A breakthrough in understanding how inflammation in the colon works could lead to cancer prevention
02/15/2019 // Rita Winters // Views

A newly discovered link between a cellular process and inflammation is paving the way towards learning how to prevent colon cancer, Crohn's, and other gut diseases. As published in the Nature Communications journal, the study from the University of Warwick discovered a new protein which is regulated by a cellular process that breaks down cells and recycles harmful elements to keep the body healthy.

The cellular process, known as autophagy, causes inflammation when it is dysfunctional, leaving us prone to getting diseases in the gastrointestinal system. The study was led by Dr. Ioannis Nezis from the School of Life Sciences at Warwick. Nezis and his colleagues observed the cellular phenomenon in fruit flies, and found that dysfunctional autophagy causes serious inflammation which makes the fruit fly susceptible to disease and cuts its life span by half.

"Kenny," the discovered protein, contains amino acids that causes itself to break down through autophagy. When autophagy does not work properly, Kenny accumulates and is the factor that causes inflammation. Nevertheless, autophagy can be managed through good nutrition. Natural compounds in fruits and vegetables activates autophagy and helps prevent inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of gut diseases. The study was limited, however, since it is yet to be discovered how science can manipulate or control autophagy in individuals with gut diseases, besides boosting the process with natural foods.

Help autophagy help you

Generally, autophagy is boosted by intermittent fasting and caloric restriction. By skipping some meals, your body turns to its own cells, recycling them to ensure proper functioning. The ketogenic diet promotes autophagy too, since it reduces carbohydrate intake and increases fat intake. In a ketogenic diet, your body shifts its energy source from glucose (from carbohydrates) to ketones.


Some foods promote autophagy: coffee, green tea, coconut oil, ginger, galangal, reishi mushroom extracts, resveratrol (red wine), curcumin (turmeric). These foods activate the cellular process of autophagy, and maintains the proper functions of your cells. By consuming foods such as the above, the risk of inflammation from the Kenny protein is decreased, and allows you to avoid or prevent gut diseases. Other foods that promote the cellular process include pomegranates, red grapes, pears, mushrooms, lentils, soybeans, and green peas.

Furthermore, having an active lifestyle also helps your body with autophagy. Exercising regularly not only promotes physical well-being, but also boosts mental well-being. There is no reason not to exercise, especially since it activates autophagy and keeps your immune system on its toes to fight disease. Combined with a healthy, nutritional diet, exercise can bring you one step closer to a disease-free life. (Related: Study shows probiotics help reverse gastrointestinal distress and symptoms of depression.)

Fast facts on autophagy

  • Autophagy can extend life spans by making cells more resilient and more conservative with their energy.
  • This cellular process helps protect against psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.
  • Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease can be prevented with autophagy by removing proteins that cause said diseases.
  • Autophagy is known to fight against infectious diseases (including many types of cancer) by removing the bad microbes inside of cells and toxins created by infections.
  • Aside from regulating inflammation internally, autophagy also helps with muscle performance by recycling degraded cellular components that usually cause muscle inflammation.

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