A recent study found that raising levels of the cell signaling molecule AMPK increased lifespan in fruit flies by 30%. (Cell Reports, PDF, press release.) AMPK did this by increasing activity of autophagy, which is the regulated process of cellular degradation, essentially removing junk molecules and organelles from the cells.
So by increasing AMPK and therefore autophagy, one has a good shot at retarding aging and increasing lifespan and health. There are a number of ways to do this, and they consist of all the usual suspects.
1. Intermittent fasting: “It is then the question of what the optimal strategy would be to improve healthy aging by enhancing autophagy without deleterious side effects. Intermittent fasting, for instance by alternating days of starvation with days of ad libidum feeding, can increase the life span of rodents as much as chronic caloric restriction without a concomitant major decrease in body mass—a measure that may avoid the negative effects of caloric restriction on bone density and consequent pathological fractures.”
Calorie restriction, while effective at increasing longevity, results in decreased muscle and bone mass, besides the fact that permanently reducing calories by ~30% is very difficult, and results in low body temperatures and low libido. Intermittent fasting appears to offer all the benefits of calorie restriction with few of the drawbacks. A simple way to put intermittent fasting into effect is to eat only during an 8-hour feeding window daily, say 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. During the 16-hour fasting period, nothing is taken except perhaps coffee, tea, and water – these should be taken, as they make fasting much easier by decreasing hunger. The beauty of the 16-hour fasting period is that one is asleep for much of that time, and it involves extending a natural 12 hour fast by just a few hours.
2. Curcumin induces autophagy, as does resveratrol. Both are inexpensive OTC supplements that appear to have little downside. Autophagy knockout cells do not show increased stress resistance with curcumin or resveratrol, which shows that autophagy is the mechanism through which these compounds work.
3. Exercise induces autophagy, and in fact looks to be required to get the beneficial effects from exercise. How much exercise is a good question, but it seems that an intense exercise session of any kind should do it.