Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation process that evolved as a starvation response in lower eukaryotes and has gained numerous functions in higher organisms. In animals, autophagy works as a central process in cellular quality control by removing waste or excess proteins and organelles. Impaired autophagy and the age-related decline of this pathway favour the pathogenesis of many diseases that occur especially at higher age such as neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. Caloric restriction (CR) promotes longevity and healthy ageing. Currently, the contributing role of autophagy in the context of CR-induced health benefits is being unravelled. Furthermore recent studies imply that the advantages from polyphenol consumption may be also connected to autophagy induction. In this review, the literature on autophagy regulation by (dietary) polyphenols such as resveratrol, catechin, quercetin, silibinin and curcumin is discussed with a focus on the underlying molecular mechanisms. Special attention is paid to the implications of age-related autophagy decline for diseases and the possibility of dietary countermeasures.
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