Spermidine: ‘An underappreciated nutrient that may pack a powerful punch in the management of aging’
Spermidine is a polyamine compound that was originally identified in semen (hence the name) but is present in a variety of dietary sources, including wheat germ, soybeans, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, and mango.
Austria-based The Longevity Labs GmbH launched spermidineLIFE in the EU 2019, and was recognized as "The Most Innovative OTC-Product" at the German 2020 Pharma Trend Image & Innovation Awards in Munich. The company launched into the US in 2020 via its US subsidiary Longevity Labs Inc.
“Spermidine is, for most who find us, either a brand new discovery in anti-aging compounds or a product they have been searching for that we can finally provide,” Daniel Dietz, CEO of Longevity Labs Inc (USA) told NutraIngredients-USA.
“We have, and continue to see, significant growth in our direct-to-consumer and practitioner channels for spermidineLIFE in the US, frankly, exceeding expectations.
“So far we have found significant interest from cutting-edge “biohackers” searching for enhancements to autophagy and from physicians looking for a solution to induce autophagy in their older patients. We are looking to expand awareness to older American adults, as spermidineLIFE is most impactful in maintaining health and cognitive function during the later years of life.”
The potential cognitive health benefits in humans were reported in a paper in 2018 in Cortex, which concluded that spermidine supplementation for three months was associated with “a positive impact on memory performance in older adults with subject cognitive decline”. The study used product provided by The Longevity Labs (TLL).
A search of PubMed reveals a wide variety of studies using the compound, but TLL is focused on the most promising human or model organism studies.
“To date, four randomized controlled trials have been reported over the last 10 years showing improved clinical outcomes with spermidine in cognition, two cohort studies suggest a relationship between spermidine and cardiovascular health as well as animal and in vivo studies, and animal trials and in vitro studies have been published supporting immune function,” said Dietz. “Additionally, cohort studies indicate a promising relationship between spermidine and increased life and health span.”
“Spermidine deserves more attention within the natural products industry”
Commenting on the science to date, Dr Mark Miller, principal at Kaiviti Consulting, told NutraIngredients-USA that several studies have focused on stimulating autophagy (Schroeder et al 2021, Schwarz et al 2018).
“Spermidine helps clear out damaged and dysfunctional organelles, like mitochondria, which drag cells down with their inefficiencies and resultant oxidative stress,” said Dr Miller. “These benefits of spermidine appear to be critical and central because they are ancient or highly conserved,” he added, before noting that they are also evident across species – flies, worms, mice and humans.
Autophagy can also be triggered by caloric restriction, which is known to extend lifespan across species.
Dr Miller also highlighted a 2018 paper by Kiechl et al. published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that examined dietary spermidine intake and mortality in 829 people. “Higher intakes of spermidine reduced mortality,” he noted. “Indeed, comparing the bottom third with the top third of dietary intake, created an aging difference equivalent to 5.7 years. While this is not the same as the effects of chronic supplementation, it adds weight to the concept of clinical benefits via the diet.”
“There are also broad benefits on indices of aging including: reduced hair loss, cardiac inflammation, telomere attrition, glucose metabolism,” he added.
“It is the nature of the actions on mitochondria, autophagy and telomeres that brings the preclinical research into a focus. Certainly, spermidine deserves more attention within the natural products industry.”
“Safety is significant but what remains to be defined are effective doses, although clinical studies like this are time consuming and expensive,” said Dr Miller.
Clinical trials are ongoing in Germany and Austria, including one investigating the effects of spermidine on autophagy (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04823806), and one investigating if spermidine can improve blood pressure (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04405388).
A rose by any other name…
So what about that name? Could the link to semen be a turnoff for consumers? “While this link could appear to be a hindrance, there are significant insights to be drawn here linking spermidine to birth, fertility, youthfulness, and cell renewal,” said Dietz. “Young organisms contain higher blood serum levels of spermidine, and these spermidine levels decline significantly with age, suggesting a connection between youthfulness and spermidine.
“Our challenge is to share that while spermidine is in semen, it is also found in natural forms in almost every living tissue from plants and mammals, at least in trace levels,” he added.
Longevity Labs extracts its spermidine from lab-tested, spermidine-rich wheat germ (which is “not simple to find”, said Dietz) at its manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria.
Building consumer awareness
Building awareness in a market is always a challenge and Longevity Labs, which is primarily a research and manufacturing company, said Dietz, is approaching the market from three angles.
“For many consumers, education starts with their physicians,” he said. “We are in the process of increasing awareness through professional physician networks and entertain frequent conversations with key physician thought-leaders. For others, they look to authors and longevity influencers who promote personal research on effective products for their wellness routine.
“Lastly, the robust scientific research can often speak for itself. As such, we are working to promote key scientific findings around spermidine generally through traditional and non-traditional media channels.”
The science certainly spoke to Dr Miller, who told us: “Spermidine and related polyamines appear to hold significant promise in limiting the effects of aging and appear to be effective when administered as a dietary supplement.”