You may have heard about the benefits of reducing calorie intake or intermittent fasting, and it turns out that these practices can activate a process called cellular autophagy (aw-TAWHF-uh-gee), which is like a self-cleaning mechanism for our cells.
Let’s break down a study from 2015 conducted by Hannover Medical School involving 25 healthy 18-year-old men. These guys were in good health, free from recent pain, mental health issues, diabetes, blood pressure problems, autoimmune diseases, and other conditions that could mess with the study’s accuracy.
During the entire month of Ramadan, these participants had to fast from dawn to dusk, lasting between 17 to 19 hours, depending on the day of the month.
What did the study find?
Within two weeks of starting the fasting routine, the researchers measured the activity of autophagy genes in the participants’ blood. They found that the levels of chemicals responsible for the cleaning process (think of them as cell detergents) increased and stayed high for a week after the fasting period ended.
Even more interesting, the markers of cell aging and inflammation decreased significantly. According to studies like this and others, it seems that the signs of autophagy kick in as early as between 16 to 19 hours into fasting, and the longer you fast, the more robust the response.
In simpler terms, taking breaks from eating seems to kickstart a process that helps your cells clean house, potentially leading to better cell health and reduced signs of aging and inflammation.
If genetic testing tells you that your autophagy genes are mutated, intermittent fasting would be essential for a healthier you. In fact, if you see those autophagy cells are red in color on your testing results (as in the image above), intermittent fasting is no longer a helpful guess, it’s an approach you can’t afford to ignore.