Your body can’t wait for a specific cleaning day to roll around. It’s constantly repairing, maintaining, and recycling. That happens on a large scale with life-essential proteins everywhere in your body. And that continual cycle happens in each human cell, because they all do their own form of cellular damage control, too. Two of the most important cleanup processes are autophagy and mitophagy.So, let’s figure out why these cleaning processes are important. Then talk about how your cells deal with recycling, renewing, and dealing with cell damage and cellular cleanup.

Why Cell Cleanup is Good for Your Overall Health

So many proteins are essential to your life. But amongst the diversity, there is something that’s common. They all must be broken down after fulfilling their assigned tasks. Whether the protein is a liver enzyme, cellular structural support, or a protein protecting your body as part of the immune system, they all eventually become old and have to go.

This normal cellular-quality-control process helps maintain your overall physical wellness. It helps keep you cranking through your daily tasks, enjoying adventures, and generally living your best life.

But if the body’s housekeeping operations are stalled or inefficient, the results can be disastrous. Research has revealed how imbalances between protein production and degradation (another word for breakdown) can lead to accumulations of protein products. And these accumulations have been linked to declining brain health and can adversely affect many other systems in your body.

How Autophagy Helps with Recycling and Renewal

Before getting into the process of autophagy, let’s define what it is. The straight translation of autophagy is “self-eating,” which sounds bad. But it’s an important, normal part of a healthy body.

Basically, autophagy is the formal name for the recycling process your body’s cells go through. It’s where cells recycle damaged or used up parts into their most basic components. Then those small pieces can be reused.

It’s time for the deeper dive into the details of cellular cleanup.

During the process of autophagy, unwanted cellular elements are isolated and walled-off in specialized double-membraned compartments. (These are also known as autophagosomes.) The packaged protein “garbage” then fuses with lysosomes. The lysosomes are a type of cell organelle (or a cell structure) that has digestive enzymes to break down protein components. Recycling is completed when the broken-down protein’s amino acids become the raw material for new proteins.

Autophagy is happening all the time for all your cell structures. It’s a normal part of your cellular cleanup processes. But it also gets cranked up when your cells are stressed. That can come from your lifestyle, free radicals, or other sources. For example, calorie restriction is a common stressor connected to autophagy. The damage done from stress can’t be allowed to pile up. So, it makes sense that autophagy kicks into high gear in stressful times.

What is Mitophagy?

Autophagy is a general term about the recycling process in many parts of the cell. Mitophagy is more specific. It refers to the same type of cleanup process for the mitochondria—the part of your cell responsible for energy production.

The mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell that turn fuel into energy. When they are young and healthy, they are efficient at providing energy with few waste products (free radicals). As mitochondria age or wear out, they’re much less efficient at producing energy. And, in doing so, they give off much higher levels of free radicals.

You can liken this to the engine in a car. When the car is new, it’s efficient and gives off few emissions. As the car ages with use, the engine loses its efficiency and gives off far more emissions. At some point, the check engine light comes on. It indicates the engine may need to be overhauled or replaced for the car to continue to function optimally.

So, the process of mitophagy overhauls your cellular power plants to keep them churning efficiently and effectively. And normally functioning mitochondria play a big role in maintaining your health, vitality, and long-term wellness.

Signaling Cellular Cleanup

All the recycling the human cell does is a good thing. So, why wait until cellular damage stacks up? How come your body doesn’t start autophagy and mitophagy more often?

Basically, because your body is all about survival. While more cleanup might help maintain optimal health, it isn’t necessary to keep you alive. So, the processes are triggered when necessary, but not before.

The survival mentality of your body—enough to stay alive, but not to thrive—is helpful, but not optimal. That’s where targeted nutrition can make a difference.

Under certain conditions, nutrients in your diet mimic cellular stressors like calorie restriction. And instead of cutting out a lot of calories, wouldn’t you rather target specific nutrients in your diet to trigger this process? Incorporating a few nutrients is the easier path. And it’s still effective. These nutrient stressors can signal the cell to renew or replace itself in order to maintain efficiency.

So, you’re essentially tricking your cells into overhauling their engines before the miles of life have totally taken their toll. That means optimal cellular health is maintained. And you have the efficient, effective cells you need to live your life to the fullest.

Many of these stress-inducing nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables—broccoli, tomatoes, kale, turmeric root, grapes, and blueberries to name a few. These new signaling abilities of plant compounds further support eating your fruits and vegetables for good health.

picky child
children's multivitamin

children's multivitamin

Nearly 70 percent of children’s multivitamins come in gummy form. While this may make them appealing to kids, that may not be a good thing as hundreds of parents rush to the emergency room each year with children who ate the whole bottle.

We have been asked many times over the years why we don’t make our children’s vitamins in a gummy form because “kids don’t like ours.” First of all, just like all of our products, we hold our children’s supplements to very high standards (which gummies cannot meet), and second, they really shouldn’t be seen as candy or a treat. Give them with a meal, don’t make them a treat or a chore.

Very few people truly understand how difficult it is to make a children’s chewable vitamin that is complete, palatable, low in sugar, and without any artificial sweeteners or flavors. There are many companies that provide products with some of these characteristics, but very, very few have the whole package.

The easiest way to make them taste better is by adding more sugar or artificial flavors and sweeteners. In order to satisfy our own philosophy and that of most of our customers, we do not use artificial sweeteners or flavors. And, we keep the sugar content to an absolute minimum at about 0.75 grams per tablet.

What makes this most difficult, and what sets us apart from the vast majority of other children’s vitamins, is that we add higher amounts of magnesium, calcium and other minerals. And, we provide trace minerals like selenium, manganese, copper, chromium, and molybdenum that aren’t found in most competitors. If they are important for adults, why wouldn’t they be important for children?

children's multivitamin

Here is something you probably won’t hear anywhere else. But, the primary reason most children’s chewable have lower and less complete mineral dosages is because they taste NASTY. Covering the flavor without adding tons of sugar or artificial ingredients takes some talented food scientists.

I distinctly remember sitting around a table in the lab many years ago before a reformulation. In front of us were little plates of mineral raw materials that we each had to taste. The purpose was to determine which of the minerals was resulting in the bad flavor we were attempting to overcome. I can tell you from experience that it is a minor miracle the Usanimals taste as good as they do with the level of minerals and the restricted flavors and sweeteners we use.

Gummies, on the other hand, typically contain 2 or more grams of sugar per gummy. And, even if they are providing natural flavoring, they are never as complete in nutrients, especially minerals, as the Usanimals. The next time you are at the store, or looking online, compare the label of the Usanimals to different brands of gummy vitamins and you’ll see what I mean.

We’ve always said food first to get your recommended daily dose of vitamins, but the reality is that most diets are deficient in many areas. And, in many ways, nutrition is even more crucial in children that are actively growing and developing.

Yes, we could make the Usanimals taste better, put them in a different form, or simply leave out the nasty tasting nutrients. But then, who would we be? Everybody else.

About the Author

Russ Barton earned his MS in Nutritional Science from Brigham Young University in 1993 where his research emphasis was analysis of individuals who successfully maintain a significant weight loss. He has a BS degree in Zoology with a minor in chemistry also from Brigham Young University (1988).