Introducing Spermidine – It’s not what you think…
Spermidine belongs to a class of molecules called polyamines which includes spermine and putrescine. Polyamines are abundantly present in the diet including vegetable sprouts, cheese, peas, natto, soy, wheat germ, fermented foods and various citrus fruits. Typical daily dietary intake is between 5 mg to 15 mg with higher amounts found in Mediterranean diets. Various epidemiological studies show a positive association with higher intakes of polyamines and good health and vice-versa.
Observational studies of long-lived people (nonagenarians and centenarians) show higher polyamine levels in the blood and urine. Polyamines are small molecules like amino acids but without the acid – COOH group, with only the amine (NH2) groups present. Because they are positively charged molecules similar to NAD+, they are important in stabilizing bulky negatively charged molecules like RNA, DNA and proteins which are constantly under attack due to various stressors, both internal (reactive oxygen species) and external (drugs, toxins, radiation, etc.). Polyamines are important for cell growth, cell repair, maintenance of transport channels called ion channels and inducing autophagy.
Autophagy is the cellular recycling of worn out, dead and dysfunctional organelles and molecules within the cell. Think of it as removing the garbage from your home daily, otherwise there is build up which leads to issues like odour, decay, clutter and the potential for generating and spreading disease. The process of autophagy involves formation of “garbage bags” called autophagosomes which encircle the worn-out or damaged cellular components and expel or destroy them, much like a garbage truck would come and pick up your garbage.
Autophagy is linked to increased life and health spans. Unfortunately, aging reduces levels of polyamine particularly spermidine which fortunately can be increased through diet and/or supplementation.
Much of the work on polyamines and in particular spermidine has largely been done by research groups in Austria, the US and Japan. Various intervention studies using polyamine-enriched foods like natto or using polyamine precursors like arginine with bifidobacteria (which helps arginine’s conversion into spermidine), found improvement in several cardiovascular parameters including lowering inflammatory markers.
Spermidine is of interest because pre-clinical studies in yeast, nematodes, fruit flies and mice have shown spermidine extends life span in all these species. Hence the interest in humans. Two separate intervention studies in the elderly using 1.2 mg and 3.3 mg of spermidine for three-months showed positive impact on memory and cognition. More studies are underway on this exciting molecule.
Emerging Research in Effects of Spermidine on Health
- Calorie restriction (CR) mimetic
- Anti-aging and increasing health-span
- Improved memory function
- Enhanced function of hair follicles
- Cardiovascular effects:
- Reduced cardiovascular mortality
- Improved endothelial function
- Reduced damage to the cell
Given that wheat germ contains the highest levels of spermidine per kg of any other food source this offers a sustainable source for manufacturers. This of course presents an issue for individuals who are sensitive to wheat proteins such as those in the gluten family.
The gluten family of proteins includes gliadin and glutenin. While these levels are typically lower in the wheat germ individuals with celiacs disease may have valid concerns.
AOR’s wheat germ undergoes proprietary enzymatic processes to standardize the amount of spermidine (to 1 mg from 100 mg of wheat germ extract) and ensures that it is gluten free. This further mitigates the risk of gluten contamination. However, because this is derived from wheat anyone with non-gluten wheat sensitivities should not use or consult their healthcare practitioner prior to use.
- Eisenberg T et-al, “Dietary spermidine for lowering blood pressure” Autophagy, 2017; 13: 4, 767-769
- Hofer SJ, et-al, “Caloric restriction mimetics in nutrition and clinical trials”, Sept 2021, Front in Nutrition; 8: 1-19
- Madeo, F et-al, “Nutritional aspects of spermidine” 2020, 40: 135-159
- Schwarz, C et-al, “Safety and tolerability of spermidine supplementation in mice and older adults with subjective cognitive decline”, Aging, 2018, 19-33
- Matsumoto M et-al, “Endothelial function is improved by inducing microbial polyamine production in the gut: A randomized placebo controlled study”, Nutrients, 2019; 11: 1188: 1-18