Autophagy: A Vanquishing Process of Human Immunity

Samiha Tamanna

Guess what; Science and Religious perceptions are overlapping, rather being contradicting at all!  One of the best examples as well witnesses of such blending has been discovered by Nobel Laureate Yoshinori Ohsumi in this very revolutionary era of science and technology, which is “The Autophagic Process”. Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the year 2016 on October 03for unfolding mechanisms underlying autophagy which is a fundamental vital process for degrading and recycling cellular components. Miraculously this significant beneficial physiologic process is greatly regulated by “Fasting”. It’s the greatest medical wonder and burning issue of 21st- century Bioscience expedition.

What actually is Autophagy? Autophagy is damaged cell organelles and diseased tissue digesting for later recycling or repurposing.Its ancient Greek wording derives from the words “auto” meaning self and “phagy” meaning eating; therefore the word Autophagy means “self-devouring,” or “eating of self,” which accurately describes it as a natural way of pruning off dysfunctional parts of human body. The process of protein degradation and recycling of the destroyed cell organelles maintains homeostasis and vital for new cell generation.

Is Autophagy really a vital mechanism of human life revival? Undoubtedly yes, Autophagy enables cells to survive stress from the external environment like deficiency of nutrient and also allows them to withstand internal stresses like an accumulation of damaged organelles, engulfing of damaged parts and pathogen or infective organism, to protect our body. One of the essential aspects of autophagy is it mainly maintains a balance between the manufacture of cellular components and break down of damaged or unnecessary organelles. After infection, autophagy can destroy invading intracellular microbes. Autophagy can rapidly provide fuel for energy and building blocks for renewal of cellular components and is therefore essential for the cellular response to starvation and other types of stress. Autophagy acts as a quality control mechanism that is critical for counteracting the negative consequences of aging as well as contributes to embryo development and cell differentiation to a large extent.

Mutations in autophagy genes can cause genetic disease which can be a deadly threat to mankind posterity. Disrupted autophagy has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, heart -related diseases and other disorders that appear in the elderly. A dysfunctional autophagic process can also lead to various forms of cancer.  An Intense investigation is now ongoing to develop drugs that can target autophagy in various diseases thus helping in new drug design and development. Autophagy is a form of programmed cell death which kills the cells under certain conditions and known as autophagic cell death or nonapoptotic programmed cell death, with different pathways and mediators from apoptosis. Autophagic cell death is the key factor of new functional cell growth and evolution.

Now how Fasting and Autophagy are related as well as help to detoxify and cleanse our body itself? According to Nobel Laureate Ohsumi, “It was clearly shown that periods of abstinence from food can trigger the autophagy system. That has two advantages: On the one hand, protein material can be digested and reused. On the other, it ensures that defective protein molecules and organelles like mitochondria are broken down in the cell. To this extent, fasting may be a therapeutically effective means,”

The act of drinking juice to cleanse our body and for having so-called zero size model like figure actually works against autophagy. Whereas intermittent fasting is another stressful act that the body may not immediately feel commensurate to dieting but ultimately benefits from. The risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can be reduced appreciably too.

What do we mean by intermittent fasting? In practice, Intermittent Fasting (IF) is actually a boosting up procedure of human body. A 24-hour day is broken up into 2 periods, one of which is the eating period and another one is “fasting” period.  We have to do all of our eating in the eating period that is relatively short.  The rest of the day, we should eat nothing.  That’s it.  Most people practicing IF do a 4-8 hour eating period, meaning that the other 16-20 hours of the day they don’t put any calories in their body. But there’s another way to get similar benefits without giving up your favorite delicious food items.

That is ketosis which is an increasingly popular diet among bodybuilders, actors, and actresses moreover for conscious persons seeking a longer lifespan. Ketosis is an autophagy hack. The idea is to reduce carbohydrates to such low levels that the body has no choice but to use fat as a fuel source instead which is body’s own alternative regulatory process. 50 percent reduction in seizures has been witnessed for more than half of children with epilepsy who go on the diet or intermittent fasting.

Keto diets are super high fat: Between 60 and 70 percent of one’s overall calories should come from fat, for example, lots of steak, bacon, and peanut butter shakes are an absolute gratuity for the keto crowd. This diet prefers Protein which is the predominant factor of calorie production that makes up 20 to 30 percent of calories, while carbs are kept below 50 grams per day which is negligible in comparison to protein and fat. Ketosis can help the body fight cancerous tumors, lowers the risk of diabetes, and protects against some brain disorders, particularly epilepsy while losing fat but retaining muscles.

To sum up, intermittent fasting can bestow us with ineffable benefits like enhances insulin sensitivity, stimulates lipolysis, replenishes deficient nutrients , reduces blood pressure, improved brain health /cognition along neuroplasticity, slowing/reversing markers of aging, improved body composition, improved digestion, cardiovascular health , cancer prevention and treatment and what not. Bioscience itself at this challenging epoch of drug resistance, the rise of superbugs and drastic climate change has glimpsed the inherent powerful immune mechanisms of the human body and our prehistoric religious belief of Fasting undeniably has claimed the throne of human’s vital immune force, a powerful physiological protector.

Samiha Tamanna is a graduate pharmacist. She can be reached at

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