Spermidine supplements may boost cognitive performance: Human data

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Wheat germ is one of the richest food sources of spermidine. Image © sommail / Getty Images
Wheat germ is one of the richest food sources of spermidine. Image © sommail / Getty Images

Related tags: spermidine, cognitive performance

Oral supplementation with spermidine may boost cognitive performance in older people, with the most pronounced effects observed in those with mild dementia, says a new study from Austria.

Data published in Wiener klinische Wochenschrift ​(known in English as The Central European Journal of Medicine​) indicated that three months of daily consumption of a spermidine-enriched grain roll were associated with significant improvements in scores on the mini mental state examination (MMSE), for all participants, including those with or without dementia.

“Positive correlations were found in the group classified as “no dementia”, i.e. cognitive performance increased with an increase in serum spermidine content,” ​wrote scientists from the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt.

“Since the average age of this group was the lowest, this could be a possible explanation for the result and could mean that early intervention of spermidine, starting with 60 years of age should be advised.”

Building the science

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.

As reported earlier this year by NutraIngredients-USA​, the compound is receiving increasing attention for its significant promise in limiting the effects of aging. Several other studies gave reported the potential cognitive health benefits in humans, including 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”​.

Study details

For the new study, the scientists recruited 85 subjects aged between 60 and 96 years in six nursing homes in Austria. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive a daily grain roll made with wheat germ to provide 3.3 mg of spermidine per day, or a grain roll made with wheat bran to provide 1.9 mg of spermidine per day for three months.

Blood tests showed that the spermidine levels in the first group increased from 42 ng/ml at the start of the study to 60 ng/ml after three months. On the other hand, spermidine levels in the wheat bran group remained constant at around 40 ng/ml.

Using the CERAD (Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease)-plus test, the researchers found that both groups experienced improved CERAD scores over three months, but only the higher spermidine dose group displayed significant improvements in “Mini Mental Status”, verbal fluidity, and phonematic fluidity compared to baseline.

In addition, the higher dose group showed an improvement in participants with mild and moderate dementia, said the researchers.

“Based on our results, we see great therapeutic potential in spermidine supplementation in older adults at risk of dementia; however, further studies are needed, also to check whether the shown positive effect of spermidine on the cognitive function is specific or non-specific,” ​concluded the researchers.

Source: Wiener klinische Wochenschrift
2021, Volume 133, Pages 484–491, doi: 10.1007/s00508-020-01758-y
“The positive effect of spermidine in older adults suffering from dementia - First results of a 3-month trial”
Authors: T. Pekar et al.

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