidine from an amino acid, ornithine. The natural synthesis of ornithine-induced spermidine decreases as we age.

Higher quantities of spermidine can decrease mortality, especially mortality from cardiac issues and tumors. It has a protective effect on the brain and liver too.

Around 85 elderly subjects were distributed into two groups and tested with wheat germ and wheat bran. The results showed that the wheat germ group was superior in terms of increased cognition and memory. Wheat germ contained higher levels of spermidine than wheat bran. It implied that spermidine can exhibit beneficial effects on the body. It concluded that 3.3 mg of spermidine was the minimum requirement to acquire its health benefits.

Supplements To Assist Autophagy

Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN)

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a molecule present in all cells. It plays a vital role in several biological processes. NMN does not have specific benefits, but it replenishes the amount of NAD+ in the body. NAD+ cannot be given as a supplement as it is sensitive. Quantities of NAD+ decline with age, with experts researching the best way to supplement it, NMN being one.

NMN is another form of vitamin B3. Its deficiency and low NAD+ can lead to


Resveratol is a molecule in grapes, peanuts, blueberries, and wine. It hosts a multitude of benefits. It plays a role in activating sirtuin 1, which helps to improve autophagy. 

Studies have shown its effect on decreasing inflammation in the brain and improving memory and cognition in the elderly. Animal studies replicated in humans also proved to be supportive of its usage.


Autophagy may be the key to a youthful life, with its ability to renew and regenerate brand-new cells and dispose of toxic ones. Taking adequate nutrition, exercising, and taking supplements like Nicotinamide mononucleotide, curcumin, and resveratrol might help.

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