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Common Diet Myths Part 2: Matcha, Autophagy, Circadian Rhythm.

Nicholas Noble | December 07, 2019

Recap from Part 1

If you haven’t yet read Part 1, we discussed background on popular diet trends, including history of intermittent fasting. 

We also mentioned how many choose to combine these dietary approaches to improve their health. Rather than risk consequences of overly strict diets, we recommended to approach how you eat with balance. 

If you’re interested (or partaking) in fasting, or choices of food like keto, paleo, carnivore, and vegan diets, this article is for you.

What, Why, and How of Diet. Continued:

Both what and when we eat can trigger higher ketone levels. Research on the ketogenic diet began in the 1920s, originally investigated to treat epilepsy. [1] Many therapeutic effects have been studied from this type of metabolism. Different benefits can be accessed from intermittent fasting (e.g. 16:8 method) and prolonged fasts of usually 2-4 days. 

There is also overlap in the changes that occur in both cases, such as cellular renewal, improved endurance and heart function. Ketone levels are only one marker for these benefits. [2]

That said, with higher ketone levels, people burn more fat and lose weight more easily. There is also neuroprotection and other qualities that makes intermittent fasting appealing and more accessible (than prolonged) to many people. 

Popular Choices

Intermittent fasting is the timed abstinence of food and certain drinks (sodas, sugary energy drinks, sweetened coffee). Most common is the 16:8 method which provides an 8-hour eating window during the day. It’s tied to popular diet trends like keto and paleo that mimic some of the same changes in our body, and many people combine them for better results. 

While many popular diets focus on restricting carbs to trigger improved longevity and health, by simply watching our caloric timing we can do much of the same.

Both prolonged and intermittent fasting are ancient practices used to elevate vitality and well-being. These dietary conditions are healthy because of their cascade of physiological changes. One is that when we fast we enter a state called autophagy. This term is defined as “the consumption of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process occurring in starvation and certain diseases.” 

Fasting Physiology

During food abstinence our genes turn on stem cells. Our immune system also gets an essential reset. In fact, research suggests that fasting can reduce symptoms of autoimmunity, potentially treating multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders. [3] 

This is our DNA’s pre-programmed way of protecting and healing the body. An easy way to think of it is recycling cellular waste and excess resources. It’s also believed to be a core element in our biological survival. In times of starvation we become cellularly efficient, triggering autophagy to combat disease as early as 24 hours into a fast. [4]

Research like this won the 2016 Nobel Prize for medicine. Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi identified genes that regulate a natural fasting cycle. This research also confirmed the protections against many common diseases. 

Diet, Keto, Circadian Rhythm

Providing space for keto cycling is also important for sleep. Each cell in our body has evolved with a 24-hour sleep cycle, and modern lifestyles can negatively influence it. Also known as the circadian rhythm, one of its particular disruptions is caused from elevated glucose metabolism.

Dr. Satchin Panda writes on the circadian rhythm, “Life has evolved under great influence from natural patterns.” Intermittent fasting reflects an original balance of food availability and daily patterns. Unlike modern food access (including the wide regard for 3-meals a day), our health relies on this evolutionary framework.

Intermittent fasting allows for this natural cycle to benefit from autophagy, while preparing for digestion. This differs from persistent glucose metabolisms where autophagy isn’t adequately triggered. When there isn't a reprieve from glucose metabolism, we may develop reduced insulin sensitivity, chronic inflammation, and many other diseases. [5] 

Sleep Cycles, Improved Autophagy

Not to mention exposure to light at night, dietary disruptions to this cycle are also associated with disease. In misaligned circadian rhythms, intermittent fasting is a reported therapy to counter elevated cancer risks, cognitive health disorders, and metabolic consequences like type 2 diabetes. [6]

When we practice good diet, partly through food-timing, we optimize these foundations to our health. As mentioned, people also combine benefits of fasting with dietary choices. 

Eating diets like keto and paleo which are high in fats and protein, the body’s base levels of ketones rise. By remaining closer to this metabolism through food choices, intermittent fasting may be more advantageous. That’s because there is less change of metabolism required each day to enter into autophagy (including sleep cycle balance).  

Thinking about Balance

For the short term, this combined approach can be helpful to more rapidly achieve and elevate autophagy. However, it’s not essential. Research suggests that within 3-5 days of intermittent fasting and non-restricted food choices that autophagy is still upregulated. [7] 

This is important because people may benefit from shared disease prevention while broadening the available scope of nutrition, and considering research can only safely recommend intervals of ketosis. 

Anyone experimenting with a strict diet should be wary of sources that claim a one-and-only road to autophagy and other metabolic benefits. Many are mislead that it isn’t possible to eat balanced macronutrients while achieving ketosis and autophagy. 

Research identifies that long-term dieting of these kinds (keto, paleo, carnivore, etc) can undermine nutrition. Some may worsen dispositions like renal insufficiency and cause elevated disease biomarkers. [8]

How to be Careful

We should be the most careful in diets which absolutely prohibit entire macronutrients or food groups, unless under a physician’s direct supervision. In any case, if you’re participating in a keto, paleo, carnivore, vegan, or similar diet, keep in mind that intermittent fasting already achieves many of those benefits.

The most recent research indicates longevity, disease prevention, and metabolic health comes from a balanced diet and timely eating. 

If you feel healthier from newly adopting one of these popular diets, you may consider cycling it between a non-restricted one. One option is the mediterranean diet is regarded as well-balanced between macronutrients and food groups. [9]

The reason for this is to avoid long-term side effects and nutritional deficiencies. Another important reason is that the benefits of each cycle of ketosis (including autophagy) can last upwards of 30 days after resuming non-restricted food choices. [10]

That means you can get the best of both worlds. maintaining an intermittent eating schedule while cycling between these diets and non-restricted ones. 

Don’t forget about Matcha. Part 3 Coming Soon: 

Still most interesting is how all of this relates to matcha. 

In part 3 we’ll discuss how matcha improves basal autophagy, ketone levels, and thermogenesis. We’ll also learn why it’s wrongfully excluded from many of these diets, and instead how it should be an important part of each dietary cycle. 

In the meantime, regardless of what metabolic stage (or cycle) you’re in, rest assured that matcha is the perfect daily accent for health. Especially when consumed plain, research unanimously suggests a helpful role in natural detoxification, improved fat-burning, ketosis, and disease prevention.

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