18 Dec 2018

Detox with a difference




You may not have heard of it, but Autophagy (pronounced aw-TOFF-a-gee) is one of the most significant anti-ageing breakthroughs. Although scientists have known about it since the 50s, its true power has only been discovered in recent years.


The name comes from the two Greek words ‘auto’ meaning ‘self’ and ‘phagein’ meaning ‘eat’. In addition to the natural wear and tear our bodies experience, environmental toxins accumulate in our cells accelerating the signs of ageing. Autophagy is the cellular cleansing process that removes those toxins and repairs the damage left behind, restoring and rejuvenating cells, as well as activating an immune response to control infections. Cells are effectively eating their own waste. Think of cleaning a house – if you don’t regularly attack it with a hoover or give it a swipe with a duster it will eventually become a breeding ground for germs and disease that could make you ill. It’s the same with cells, autophagy is the process by which they are ‘cleaned’, removing material that’s detrimental to health and beauty.


As we age, the rate at which our cells renew slows down dramatically. On average, turnover takes around 28 days when we’re younger, but it can increase to 50 days as we mature.

Autophagy speeds this process up and increases the rate at which collagen is produced, although UV exposure impairs this process so it’s vital to remind clients to protect against harmful rays. Autophagy has often been described as the missing link in anti-ageing because it’s vital for helping cells function at their maximum level. No matter what topical treatments a client has, or how many lotions and potions they apply, if their cells aren’t regenerating quickly enough their skin will look dull, their energy levels will drop, they will gain weight and their immune system will be weakened.


Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel prize in medicine in 2016 for his work on autophagy and a wealth of additional research has shown that it not only helps to create younger looking skin, it also has wide ranging health benefits. One example of this is a study carried out by Dr David Rubinsztein, professor of molecular neurogenetics at Cambridge University. He discovered that proteins form in clumps in the nerve cells of people suffering with diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons, but if autophagy is ‘switched on’ those proteins are removed. He also found that it’s beneficial in the context of infection control, as well as protecting against excessive inflammation. A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggested that autophagy could extend lifespan. Molecular damage is a major underlying cause of ageing and disease, so by replacing malfunctioning cells with healthy new ones autophagy has a protective and preventative effect.


Autophagy usually operates at a ‘maintenance level’ and only ramps up when required. However, the ageing process slows it down to the extent that it can’t keep up with the amount of waste products within the cells, resulting in damage. So how do we re-activate to levels that are beneficial?

Ironically, a certain level of cellular stress seems to switch autophagy on. If cells lack nutrients or are damaged, a stress response is triggered and autophagy kicks in.

Intermittent fasting: This is already popular with people following the 5:2 diet, research suggests that a fast of 16 hours deprives cells of nutrients which triggers the autophagy response. If you’re constantly snacking, cells don’t have time to repair and clean up their toxins. During fasting, insulin levels drop and glucagon rises, which is a signal to the body to activate autophagy. The trick is to feed the body with autophagy enhancing nutrients, such as polyphenols (see below) and fatty acids, once the fasting period is over.

Polyphenols: These powerful antioxidants help to protect cells by combating free radicals, and they repair them by stimulating autophagy. Resveratrol, found in red wine, helps to reduce inflammation and supports autophagy, as well as protecting heart health. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, peanuts, soybeans, grains and even coffee* are all high in polyphenols.

Vitamin A: This skin-loving nutrient helps to speed up cell renewal, a key aspect of autophagy.

Fats: Research has shown that natural fats such as omega oils and those found in nuts and avocados can enhance autophagy because they are the body’s preferred fuel. In particular, advising clients to take ceramides as an oral supplement not only helps to stimulate their cell renewal, it also helps to hydrate their skin from within.

Caffeine: Studies show that caffeine induces autophagy, possibly because it mimics the effects of calorie restriction on cells. Green tea in particular is high in EGCGs, a type of polyphenol which can help to reactivate dying cells.

Exercise: Dr Beth Levine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical centre showed that exercise activated autophagy in muscle cells and subsequent studies have corroborated her findings. As we’ve seen, the process is switched on when cells are given a healthy amount of stress, which is exactly what happens during exercise. Working out also reduces body fat, which makes autophagy more efficient.

Sex: Yes, believe it or not, it’s been scientifically proven that if a woman has 200 orgasms a year it helps to trigger autophagy.

Sleep: There’s a reason it’s called beauty sleep. Autophagy is activated when we nod off because the body is fasting and is therefore deprived of nutrients, and it is also linked to our circadian rhythm which controls sleep.


The good news is that autophagy-boosting nutrients can be found in many of our ranges, so your clients are likely to be enhancing this vital cellular process without even realising.


Supplementing with the below Advanced Nutrition Programme™ products provides the body with autophagy-boosting nutrients.

• Skin Antioxidant – packed with polyphenols such as bilberry, green tea, curcumin and grapeseed extract

• Skin Omegas+ – full of autophagy-activating healthy fats which also boost ceramides

• Skincare Ultimate – contains pine bark extract, an antioxidant

• Skin Vit A+ – helps maintain the normal function of skin

• Pro-Vitality Formula, Skin Vitality 2, Skin Vit C, Skin Collagen Support and Skin Vitality 1 all contain nutrients which support autophagy


• Polyphenols like resveratrol, green tea, honeybush tea and lycopene can be found in many Environ® products such as Vita-Antioxidant AVST Moisturiser and Vita-Peptide C-Quence Serum

• Vitamin A is the cornerstone of Environ® products and treatments. It helps to increase cell renewal and normalises the skin, reducing the signs of ageing

• Vita-Enriched Colostrum Gel (see page 14 for our exclusive offer) also contains green tea

• Vitamins C and E are also key ingredients in Environ® products and have a protective effect on skin cells

* Coffee induces autophagy in vivo. Pietrocola F1, Malik SA2, Mariño G3, Vacchelli E1, Senovilla L4, Chaba K3, Niso-Santano M3, Maiuri MC3, Madeo F5, Kroemer G6.
** Cell Cycle. 2014;13(12):1987-94. doi: 10.4161/cc.28929. Epub 2014 Apr 25

*** Healthline For further reading on the topic of Autophagy see Glow 15 by Naomi Whittel