There’s a little-known nutrient found in a variety of foods that can not only reduce the risk of developing certain kinds of cancers, but can actually add years to your life.
You can find it in your favorite whole foods or take it in a supplement, but either way you’ll want to be sure to get adequate doses of this nutrient so you can stay young and cancer-free at the cellular level…
Read on and I’ll explain. . .
This vital nutrient is known as spermidine. It was first isolated from semen, hence the name. Then it was found in certain plants.
Spermidine is a polyamine, a compound that plays an important role in cell survival. It’s found in ribosome, the minute particle in all cells that binds messenger RNA, a molecule that affects biological processes and cellular communication. Polyamines in general, and spermidine in particular, help to maintain membrane integrity in the cell walls.
How spermidine can prevent cancer
Spermidine is known to induce autophagy (from the Greek word for “self-devouring” or “self-eating”). It’s pronounced “oh-toffa-gee.”
Autophagy is the “housekeeping” process that clears out cellular debris and damaged organelles (elements inside cells like mitochondria), removes dysfunctional proteins, and eliminates infectious microbes that have made their way into the cell.
By clearing out potentially harmful cells, autophagy also protects against genome instability and necrosis (death of living cells or tissue), which helps to prevent neurodegeneration, autoimmune diseases, infections and cancer.1
“For a cell to become cancer it must have two things: DNA damage and the ability to reproduce,” says Leyuan Liu, PhD, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology Center for Translational Cancer Research.
If these cancerous cells are not cleared out quickly they have time to reproduce and grow into tumors.2 This is why it’s crucial to your health to ensure your body consistently induces autophagy.
In addition to autophagy, spermidine helps to prevent cancer in several other ways. It reduces inflammation, efficiently breaks down fat for energy (lipid metabolism), and regulates cell growth, proliferation and death.3
Research suggests that spermidine uses the MAPK pathway to trigger these effects. The MAPK pathway is a chain of proteins that cells use to communicate. When a protein in this pathway mutates, it can keep the pathway in the “on” or the “off” position, so to speak, which is the first step in cancer cell proliferation.
In fact, over-expression of the MAPK pathway is commonly found in colorectal cancer, and plays an important role in the progression of this cancer. Some researchers have been focusing on regulating the MAPK pathway as a means to treat it.4
Other studies have found spermidine can help make chemotherapeutic agents more effective in cases of colorectal cancer.
One of them, published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, found that the enzyme spermidine/spermine N(1)-acetyltransferase (SSAT) increased the effectiveness of several cancer treatments in six different lab-cultured colorectal cancer cell lines.5
SSAT helped to regulate cell death and sensitize cancer cells to treatment so that more of the offending cells died when the chemotherapy agent hit them.
Liver cancer and liver fibrosis
In addition to fighting colorectal cancer, spermidine is also effective against liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common kind of liver cancer in adults. Liver fibrosis is a buildup of scar tissue in the liver than can lead to liver cancer.
A study published in the journal Oncotarget found that the introduction of the enzymatic spermidine compound SSAT into hepatocelluar and colorectal carcinoma cells stopped tumor cell proliferation and “dramatically inhibited cell migration and invasion.”6 SSAT worked by interfering with cell signaling pathways within the cancer cells.
Another study found that spermidine’s ability to induce autophagy helps in preventing liver fibrosis and cancer by regulating the MAP1S protein that directly contributes to autophagy.
Researchers separated mice into two groups: those that received an oral spermidine supplement and the control group that did not receive it. They found that the group that did not receive the supplement had a 20% reduction in survival rates and members of this group developed liver fibrosis and HCC under stress.
Researchers found that the group that received the supplement not only had reduced incidence of liver fibrosis, but those mice lived 25% longer.7
Spermidine and longevity
Prof. Leyuan Liu, who worked on the study, said, “It’s a dramatic increase in lifespan of animal models. In human terms, that would mean that instead of living to about 81 years old, the average American could live to be over 100.”8
The researchers note that the greatest increase in life span came from lifelong supplementation. But even those that received the supplement later in life still had a 10% increase in longevity.
An animal study is not the last word, but it certainly looks encouraging.
How can you get more of this valuable nutrient
Spermidine is found in abundance in foods like:
- Whole grains
- Chicken liver
- Green peas
- Aged cheese
Blue cheese is one of the best sources, but careful not to overdo it. Cheese contains a lot of salt, fat and dairy protein and too much of any of those things can have an adverse effect on your health. Aim for around one ounce of cheese daily.
When eating soy, always choose organic. Soy is one of the most commonly genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the market. Organic soy is GMO free.
You can also add a quality spermidine supplement to your daily regimen. Whichever method you choose, spermidine is an essential nutrient to staying healthy and aging gracefully.
Meanwhile, new research suggests cholesterol may have a link to cancer – but not the one you might think! We talked about this in the last issue. If you missed it, you can read it right now, just below this.