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December 1, 2016
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist

Just when you think you know all the nutrients in food that could
possibly benefit your health, along comes an unknown to shake things
up. Have you heard about spermidine? It’s a compound in cheese and
fermented foods that helps protect cells, protect against inflammation
and food allergies, and even help you live longer.

Just what exactly is spermidine (and is it connected to sperm?), how
can it help your health, and where can you find the most?

What Exactly Is Spermidine?

Spermidine is a polyamine compound that is found in living tissues and
high levels are found in certain foods. It sounds like it’s connected to
sperm because it is – the compound was originally isolated from semen.

Polyamines are reportedly essential components of all living cells. You
need compounds like spermidine to grow and develop normally.

Polyamines like spermidine are involved in the regulation of
inflammatory reactions, and they exert a protective effect on the
immune system.

A high intake of spermidine in children has been linked to a lower risk
of food allergies, and there is a role for spermidine to play, say experts,
in the management of diabetes.

Spermidine and other polyamines already exist in the gut but a major
source of spermidine comes from food. Dietary spermidine helps
regulate metabolism, maintain normal growth, help the digestive tract
mature, and provides an anti-inflammatory effect.

Do We Get Enough Spermidine?

The estimated daily intake of all polyamines like spermidine in the
United States is around 250 to 550 µmol.

There is a higher reported intake of spermidine and polyamides in the
Mediterranean region of Europe (700 µmol/d) than in the UK and
Northern Europe (350–500 µmol/d), according to S Bardocz in
Polyamines in food and their consequences for food quality and human
health, 1995.

This higher intake could be responsible for the Mediterranean effect,
where the Mediterranean diet is known to be protective against
inflammation and the development of chronic diseases.

What Kinds of Foods Have Spermidine?

Polyamides like spermidine are present in various foods, particularly in
fermented food products like sauerkraut, sausages, and aged cheese
like blue cheese. (Learn more about how
fermented foods elevate your

Spermidine is also in mushrooms, soy products, corn, whole grains, and
legumes. Soy beans, for example, have up to 207mg/kg, while
mushrooms have 88mg/kg and chicken liver has 48mg/kg.

In a 2011 study from the Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden,
vegetables and meat products were found to be rich in spermidine. In
this study researchers found that matured cheese had the highest total
spermidine content out of all dairy products – 1.2mg/kg.

You Need More Spermidine as You Get Older

Spermidine is necessary at any age but it seems it is even more
important in older age.

A 2006 study from Chiba University, Chiba looks at how polyamines
decrease with aging and found that the level of spermidine slightly
decreased in the intestine, and significantly decreased in the liver,
spleen, stomach, lung, kidney and heart in the trial of 3-, 10-, and 26-
week-old mice.

The researchers suggested high-polyamine foods to counteract the
loss, which include mango, green pepper, wheat germ, salted cod,
salmon roe, soybean, and mushroom.

We looked at recent scientific research to see how exactly spermidine
benefits the body.

Spermidine in Food Helps Restore Your Body Clock

Spermidine is associated with some surprising health benefits. A 2015
study from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel found that when
spermidine was given to mice it was able to restore the internal body
clock to normal.

If these results could be replicated in humans, researchers say that
spermidine could have profound implications as a sleep aid, and even
for “turning back the clock” to beat age-related disease.

Spermidine Actually Helps You Live Longer

What’s more, it has already been discovered that spermidine in food
helps you live longer. Well, the results of a 2015 study from Medical
University of Graz in Austria apply to mice but scientists are keen to find
out if the same is true for humans.

In the study, researchers fed mice spermidine supplements and found
that the lifespan of the mice increased even when the mice were given
the substance in middle age. The mice also had healthier hearts and
lower blood pressure.

Spermidine Offers Protective Prevention Against Food Allergies

A 2000 study from the University of Liege, Belgium found that
insufficient polyamine intake could play a role in a higher risk of dietary

In fact, the likelihood of developing a food allergy can reach 80 percent
if the mean spermine and spermidine concentration in milk given by
mothers to their children is lower than 2 nmol/ml milk.

The likelihood of developing an allergy is around zero when the
concentration is higher than 13 nmol/ml milk. In all cases, higher
concentrations of spermidine are found in breast milk as compared to
formula milk.

Help Your Skin with Spermidine

Fancy a facial? A Norwegian company, Bioforskning, has synthesized
spermine and spermidine into a facial cream and the company says that
the cream is 30 times more effective than vitamin E and can delay the
aging process by 20 percent.

However, it’s not cheap – the cream will set you back around $250.

Spermidine Benefits Hair Growth

Spermidine has been discovered to encourage hair shaft elongation and
lengthen hair growth in humans, according to a 2011 study from the
Hadassah - Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem and University
of Lübeck, Germany.

The researchers say “spermidine is a potent stimulator of human hair
growth”, although the study has been completed under the microscope
and not in humans.

Spermidine May Be Effective for Treating Diabetes

A 2011 study from Chonbuk National University, Jeonju, South Korea
says that spermidine plays an important role in the protection of
pancreatic cells, and "can be a novel therapeutic candidate in the
treatment of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and preserving
pancreatic beta cell mass."

The Spermidine in Food Helps the Intestinal Tract

Spermidine also seems to be important when it comes to maintaining
the normal growth and maturation of the intestinal tract, according to a
1988 study from the University of Liège, Belgium and a 2001 study
from the Chemistry Institute, Liege, Belgium.

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Blue cheese is rich in spermadine,
which may help you live longer