Although there are a few studies I can pull from, today I'm going to focus on one titled The ‘selfish brain’ is regulated by aquaporins and autophagy under nutrient deprivation.
By observing data about LC3-II levels in the brains of rats, this study was able to watch how autophagy increases under different conditions of nutrient deprivation. LC3 is a protein that is critical to autophagy. We can use this information to see how much autophagy is happening at a given time. The goal of this study was to be thorough and provide 3 different scenarios of deprivation. Food deprivation, water deprivation, and both food and water deprivation. This gives us a study that provides quantifiable results when comparing water fasting and dry fasting.
If you're a dry faster, you can now use this information to retaliate and 'clap back' 😂 at anyone trying to tell you dry fasting is not better than water fasting. Armed with this information you can back up the claims you've always known deep down inside. One day of dry fasting provides more "additional" autophagy than 3 combined days of water fasting! Amazing! (at least in terms of brain and nervous system autophagy)
What is Autophagy?
For anyone stumbling upon this topic, I guess it's important to quickly summarize what autophagy actually is. Autophagy is a process used by cells to clean up and recycle their parts. It's like a cellular recycling and waste disposal system. When a cell is stressed, it starts this process to conserve energy and eliminate damaged components. Our body undergoes a base level of autophagy at all times. Calorie restriction is one of the most powerful ways to boost it through activating the AMPK pathways. Sometimes a disease might cause our autophagy pathways to break down, or they'll simply slow down with aging. With fasting you get to rev that process back up and get rid of the useless junk taking up space.
What are LC3 levels and how are they used as markers of autophagy?
- LC3, or microtubule-associated proteins 1A/1B light chain 3, is a protein that plays a critical role in autophagy. It exists in two forms: LC3-I and LC3-II.
- LC3-I is the form of LC3 that floats around in the cell. When autophagy starts, LC3-I gets converted into LC3-II, which attaches to the membrane of a structure called the autophagosome.
What is an autophagosome?
An autophagosome is a key structure in the process of autophagy, a cellular mechanism for degrading and recycling cellular components.
Imagine it as a double-membraned bubble or vesicle within the cell. Its job is to encapsulate damaged or unnecessary cellular components, such as worn-out organelles (like mitochondria), misfolded proteins, or even foreign particles like bacteria.
LC3 as a Marker for Autophagy
- Scientists use the levels of LC3, especially the amount of LC3-II, as a marker to measure autophagy. When cells are undergoing autophagy, the level of LC3-II increases.
- By measuring LC3-II, researchers can get an idea of how much autophagy is happening in a cell. They often use techniques like Western blotting or immunofluorescence microscopy to detect and quantify LC3-II.
What does this mean for autophagy during dry fasting?
The study mainly focused on something called LC3-II levels in the cells. Remember, for a cell to do autophagy, it needs to change LC3-I into LC3-II, which helps create autophagosomes – these are like tiny garbage bags in the cell that collect waste. The study found that in rats that were both not eating and not drinking (dry fasting), autophagy was about 50% higher than in rats that were water fasting, not drinking water, and the control group. This is incredible evidence of the power of a dry fast.
Calories really throw off autophagy, but dehydration eventually starts it up
Let's look at the rats that still ate food, but were denied water to drink. What’s really cool is that the study showed if the rats just stopped drinking but still ate food, there wasn’t much autophagy happening until around the third day. This shows us that dry fasting really ramps up autophagy. There's something powerful about the synergy of dehydration and calorie restriction when paired together. It also indicates that the body can get quite a bit of water from the food we eat. Otherwise, we'd see a faster LC3-II level rise. The craziest part is that it ALMOST mimics the autophagy level rise of a water fast when you overlay the LC3-II levels of no food vs no water. When you overlay the levels you notice that a water fast is just marginally better than doing nothing, with the effects really only ramping up after 3 days. What if the dehydration that you get on a water fast (electrolyte loss due to glycogen loss) is one of the leading factors in its autophagy? Crazy.
The value of the extra autophagy of a dry fast
The extra autophagy provided during 3 days of water fasting provided the same amount as one day of dry fasting. This provides further proof to corroborate people's and my own experiences when I advise 36-hour weekly dry fasts as an extremely powerful maintenance program. 36-hour dry fasts will change your life if you adhere to them. The longer ones are for speeding up healing and addressing deeper issues that may require things like acidotic crises. Here are your options to perfect a weekly maintenance plan. Perform an 84-hour water fast once a week, or a 36-hour dry fast once a week. I think it's a no-brainer, but you have to find what works best for you. Everyone's healing journey is unique, so I wish you the very best. Good luck!
Some quick Questions that come to mind when thinking of the autophagic power of a dry fast
Can dry fasting be an effective tool for neurodegenerative diseases?
Given that dry fasting significantly increases autophagy in the brain, it raises the question of its potential therapeutic use in neurodegenerative diseases, where abnormal protein accumulation is a problem. There's actually amazing evidence that Alzheimers will benefit the most from higher levels of autophagy. Theoretically, enhanced autophagy could help clear these proteins, potentially slowing disease progression. However, clinical trials are necessary to validate this.
Is there an optimal duration for dry fasting to maximize autophagy without incurring risks?
The study suggests that significant autophagy occurs within 36 hours of dry fasting. However, the optimal duration likely varies among individuals. It's crucial to balance the benefits of increased autophagy with the potential risks of dehydration and nutrient imbalance. Shorter, intermittent dry fasts might be safer and more practical for many people.