When wellness guru and founder of Reserveage supplements Naomi Whittel was in Italy researching the citrus bergamot fruit, she and her lead researcher were drinking about four cups of the fruit's tea per day.
"I asked her why she drank so much, and she said it activates a process in your body called autophagy," says Whittel. "In Greek, auto means self and phagy means to eat, so it's this self-eating process that every single cell in your body goes through, but unfortunately, due to processed foods and environmental toxins, it slows way down and we experience accelerated aging."
After drinking the tea—filled with antioxidants—she realized why she'd felt less sluggish and tired whilst on this Italian vacation. So, Whittel flew home and rounded up top researchers of all different fields to figure out how to activate autophagy—on all fronts.
Keep reading to learn how you can activate autophagy, and what that means for your skin.
Whittel worked with Jacksonville University to test autophagy on a group of women. "Fifteen days into it, and a researcher called saying, 'Oh my gosh, every single woman has already achieved benefits,'" she says. Hence the name of her newly released book on the subject, Glow 15.
Obviously, you can activate autophagy with the foods you eat and how you eat them (intermittent fasting, protein cycling, healthy fats, and antioxidant-rich teas). And also by avoiding eating processed foods because of the way that they degrade your body's autophagy process. "The hardest part about processed foods is the oils," notes Whittel. "We're ingesting high levels of these vegetable oils and we're suffering for it but don't even realize it because we're eating out so much." According to her, you should try to avoid canola and instead go for coconut (because, of course), tea seed, macadamia, avocado, olive, and rice bran.
As far as your complexion's concerned, Whittel's dermatologist-slash-autophagy researcher tested hundreds of topical ingredients to see which activate the process in the skin. "He came back with four: ceramides, polyphenols (think: antioxidants like citrus bergamot), trehalose (from the resurrection plant), and caffeine," she says. "All of the women in the study showed a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, using these ingredients topically twice a day."
The science behind it
You already know your collagen and basic skin functions deteriorate as you age. Well, autophagy's the magical process that helps save you from this bad news—and, instead, speeds things up so your complexion remains plump and glowy.
"For the epidermis, so much of what we're fighting is the sloughing of the skin," says Whittel. "Instead of it taking 28 days when you're younger, it can go up to 50 when you get older. So when you apply these four ingredients topically, your cell turnover improves." Essentially, the four autophagy-inducing topicals help to skin to cycle quicker, so that the resulting complexion is glowier and fresher.
In addition, your collagen and elastin are in the dermis layer, which deteriorates one percent each year until Perimenopause (great). "When autophagy is activated, it actually improves the amount of collagen that you have, and those collagen and elastin cells act like they did when they were younger," says Whittel.
In other words, you're not only restoring a more youthful cell cycle by speeding up cell turnover, you're boosting collagen outright for a more youthful glow. "This is the first time we're getting to truly repair cells," says Whittel. "All of this amazing research leads to a reduction in inflammation—it's protection that autophagy repairs." Consider it the new frontier.
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