With the emergence of revolutionary medical treatments, there has been an increase in the aging population, worldwide. The resultant rise in aging-associated disorders has however, become a matter of global concern, highlighting the need for preventive measures that can help increase healthy life expectancy.

“Autophagy” or self-eating is a degradative process that cells use to recycle organelles and cellular components. It is crucial for the maintenance of health and the prevention of diseases, thereby contributing to a longer lifespan. However, the exact association between aging and autophagy, and the effect of dietary influences on autophagy are not well understood.

In a review published in Current Pharmacology ReportsProfessor Taichi Hara and his team shed light on the effect of food on autophagy responses, and discussed how the regulation of autophagy can increase longevity.

Aging has been shown to cause a decline in autophagy responses. Conversely, inducing autophagy in animal models has been shown to improve motor function, and enhance the overall health and lifespan. In the review, Hara et al. stressed that the activation of autophagy may serve as a potential strategy to delay or prevent the onset of aging-associated conditions.

While starvation and calorie restriction activate autophagy and slow down aging, prolonged starvation can have detrimental effects. Interestingly, the review explored a number of food ingredients that can affect autophagy responses.

Resveratrol in red wine, trehalose—a form of sugar in animal and plant sources, spermidine in nuts, soybeans and wheat germ, urolithin A—a metabolic by-product of pomegranates, strawberries, and walnuts, curcumin in turmeric, epigallocatechin-3-gallate in green tea, quercetin in vegetables and fruits, allicin in garlic, flavonoids and polyphenols in fruits and nuts, and phytochemicals are some of the food constituents which help promote autophagy. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of these active ingredients vary. It is, therefore, important to understand the impact of various foods on the autophagy pathway, to facilitate their use in preventive measures against aging.

In conclusion, this review provides useful insights on the use of functional foods which regulate autophagy to improve longevity and preserve health.

Link to the original journal article:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40495-020-00237-2

About the author

Taichi Hara is a professor at the School of Human Sciences at Waseda University, Japan. Professor Hara completed his PhD in medicine at Kyushu University. His research interests are focused on autophagy, proteomics, nutrition and food sciences, and health and disease biology, and he teaches several courses in these domains at Waseda University. He is also a member of several research associations and societies, and has over 40 publications to his credit.

Title of the paper: Autophagy in Health and Food Science
Journal: Current Pharmacology Reports
Authors: Satoshi Yano, Jinyun Wang, & Taichi Hara
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40495-020-00237-2

Dietary Regulation of Autophagy for a Long and Healthy Life – Research Activities, Waseda University

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