BioScience Trends. 2023;17(5):335-355. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2023.01207)

Influence of intermittent fasting on autophagy in the liver

Ma YN, Jiang XM, Tang W, Song PP


Studies have found that intermittent fasting (IF) can prevent diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and neuropathy, while in humans it has helped to alleviate metabolic syndrome, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and many other disorders. IF involves a series of coordinated metabolic and hormonal changes to maintain the organism's metabolic balance and cellular homeostasis. More importantly, IF can activate hepatic autophagy, which is important for maintaining cellular homeostasis and energy balance, quality control, cell and tissue remodeling, and defense against extracellular damage and pathogens. IF affects hepatic autophagy through multiple interacting pathways and molecular mechanisms, including adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), silent mating-type information regulatory 2 homolog-1 (SIRT1), peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) and farnesoid X receptor (FXR), as well as signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms such as glucagon and fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). These pathways can stimulate the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 6 (IL- 6) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), play a cytoprotective role, downregulate the expression of aging-related molecules, and prevent the development of steatosis-associated liver tumors. By influencing the metabolism of energy and oxygen radicals as well as cellular stress response systems, IF protects hepatocytes from genetic and environmental factors. By activating hepatic autophagy, IF has a potential role in treating a variety of liver diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, drug-induced liver injury, viral hepatitis, hepatic fibrosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. A better understanding of the effects of IF on liver autophagy may lead to new approaches for the prevention and treatment of liver disease.

KEYWORDS: metabolism, diet, nutrient, NAFLD, HCC, liver disease

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