Chapter 1: Introduction
Describes the contents of the book, my motivation for writing it and a disclaimer.
Protein cycling is intended as a way for you to live longer and healthier with minimal interference with your normal routine and diet. It is based on well-established observations that animals and people who have endured periods of famine have extended life spans compared to those who have not and on more recent observations that periodic protein restriction alone can accomplish the same thing.
When the cells of the body are denied nutrients, they consume parts of themselves in a controlled process called autophagy. In a manner reminiscent of urban renewal, a part of the cell is fenced off and everything inside is demolished. The ruins are then salvaged to meet the ongoing needs of the cell. The lost volume of the cell is then rebuilt when the restriction ends. The net benefit of the full cycle is that the old stuff of the cell is replaced with the new. The old stuff may have become degraded and non-functional with time, and its replacement likely rejuvenates the cell.
There are a number of diseases that are characterized by the build-up of degraded substances in the cell. Among them are Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s disease (HD). A process that reverses the build-up holds particular promise to prevent or to delay the onsets of any of these so-called neurodegenerative diseases. Hopefully the protein cycling diet does just that.
The diet plan described in this book involves periodically restricting your protein intake and adding common herbs and spices to your diet that are known to promote autophagy. The remainder of the book:
• elaborates on the material already presented
• discusses issues to consider before starting the diet plan
• lists the protein content of common food items and how to calculate your total protein intake
• discusses how specific diseases relate to autophagy induction
• suggests low protein substitutes for high protein food items
• suggests a number of diet schedules you might want to follow
• provides a link to the on-line forum for discussing the protein cycling diet
Since I will be mentioning Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington’s disease often in the remainder of this book, I will use the following abbreviations to conserve space and apostrophes:
• Alzheimer’s disease AD
• Parkinson’s disease PD
• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS
• Huntington’s disease HD
I came to this subject through a tragedy in a close friend’s family. Her former husband, the father of her children, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a horrendous degenerative neurological disease that typically develops in mid-life and seemingly combines the worst aspects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Further the disease is genetic, and worse yet, genetically dominant, meaning that the chance thatnoneof her children and grandchildren would eventually develop the disease was statistically quite small. As a PhD biologist it came to me to search the literature to see what could be done to deal with the disease apart from the efforts of her ex-husband’s physicians. I had earlier researched protein-related diseases (proteopathies) for a friend who developed amyloidosis and for the mother of another friend who developed ALS. I found that HD seemed to have much in common with those two diseases.
Those that inherit the Huntington’s gene invariably develop the disease if they live long enough though the age of onset varies widely. With this in mind, I wanted to find a safe and unobtrusive way to delay the onset as much as possible in otherwise healthy people. A survey of research in HD and related diseases eventually led me to the conclusion that promotion of cellular autophagy would achieve my goal.
In subsequent years since the first publication, additional information from the research community now implies a role for autophagy in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, osteoporosis, arthritis and just about any disease you can name. This is not too surprising considering how fundamental autophagy is to all multi-cellular life. It does now however give me a selfish interest in the subject since my family history makes me susceptible to heart diseases.
None of the ideas presented here are original to me. I have only gathered ideas and observations from the real workers in the field and attempted to present them in a form intelligible to the layman. To keep things simple, I have rounded a lot of numbers, usually in a conservative direction. This approach prevents me from fully presenting and acknowledging the work of scientists in the text and I give my apologies now to all who may feel slighted or are unhappy with how I have represented their work. The bibliography is heavily weighted to review articles rather than research presentations as such articles are less apt to be behind a pay wall are generally more readable for a lay audience. Some excellent reviews of the subject of autophagy and neurodegenerative diseases is now available that covers the subject in far more detail than what I present here1.
The effectiveness of the diet strategy presented here is as yet unproven. The frequency, duration and extent of protein deprivation optimal for inducing autophagy has not been measured. Those that chose to follow it are pioneers and do so at their own risk. Those with health problems should not follow it without consulting their physician. All should understand the scientific rationale of the diet and review and consider any objections that may be raised in response to its publication. They should stop if problems develop. A web site for this book http://proteincycling.blogspot.com/ has been created to answer questions, make clarifications, correct mistakes, report developments, and present user and reviewer feedback. This site might be reviewed before starting the diet.