I was in the Open University library a couple of weeks back. I had the urge to pop down the human biology section and see what caught my eye. I know I shouldn’t admit to that because it’s far too sad, but that’s how much this stuff fascinates me.
Anyway I picked up a book named ‘Human Biology and Health: An evolutionary approach‘ and I was hooked at the first line. I can’t remember every detail but basically began forming a few theories based on what I have already read previously. I also used other references but can’t for the life of me find them. So I’ll just have to launch in.
What does it do?
The theory I was working on is basically a way toxins can build up in the body and how they can be got rid of. With this knowledge we can adjust our lifestyles to take advantage of this. Eliminating toxins from our body should be a great way of minimising their bad effects. Much like taking out the trash.
edit: writing now in 2023 the term autophagy is what I was referring too and it has recently hit the mainstream culture though I am not sure its true meaning and value are understood by many.
How does it work?
The way this works is because the body has certain mechanisms in place to get energy from cells that aren’t needed by the body or are marked as dangerous. This mechanism is not used if you eat plenty. Thus those who eat less than others are more likely to use it and thus get rid of bad things from their body. I think I’ve held off putting this out there in case anyone reads this too literally. You still need to eat enough high quality food to thrive. My approach is through using intermittent fasting so I flush my body with great food regularly so I’m always healthy. Then when I think it’s full of nutrients I fast for a day or so to encourage my body to break up the bad cells for food and get rid of their contents.
More detail please!!!
Ok, here I’ll explain this in a little more depth.
From human biology and health I came across a possible explanation why people who eat little could live longer. The theory began with how toxins build up in the liver and ultimately cause it to fail. The process would work like so:
- Toxins in food get absorbed in the gut and sent to the liver.
- The liver doesn’t get rid of toxins so they get more concentrated.
- Toxin build up causes problems and these mount up.
- Organs start failing.
- Then you die.
Then I came across research that showed that our body actually obtains energy from devouring its own cells. It’s also not a random act. The immune system is constantly patrolling our body through killer B and T cells. Any bad cells that can’t be devoured on the spot are marked for deletion. Since we’ve normally lived in periods of feast and famine your body seems to assume that during the next period of famine these cells will be lost and the body will be cleaned.
The main problem these days in western societies is that few of us have problems getting enough to eat all year round. Thus it’s entirely possible that we’re all slowly building up bad pollutants and cells in our bodies and over time their effects show as all the diseases and problems that affect western society. Before modern times our lifestyles got rid of these toxins. These days they don’t and they build up and cause problems.
What’s the evidence?
Obviously that’s a big claim and I can’t vouch for exactly how much it all stacks up. It does make sense in a logical way though. That our bodies mark up cells for deletion is something I’ve heard a lot before. That they’d be the first to go if we couldn’t get enough food. That makes sense too. That only recently has there been enough food for all. That’s well known. That all those who reach truly exceptional ages over a hundred are all on the thinner side and seem to eat frugally in general. That seems to be the case too. I have noticed many times that while larger people can be very healthy there seem to be less and less of them that make it to an older age. That said I’m not sure if they just get thinner as they get older so maybe they were larger when younger but not when older.
What also makes sense is that cells that have become cancerous would, in theory, be ejected from the body in this way reducing the likelihood that a cancer could take hold. It also implies that without this mechanism the risk of all related diseases would be higher. That seems to be the case according to health statistics.
I do wonder if our bodies are essentially well adapted for feast and famine and thus our constant feast is something we’re not suited to. If that’s the case then coming up with safe ways to implement a famine (I’d prefer just a simple fast of a morning or a day) could be useful. As long as we’re aware of the risks and don’t get carried away. Don’t forget just living your life according to hunger. That often works for me. If I’m not hungry I don’t eat. If I am I do.
Another easy and useful way to create a famine like situation is being active which helps for two main reasons.
- Firstly, moving makes your body work the way it’s supposed to. Exercise creates a demand for energy within the body forcing the food from the famine to be put to use and forcing the cells to use the food properly to get stuff done.
- Secondly, being active every day burns a few more calories. It doesn’t mean much in the short term but adds up to a lot over the long term.
This sounds like a very simple answer to a complex problem. The beauty is it that it uses what is currently known to explain how we could survive in the tough conditions we’ve faced over the years. There could easily be a lot that I haven’t thought of or I could have misinterpreted things. Either way I look forward to your comments and seeing if this theory holds water over time.
Learn more about the effect of physical inactivity on disease worldwide and what you can do to help prevent obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease and Diabetes, dementia and alzheimers and even Cancer through exercise.
Feast and Famine: Is that what our bodies expect? first appeared on my original blog.
- Autophagosome biogenesis and human health A detailed analysis of the role of autophagy in human health