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Exploiting Intermittent Fasting to starve diseases and to feed Autophagy

Our body constructor, DNA, can break down every time there is a copying activity of a cell. As DNA carries our genes and provides guideline to proteins on how to build a human being, the rules it transmits are important to be correct. If the letters of the gene get mistaken, deleted, duplicated or mutated in other ways, they can be misunderstood by the proteins and incorrect outcomes may appear. For us, humans, it means getting a cancer, growing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and many other diseases. Our primordial “survival kit” is there to support correcting those mistakes. However, when overwhelmed with so many tasks, they lose their positions and functions and become useless at one point, even harmful. This is how we grow old and most of those diseases here or beyond mentioned are probably the symptoms of this aging process.

There is a huge ongoing scientific research on the pathogenesis of cruel diseases: degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Atkinson’s, cancer, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and aging. Many pharmacological and surgical treatments are developed for the mentioned ailments, however the effectiveness and side effects of those options are not optimal due to the complexity of their underlying pathology. There are also many alternative treatment techniques that are suggested to be effective in decreasing the pathogenesis and increasing the protective strength of the body against to be invaders.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is one of the techniques heavily studied and recommended. In its most basic definition, IF is a period of voluntary abstinence from calorie intake, namely from food & drink. Ramadan is an example of a religious fast that is very similar to IF, although having a non-health related intention. IF is argued to reduce obesity associated weight, insulin & glucose concentration, plasma cholesterol & triglyceride concentrations, hepatic (liver) steatosis, and inflammatory gene expressions. Therefore, it can be a lifesaving lifestyle ritual for diabetes or cancer patients. When fasting, neuroendocrine cells respond, insulin and glucose concentrations decrease, tumor growth slows down, and our body tries to repair itself. Moreover, IF can be beneficial for gut microbiome, neurological developments and lifestyle improvements. It’s proposed that IF improves mood, focus and self confidence, while reducing tension, anger, fatigue and other mood instabilities.

By activating ketogenesis, IF shifts energy source from liver-derived carbohydrate glucose to triglycerides stored in white adipose tissue or cell-derived ketones, thereby it drives energy expenditure from more efficient sources, reduce lipid levels, restrain gluconeogenesis and avert metabolic defects that accelerate aging or obesity. When feeding, our body cells carry out tissue-specific processes of development, reproduction and plasticity. When fasting though, cells activate pathways that augment internal defense mechanism of our body against oxidative and metabolic stress, as well repair the damaged cells. IF can slow down aging via the process called autophagy.

When fasting, our body, once consumed and depleted, shifts the energy source from glucose to fatty acids and ketones. In addition, low insulin levels can inhibit rapamycin (mTOR) protein. The ketone bodies produced, and mTORs inhibited can both result in cells degrading and recycling the intracellular non-nuclear components of itself to maintain homeostasis, steady state of the cell’s behavior given external influence. Autophagy is basically a lysosomal catabolic process, in other words a quality-control pathway of a cell and occurs at a basal levels within physiological conditions. This self-destruction-and-regeneration process can be up-regulated by pushing towards it a “stressful stimuli” such as hypoxia (lack of oxygen), calory deprivation, DNA damage, cytotoxic agents, or abrupt temperature changes. After the breakdown of cytoplasm within the lysosome, cell try to adapt to the new environment or the developmental changes.

Reading more and more on this topic, I have collected my thoughts around the fact that our body gets old when it is inactive. We need to give it a soft and frequent stress, such as cold showers or food abstinence for it to move from reproduction activities to fixing the problematic cells. When put on routine, body forgets to renew itself as well. Therefore, doing things differently once in a while can increase our health span and life span. Intermittent fasting, ketogenic diet or Atkin’s diet, exercise, and other healthy lifestyle activities puts a stress to our body, thus activates its maintenance facility that keeps our body up-to-date and fresh. Although these seem like trivial and abstract recommendations, recent studies have shown them to be very effective and ever more important. Given we have not much to lose, why not try it out?!


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