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What makes Spermidine so special? Benefits & More!

What makes Spermidine so special? Benefits & More!

Spermidine. Undoubtedly somewhat suspiciously-titled, this compound continues to gain popularity in the biohacking and supplement world for some seriously impressive longevity and brain health benefits.

The burning question: how did spermidine get its name? Well, from sperm! Spermidine was first discovered in semen (and this is still it’s most concentrated form), but it’s also found in good concentrations in many foods, including stinky cheeses, shitake mushrooms, fermented products like miso, wheat germ, dark leafy greens, mushrooms, cauliflower, lentils and red beans (another reason why Mediterranean diets are so healthy)!

What is Spermidine and what makes it so special?

Spermidine is a polyamine, which basically means it’s a compound that has more than two amino groups (organic groups of molecules). All this really means is that it’s a totally natural substance that can be found anywhere in nature. It is a very small molecule and as such can be easily absorbed and used where it is needed.

Spermidine is produced endogenously, meaning it can be produced by our bodies. About a third of the spermidine levels in our bodies is produced by our own cells, with the balance coming from food and from some bacteria in our gut. There are studies in fruit flies that show that a diet that is rich in foods that contain spermidine can effectively restore your endogenous spermidine levels, which taper off as we age.

Spermidine is thought to work in the same way that rapamycin (a popular compound thought to have longevity and disease-fighting properties) works. Rapamycin’s longevity-enhancing properties is achieved by mimicking the effects of intermittent fasting or caloric restriction.

Why does fasting make us live longer? Because a lack of food switches off mTOR (which stands for mechanistic target of rapamycin) and thereby activates emergency systems that allow us to survive “starvation”. One such system is a process called autophagy, which is a process in which healthy cells scavenge and clean out old cells that are dying or have died (apoptosis) and put molecules in place to build new cells.

This process happens efficiently when we are young, but as we age, our bodies lose youthfulness, vitality and health. This is because the above process of dead cells being scavenged happens less effectively, leaving dead cells just lying around in our bodies. This is the direct cause of the physical signs of ageing.

In addition, poor lifestyle choices (diet high in processed foods, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, excessive smoking and drinking and no periods of intermittent fasting) result in what are called free radicals that attack our cells and make them weaker (which again results in cells dying, potentially not being scavenged by healthy cells and then causing the physical signs of ageing). Our bodies have the ability to neutralise free radicals, but as we get older, this ability to clear out the dead cell waste is affected, and we age more.

One of the best ways to assist your body in this cell renewal process is through fasting. Once the process of autophagy is triggered by caloric restriction or fasting, cell “clean-up” is triggered and we extend longevity.

Spermidine seems to work on the same cellular autophagy mechanisms as rapamycin does. When consuming spermidine, it works as a fasting mimetic. This means that on days that you’re simply not able to incorporate fasting, you can still get the benefits of fasting simply by supplementing with spermidine from food sources or spermidine supplements. It is also a great option to supplement with spermidine when you are fasting to enhance the benefits of fasting.

Benefits of spermidine

Cognitive functioning

There is no question that healthy lifestyle choices (exercise, diet) are protective against age- and disease-related changes to the brain and cognitive functioning. Studies show that caloric restriction or intermittent fasting (14-24 hour fasts) improve memory performance in the elderly. Because spermidine plays an important role in the maintenance of basic cellular functions like cell growth and survival, it can improve learning and memory and age-related changes in cognitive functioning.
Rodent studies have shown that polyamine levels in the hippocampus are correlated to memory retrieval and formation. In a study on flies, it was demonstrated that a reduction of spermidine in the brains of aged flies was directly associated to memory decline.
These studies are impressive indicators that external supply of spermidine has a positive impact on maintaining your brain health, memory and overall cognitive functioning.
Finally, nutritional/supplemental spermidine is also associated with a number of cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory actions in brain cells, which also help to preserve brain functioning.
Autophagy has also been linked to clearing out toxin proteins which are linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, so spermidine is showing real promise as a brain health superstar.

Longevity

The University of Innsbruck conducted a 20-year long study that found that eating more spermidine rich foods correlated to lower overall mortality with a five-year increase in life expectancy. This is due to the effects of autophagy being supported by spermidine. Mitochondrial Function Mitochondria provide energy to all our cells. The stronger they are, the more energy your body produces. A 2020 study showed that spermidine allows your body to produce new mitochondria, specifically in heart cells in this study. Heart health is therefore improved by spermidine, also because spermidine prevents plaque build-up related to heart disease.

Weight Loss

Studies show that spermidine intake is negatively correlated with obesity in both humans and mice. Weight loss and improved insulin resistance has been demonstrated in diet-induced obese (DIO) mice and is attributed to enhanced intestinal barrier function as a result of autophagy.

Hair Growth

Where hair loss is caused by genetic or hormonal reasons, one study showed that spermidine increases the growth phase of hair follicles for men and women, which aids hair growth and reduces hair loss. This is attributed to the fact that spermidine promotes the production of keratin, which is an important part of hair growth.
 
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How to Supplement with Spermidine

As mentioned earlier, there are a number of foods that are good sources of spermidine that can effectively be absorbed by our bodies. However, there are also spermidine supplements available, and I like the SpermidineLife one – it is made with non-GMO wheat germ and the ingredients are very clean. It is touted as increasing cellular energy, improving cardiovascular health and delaying neurodegeneration.

It is recommended that two capsules are taken daily after a meal, preferably always at the same time of the day. Spermidine supplementation is very popular for “tricking” your body into thinking you’re fasting, even when you’re not, or for accentuating the benefits of your fast when you are fasting.

Final Thoughts

A steady daily supply of sperm or eating stinky cheeses might just not be your thing. Or perhaps you’ve heard about all the amazing benefits of fasting but it’s not always easy or possible to have the discipline to engage in a regular fasting practice. While spermidine is not a replacement for fasting, it does mimic some of the benefits of fasting without actually fasting, or it can enhance the benefits of an actual fast.

I think spermidine supplementation is an exciting and effective tool to combat ageing and declining brain health. I prefer it to rapamycin, which has some immune-suppressing properties, and also because spermidine is a completely natural compound which our own bodies have the ability to make.

A regular fasting practice and eating a diet that includes spermidine-rich foods is first prize. However, if you want to incorporate even more life-extending tools or level-up your fasts, spermidine is definitely one of the best in the toolbox!

 

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Thea Hiemstra Author
  • Thea is the founder of Neolaia – Biohacking SA and passionate about all things biohacking, functional medicine, holistic and ancestral wellness. She enjoys the occasional triathlon, is fanatic about yoga and the gym and loves n=1 biohacking experiments more than anything else! Learning about the latest in scientific research for health and wellness and applying this knowledge is what makes her happiest!
  • Instagram: biohack_sa


Disclaimer

This information does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the different compounds. Always consult your doctor first when making any changes to medication or supplementation.

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