I was asked to write on the process of autophagy and how it might help clients who are considering cryolipolysis treatment. This is a treatment that is offered in my clinic and I have to admit to struggling with carrying out the treatment on clients who are not using the procedure as a catalyst for change. Yes, the treatment is clinically proven, but at best 25-40% of the fat cells in the area will be affected, the other 60-75% still have the ability to grow in size.
Combined with lifestyle changes I think treatments are in investment but otherwise I feel they are a waste of hard-earned cash.
I have recently had a client go through a fasting mimicking diet alongside her cryolipolysis – we combine this with 8 x sessions of lipolaser and cavitation ultrasound massage – she is absolutely delighted, has dropped 2-3kg and more importantly more than a dress size. What excites me about her is that she learned about fasting, about ketogenic diets, and autophagy. She turned up ready for change. The world of quantum physics would have us believe matter follows consciousness and we really are what we think as well as what we eat.
It’s no secret that my age group (I’m literally squeezing into the 46-55 year range) has suffered most from misinformation in relation to eating for health, and has spent a lifetime with a health service designed to treat symptoms and ignore the cause of illness. But I’m not going to write about being a pawn in the nasty game of perpetuating ill-health, I want to touch on the processes of autophagy and apoptosis as it relates to achieving the body shape we desire.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine 2016 was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy; a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components. The word autophagy originates from Greek and means self-eating; researchers in the 1960s first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents, however Ohsumi devoted his life to experiments that elucidated the process.
Autophagy works and the great thing is it’s FREE, doesn’t involve too much change, and can rid you of the pain of calorie counting. It removes debris found inside cells; debris that if we’re smokers, suffering heart disease, or are overweight has probably been present for years.
Apoptosis (pre-programmed death) is triggered when cells become old and worn down. Different cells in the body live longer than others, but they all have an end date. Apoptosis is also what happens when we carry out cryolipolysis* instead of being pre-programmed we are encouraging fat cells into the process of cell death.
On the subcellular level; instead of throwing out the whole cell via apoptosis, autophagy gets rid of the debris, recycling these parts as fuel. Cells clean up the old or defective proteins inside themselves by feeding them to the mitochondria (the powerhouse within the cell).
This is helpful for those of us who are afraid of loose skin following weight loss or the cryolipolysis procedure. If you lose weight/change shape while stimulating autophagy, your body will ‘eat’ the cells/components responsible for lax skin and the results will be tighter, toned skin.
While a truly awful example of autophagy, it is one we will all recognise; when human beings are held captive for long periods and food restricted, no matter how much body fat that person started off with he is never left with curtains of loose skin. The reason for this is intermittent fasting; many would also have been a state of ketosis for the duration of their confinement.
Low calorie diets do not stimulate autophagy because the body is always working, always digesting food; the weight may come off but the skin will be still be there.
With intermittent fasting (eating in an 8-10 hour window) without calorie restriction a mild state of autophagy can be achieved. Occasional OMAD (one meal a day), 24 hour water fasts, and longer water fasts result in greater levels and effects of autophagy. The body experiencing weight loss with autophagy is absorbing the flabby skin cells and using the cellular parts as fuel. During the fasting period, if ketosis is achieved, the body switches circuits to use stored body fat for fuel. Most of us have enough stored fat to supply the mitochondria (the cellular powerhouse) with energy for all the tasks we normally undertake in a day, including going to work and exercising.
Traditional low-calorie weight loss programmes leave so many people exposed to the need for surgery to remove the curtains of skin from the arms, abdomen and butt. What was once hidden for being too fat is now hidden because there are track lines of ugly scar tissue.
So what is happening during fasting? Basically an enhanced version of your biochemistry when you’re not fasting. By starting on a ketogenic diet you prepare the body for fasting states. It is so much easier to fast when your body has gotten used to using its fat stores for energy, as opposed to living off glucose (carbs) and storing fat. A keto-adapted person will achieve autophagy much quicker (as little as 12 hours from the start of the fast) than someone who is not, for whom it could be several days.
If you choose to remain keto-adapted and eat within a fasting window of 8-12 hours you should be triggering autophagy daily. If I haven’t intrigued you enough there is the ageing benefits to consider. The second reaction that fasting triggers is the release of growth hormone. Human growth hormone promotes muscle and bone growth, and pushes the body to empty its fat cells.
The minute you introduce glucose in food, insulin production is triggered and insulin puts the breaks on the process of autophagy.
Fasting is not for everyone and it’s difficult to change overnight how we have always eaten; Dr. Valter Longo** has devoted his life to understanding ageing and the relationship between food and health – you may recall him as an expert consulted by Dr Michael Moseley when he was investigating fasting, prior to the launch of the 5:2 diet. Dr. Longo’s team at the California Health and Longevity Institute have developed Prolon, a fasting mimicking diet that may provide the springboard for change that willpower alone will not.
I have only touched the surface of a subject that fascinates me enough to devote hours of study to it every week; there’s an abundance of great information available but if it’s overwhelming a good place to start is the Bulletproof Road Map. stick to the foods in the green category and choose a window for eating of 8-10 hours.
Good luck and great health
*Cryolipolysis is based on the principle that fat cells are more vulnerable to cold than surrounding tissues; the cooled fat cells undergo apoptosis (cell death) and are gradually eliminated through the body’s normal metabolic processes.
**The inventor of ProLon, Dr. Valter Longo, generously donates all profits from his 60% share in L-Nutra to the Create Cures Foundation, whose mission is to help fund ways to prevent illness and promote longer, healthier lives.