So I’ve spent the past four months putting a paleo diet firmly in place as the foundation of my health. I’m very happy with the results: my body composition is the best it’s ever been, I feel great, I really enjoy the food, and my junk food addiction is in remission.

Now that the most major threats to my health have been mitigated I can move on to the tweaks and more esoteric pursuits, one of my favorite being life extension and anti-aging.

One of my most compelling findings is autophagy — a process whereby our cells recycle all kinds of trash that builds up inside of them causing the cell to function better and live longer. Almost every cell can perform and benefit from autophagy whether a skin cell, heart cell, or neuron in the brain.

The trick is that autophagy needs to be turned on, and turned on long enough and frequently enough to clean the cells out faster than the junk accumulates. From what I can tell, here’s how:

Intermittent Fasting

One way to induce autophagy is to simply go without eating for a time. Skipping a meal once in a while may do it, going a full day is even better. And the good news is that when you do eat you’re allowed to make up for all the calories you missed, which spares muscle and keeps us from becoming gaunt.

But how often can we really force ourselves to do this while awash with cheap and abundant food? For pampered moderns, complete and frequent fasting takes incredible willpower and sacrifice.

What we could use is a hack: a way to trigger autophagy without skipping meals.

Ketone-triggered, Chaperone Mediated Autophagy

Chaperone Mediated Autophagy (CMA) is a mechanism that selectively recycles cell junk that has been marked as old or degraded. CMA, it seems, can be induced by generating ketones and ketones can be generated, not only by not eating, but by simply staying away from carbs.[1] Simple, that is, so long as you’re on a high-fat paleo diet. If so, you’ll easily be able to avoid carbs and generate those ketones on account of eating all the meat, fish, eggs, veggies, avocado, olives, and coconut you want. Beats fasting, eh?

The only problem is that CMA turns out not to be the be-all end-all of autophagy. CMA can’t handle some of our cell trash: very large junk proteins, damaged organelles, bacteria and virus stowaways, and more. Also the chaperones themselves can become damaged and inefficient as we age. Which is why the body, in its amazingness, packs additional modes of autophagy.

Protein Restriction Triggered Macro and Microautophagy

Microautophagy and macroautophagy are less selective than CMA. Instead of recycling specific targets they work more like a filter that strains the cytoplasm for anything that may be floating in it. And where CMA is triggered by ketones typically via low-carb, these modes of autophagy are induced by eating low-protein,[2] which, on a high-fat paleo diet, is also easy to do (veggies, avocado, olives, coconut…)


As for my particular regimen for inducing autophagy, see my anti-aging protocol for the latest.


So what we have here is a plan for reaping the cell-renewing, life enhancing, life extending benefits of more severe calorie restriction regimes, without the calorie restriction. Instead you get to ‘fast’ by regulating macronutrients and eating till full. And that makes for a habit that is enjoyable and feasible enough to practice for an (especially long) lifetime.

[1] Ketosis Cleans Our Cells, Michael Eades, MD.

[2] Protein Cycling Diet — A Defence Against the Diseases of Aging, Dr. Ron Mignery, PhD. Note: Mignery focuses entirely on protein-restricted autophagy and makes a number of high-carb and non-paleo food recommendations. One person can’t know everything and I suspect he simply may not be aware of the benefits of high-fat diets and the paleo approach.

[3] R. Mignery’s autophagy calculations.

[4] Beyond producing ketones, very low carb may also reduce protein glycation to begin with, which is one of the buildups we’re trying to dismantle with autophagy. This is why even my low-protien days are also low-carb, even though they don’t need to be low-carb to induce autophagy. In other words, glycation prevention plus significant autophagy could equal serious anti-aging.

Sample Menu — If you’re a bit baffled as to what to eat during low-carb, low-protein, paleo autophagy induction phases, here are some suggestions.

– Cooked greens (spinach, cabbage, collards, kale) in bacon fat, butter, or coconut oil and flavor with vinegar.
– Steamed broccoli w/ butter.
– Avocado w/ salt, pepper, lemmon juice.
– Olives
– Sauerkraut
– Coconut (milk, oil, meat)
– Coffee / tea
– low fructose fruits

This represents hundreds of ingredients that can be re-arranged and combined thousands of different ways.