Research

Solutions: Eating for Life

Spermidine, a food compound, may help prevent disease and prolong life


By Christine Hall | November 1, 2017

Which foods help us live longer? Texas Medical Center researchers aim to prove that spermidine-rich foods help prevent disease and increase the lifespan of humans.

Spermidine, a type of organic compound called a polyamine, was first isolated from semen, hence its name.

The compound is found in aged cheese, mushrooms, soy products, legumes, yogurt with probiotic LKM512, deepsea snails, corn and whole grains.

Leyuan Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Center for Translational Cancer Research at Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology, is part of a group that has found spermidine to prevent liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a common type of liver cancer, in animal models.

In addition, Liu’s research group sees evidence that the compound may prolong life. The group’s research, published in the June 2017 edition of Cancer Research journal, shows that spermidine works to prevent cancer by activating MAP1S-mediated autophagy, or the natural self-destroying behavior of cells. When MAP1S isn’t available, the benefits of spermidine disappear, Liu said.

Liu has studied autophagy in earlier work and found that cells accumulating waste caused by defective autophagy can go on to replicate and become tumors or cause other problems.

“The autophagy essentially works like a cleaning system for the body,” Liu said. Spermidine can prevent the defective autophagy process, and may even improve cardiovascular health.

An abstract from the Cancer Research article notes: “Extending recent evidence that orally administered spermidine can extend lifespan in mice, we determined that life extension of up to 25 percent can be produced by lifelong administration, which also reduced liver fibrosis and HCC focias induced by chemical insults. … Our findings offer a preclinical proof of concept for the administration of oral spermidine to prevent liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinomas and potentially extend lifespan.”

The researchers tested their hypothesis by giving mice an oral supplement of spermidine in their drinking water.

They found the mice lived longer and were less likely than untreated mice to have liver fibrosis and cancerous liver tumors, even if the treated mice were predisposed for those illnesses.

People who hope to get the most benefit from spermidine would need to eat spermidine-rich foods from the time they begin to eat solid foods, Liu said.

At the moment, there are three ways to help combat liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma: fasting, restricting the amount of methionine (a type of amino acid found in meat and other proteins) in your diet, or taking a drug called rapamycin, Liu said.

“Eating less, or not eating meat, is not a popular option for the general population to accept, so spermidine which they could get from products like aging cheese and soy beans, could become a new way,” he said.

Even people who aren’t able to take spermidine until later in life should see some benefits, Liu said. The animal models involved in the study who were exposed to spermidine showed reductions in both liver lesions and intensity of liver fibrosis, a condition that often leads to liver cancer.

Liu hopes to incorporate spermidine into foods in much the same way folic acid has been added to grain products, like beer.

The next step for the research group is to determine how much spermidine is needed to help humans, and how to deliver a long-term supplement that will be safe. Liu is optimistic this can happen, and the group is currently exploring National Institutes of Health grants to support their efforts.




Social Posts

profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@lisavill2kidz We're sending good vibes your way, Lisa. Please let us know if you need anything while you're here.

3 mins ago
profile_image

CHI St. Luke's Health

@CHI_StLukes

RT @sfoster23: I'm proud of our team representing @CHI_StLukes Health–Patients Medical Center at the #BayAreaHeartWalk earlier this month!…

4 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Why has cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma been understudied historically?Our @DrNeilGross weighs in: https://t.co/VRXIsQZy1F @OncLive #hncsm #endcancer

8 mins ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Wok on Sunset, the latest craze from @RiceDining, is dishing out tofu, dumplings, tea eggs and more. Now open at North Servery. https://t.co/A3O4N8M6MN

12 mins ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Want to help put a smile on a patient’s face? Help spread holiday cheer by giving our kids a chance to win @Mattel toys. #SpreadJoywithToys with @speaknowforkids by nominating @TexasChildrens! https://t.co/YppxXZO8Wr https://t.co/8hZ5k4sRkB

14 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Andrew Childress, Ph.D., with @BCMEthics tackles medical futility in this week's Policywise post. https://t.co/KKL6mC1fw1 #medicalfutility #ethics https://t.co/26EooFChb5

15 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Happy Friday! Thank you to @KSFOrthopaedic for sending us this joke! If you have a favorite joke, send it to us and we might use it in a future post. #jokes #ThanksgivingJokes #funny https://t.co/jQsZxN7G1V

45 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Our Dr. Cheng-En Hsieh explains why radiation-induced liver disease is an important factor to consider during #livercancer treatment: https://t.co/M18QvNAneT @cure_magazine #endcancer

1 hour ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @bcm_ocd: So excited to have Dr. Jeff Wood present the results of our NIH funded study examining personalized CBT vs. standard care CBT…

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Louis D. Brinner, who served as a rifleman in Europe during WWII and turns 100 Nov. 22: https://t.co/g8CQSNuLTI

2 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

At @TexasChildrens, we know all about helping children and their families through stressful times like surgeries. Take a look at these helpful tools to use as you prepare for your child's surgery: https://t.co/4wyHxbjcxe https://t.co/xBp95faWly

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Even though this lightweight material is full of holes, it's nearly as hard as diamond and stops bullets better than solid materials: https://t.co/N1QBG6C6yz https://t.co/XKyesrwt6c

2 hours ago
profile_image

TexasHeartInstitute

@Texas_Heart

A "silent heart attack" is caused by ischemia, a temporary blood shortage. Sometimes the shortage causes the pain of angina pectoris. But in other cases, there is no pain. These cases are called silent ischemia, or "silent heart attacks." https://t.co/UKu4mglkKJ

3 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

Coogs, we love you ❄️SNOW❄️ much! Happy #CougarRedFriday https://t.co/d43lBGfJBX

3 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

@debadrita_j Thank you!

3 hours ago