The Most Important Benefit of Autophagy Will Surprise You

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2017, the CDC released a report concluding that cancer was only second to heart disease on the list of leading causes of death among Americans. The question is, what can we do to protect ourselves against this disease? Autophagy has a lot of truly amazing and interesting benefits. But, there’s one benefit of autophagy that really stands out, and it has to do with cancer.

In this article, I will cover:

A white plate with the word “autophagy” written across it sitting on a wooden table next to a fork and knife | The Most Important Benefit of Autophagy Will Surprise You


What Is Autophagy?

Autophagy is a condition where your body is recycling old or damaged proteins. I’m not just talking about hair and muscle protein. I’m talking about the little enzyme protein machines that actually do the work of the body. The word autophagy means, “self eat.” This is because your cells are basically eating up and recycling these proteins that no longer work or have any use to the body.

Basically, in the cell, you have something called the lysosome. The lysosome is the part that acts as this amazing recycling machine. Autophagy sends old or malfunctioning proteins through the lysosome and it spits out beneficial things for the body such as, free fatty acids and amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks to make body tissue. Autophagy takes the trash and turns into raw material to build new cells.

How to Trigger Autophagy

One of the best ways to stimulate autophagy is by doing intermittent fasting. There are a lot of amazing things that happen in the body when a person does intermittent fasting. It’s not just all about weight loss. Weight loss is also a fantastic benefit, though. One of the best, if not the best, benefit of doing intermittent fasting is autophagy. After about 18 hours of fasting, you begin to activate autophagy.

Intermittent fasting is simply cutting out all of the snacks and frequent meals. Intermittent fasting is something you start doing gradually. You might want to start with cutting out snacks and having just three meals a day. When you feel comfortable, you will then want to limit yourself to two meals, or even one meal a day. The rest of the day, you’re not eating. This can have some really incredible effects on the entire body. I’ve found that the most successful way to do intermittent fasting is to combine it with the ketogenic diet.

A few more ways you can trigger autophagy:

  • Regular exercise
  • Ketones
  • Sleep
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Cold/hot therapy
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Green tea
  • Extra virgin olive oil

A Few Autophagy Benefits

  • It can potentially decrease the risk of disease
  • It can help recycle protein as a survival mechanism
  • It can help reduce pathogens in the body
  • It may protect neurons and heart cells
  • It gets rid of advanced glycated end products and amyloid plaquing

A close-up of a human cell showing the nucleus on the inside | The Most Important Benefit of Autophagy Will Surprise You


The Most Important Benefit of Autophagy

As you can see, autophagy has a lot of interesting benefits to help support the body. But, out of all of the health benefits of autophagy, I believe the most important benefit of autophagy is its potential anti-cancer effects. These amazing effects have to do with autophagy, potentially having the unique ability to clean up the damage in cancer cells. Let me break this down.

The Difference Between a Cancer Cell and a Normal Cell

In a normal cancer-free cell, you have something called mitochondrial respiration. But what does that mean? Well, fuel is converted through a machine to make the energy currency of the body called ATP. Your body can use glucose for the fuel, which uses oxygen, to then be burned.

Your mitochondria are the energy machines. So, when we’re talking about mitochondrial respiration, we’re talking about the energy machine, and respiration, which has to with breathing or oxygen. Essentially, a normal cell needs oxygen to generate fuel.

In a cancer cell, there is irreversible damage to the respiratory mechanism. When the mitochondrial respiration system is damaged, as a survival mechanism, the cell starts to activate an ancient pathway. This ancient pathway is able to ferment glucose, breaking it down without the use of oxygen. Glucose fermentation doesn’t need oxygen to make energy. So, normal cells use oxygen in the respiratory center while cancer cells ferment glucose without oxygen.

A healthy human body against a blue background | The Most Important Benefit of Autophagy Will Surprise You

One of the ways they test to see if a person has cancer is by doing a PET scan. A PET scan measures extreme glucose consumption. Cancer cells love glucose. They are extremely hungry for glucose. Cancer cells actually hog glucose more than other cells. Sometimes they will even starve the normal cells. Knowing this, why would anyone want to consume a lot of glucose or sugar if they have cancer?

Now, you might be wondering how this damage occurred in the respiratory part of the mitochondria to begin with. Well, something that’s very unique about the mitochondria is that it has its own DNA. My theory, is that the damage to respiration system has something to do with the DNA that gets damaged. The DNA in the mitochondria are much more prone to mutation or alteration because they’re not very protected, versus the DNA in the nucleus of the cell that is highly protected. I think this system gets damaged simply because it’s not protected. You can not get cancer in your body unless there’s damage to the respiratory part of the mitochondria.

Incredible Anti-Cancer Effects

Here’s where the incredible potential anti-cancer effects of autophagy come in. Autophagy could have the ability to actually clean up the damage in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are protein machines—they’re enzymes. The protein damage in the mitochondria that cause the cells to shift to glucose fermentation can potentially be cleaned up by autophagy.


Key Takeaways—The Most Important Benefit of Autophagy

Autophagy promotes anti-aging. It supports a healthy body. It potentially decreases the risk of infection and disease, and does much, much more. But, the most important benefit of autophagy is its potential anti-cancer effects on the body.

There are different ways to trigger autophagy, one of the best being intermittent fasting. It just so happens that intermittent fasting has it’s own amazing health benefits. To protect and support a healthy body, consider taking advantage of all that autophagy has to offer.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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