Autophagy: 3 Science-Backed Ways to Induce It for Enhanced Longevity and Cognitive Function

Autophagy: 3 Science-Backed Ways to Induce It for Enhanced Longevity and Cognitive Function

What is Autophagy?

Autophagy is a natural cellular process in the body that helps to clean up and recycle cellular waste, providing a variety of health benefits. Autophagy has been linked to healthy cognitive function, antioxidant defenses, and overall health. 

Why is Autophagy Important?

Autophagy is an important process for maintaining healthy tissue function. It acts as the “cleanup crew” of the body, as it helps to remove worn-out proteins, impaired organelles and other cellular debris. According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, “Autophagy is a fundamental process for keeping the brain healthy and resilient.” It helps to provide free radical protection, support metabolic efficiency, and keep neurons healthy.

Autophagy is a fundamental process for keeping the brain healthy and resilient.” - Dr. Andrew Huberman

Additionally, the Father of Biohacking, Dave Asprey, has stated that “Autophagy is the main way to keep your brain running smoothly and help protect it against toxins and the effects of aging.” By promoting the natural process of autophagy, individuals can help to support cognitive function and overall health.*

How Does Autophagy Work?

Autophagy degrades and recycles impaired or unused cell organelles, such as mitochondria, and macromolecules, such as proteins, DNA, lipids, and glycogen. There are three forms of autophagy: macroautophagy, microautophagy and chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA). 

Macroautophagy is the main form of autophagy; the term “autophagy” usually refers to this form. It entails the formation of a vesicle called autophagosome around the molecule or cellular structure targeted for degradation, which then carries them to a specialized cell organelle called lysosome, where the contents of the vesicle are digested through the activity of enzymes. 

In microautophagy, targeted structures are directly captured by the lysosome, while in CMA, chaperone proteins bind to targeted proteins and direct them towards the lysosome. So, although the three forms of autophagy capture target structures through different processes, they all culminate in their delivery to the lysosome for degradation and recycling.

Lysosomal digestion of molecules and cell structures converts them into the small units that make up their structure, such as amino acids, fatty acids, or nucleotides, which can then be used to build new macromolecules and organelles. 

The Benefits of Autophagy

Autophagy is essential for maintaining proper cellular function. In normal conditions, it occurs continuously at a low level as part of regular cellular maintenance and homeostasis. Autophagy benefits cells by degrading damaged or unnecessary organelles and macromolecules, thereby preventing their accumulation, which could impair cellular activities and quickly escalate to loss of cellular function. By recycling molecular units, autophagy also allows for a more efficient and sustainable use of cellular resources: cellular waste becomes cellular building blocks. 

The recycling of mitochondria through autophagy, which is called mitophagy, is particularly important because it helps to maintain their capacity to produce cell energy as ATP, which is essential to power cellular growth and regeneration. It also helps to maintain a balanced production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by mitochondria, whose accumulation can lead to oxidative stress.

Autophagy is kept at a low level because excessive self-degradation can also be detrimental to cells. Therefore, balanced autophagy is a key cytoprotective mechanism. 

But under stress conditions that threaten cellular function, such as low availability of nutrients and energy, cells ramp up autophagy to degrade macromolecules into smaller units that can be used for energy production, allowing for cell survival. Therefore, autophagy is also an important cellular stress response mechanism. 

As a key cellular maintenance and stress response mechanism, healthy autophagy is essential for healthy aging. However, autophagy is one of the cellular processes that declines as we age. In fact, disabled macroautophagy is one of the 12 hallmarks of aging and it can lead to premature degeneration and senescence of tissues and organs and accelerate the aging process. Promoting autophagy may reduce these age-associated changes and promote a longer healthspan.* 

3 Science-Backed Ways to Promote Autophagy

There are several science-backed ways to promote autophagy, such as fasting and exercise, and the use of senolytic ingredients.* 


Fasting is a popular way to promote autophagy and for good reason. During periods of fasting, the body begins to break down and recycle its own cells. This helps to discourage detrimental immune signaling processes and support overall health. Studies have also found that fasting may have cognitive benefits. A 2022 study from the University of Southern California found that fasting, specifically a fasting-mimicking diet, could improve memory and cognitive performance in mice.* To learn more about the benefits associated with fasting check out our fasting podcast with Dave Asprey.

How long does one need to fast to induce autophagy? Animal research has indicated that autophagy may be promoted after 24 to 48 hours of fasting. However, animals and humans have different physiologies, so the timings may be different. There’s not enough research on humans on the ideal period of fasting to trigger autophagy.

To learn more about how to implement different types of fasting strategies see our blog How to Intermittent Fast: An Exploration of Fasting Protocols


Exercise has been linked to numerous health benefits, and one of the most exciting is its ability to promote autophagy, leading to optimal cell health and longevity. A 2018 human study published in the journal Physiological Reports showed that exercise (continuous moderate cycling for 60 min) promoted markers of autophagy in skeletal muscle within the first 2h of recovery and that 8 weeks of exercise training promoted the capacity for autophagy and mitophagy regulation in skeletal muscle. Overall, this suggests that regular exercise can play an important role in promoting good cell and tissue health.*

Senolytic Ingredients

Senolytic ingredients are compounds with the potential to support a cell’s normal process of autophagy. A Mayo Clinic study involving senolytics has provided great insight and assistance in understanding age-related declines in health. The study showed that senolytics may help our bodies resist health issues often associated with aging. This is an exciting development in longevity science and could provide a new and promising way to support the normal aging process. The research and dosing principles used in the Mayo Clinic study had a direct impact on how our science team formulated Qualia Senolytic.* 

Can Qualia Senolytic Support Autophagy?

Yes, ingredients in Qualia Senolytic—fisetin, quercetin, luteolin, curcumin, milk thistle, piperlongumine, olive polyphenols, and soy isoflavones—have supported a cell’s normal process of autophagy in many studies. That said, we'd think of supporting autophagy as a secondary benefit. 

The main intended benefit of Qualia Senolytic is to help our bodies manage senescent cells*, which is not the same thing as autophagy. Autophagy and cellular senescence are two distinct cellular responses that can be activated by a variety of stresses and have to do with aging (so it's easy to confuse them). Both are needed to keep us healthy but they are different processes. 

Autophagy (literally meaning “self-eating”) is focused on degrading and recycling components inside cells and mitochondria (mostly worn-out or inefficient proteins and organelles). It helps maintain cellular homeostasis so that a cell does not become senescent (think of autophagy as an anti-senescence mechanism). 

Cellular senescence is about the whole cell and occurs when a cell has become so ineffective and worn out that its normal repair process is no longer sufficient. Instead of autophagy, a senescent cell needs to go through a "falling off" process (a healthy cellular function called apoptosis). Senolytics are focused on supporting the whole cell to promote the completion of this falling off process. This is the main goal of Qualia Senolytic.*

As health optimizers all of us should be very interested in the topic of autophagy. By taking advantage of these science-backed ways to promote autophagy, you can support your overall health and cognitive function.

The Ultimate Recipe for Supporting Healthy Cell Repair and Rejuvenation

Qualia Senolytic represents the culmination of years of research into the biological mechanisms of aging. This two-day rejuvenation regimen may hold the key to enhancing cellular health and supporting tissue revitalization throughout the body as you age.*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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