It’s not a joke. Spermidine—a compound found in foods like aged cheese, mushrooms, soy products, legumes, corn and whole grains appears to prolong lifespan, at least the animals used by researchers at Texas A&M. It also seems to prevent liver cancer. A Texas A&M news release reports that when researchers at the school gave animal models an oral supplement of spermidine they found that the animals lived longer –25 percent longer–and were less likely to have liver fibrosis and cancerous liver tumors. The trouble with that good news, the researchers warn, is that people would have to start eating spermidine from the time they begin eating solid food to get a 25 percent gain in their lifespans; animal models treated later only saw a 10 percent gain–really quite acceptable.
Spermidine is a type of compound called a polyamine that appears to prevent cancer by enhancing MAP1S-activated autophagy, or the cells’ self-eating behavior. Damaged cells due to defective autophagy can go on to replicate and become tumors or cause other problems.
The researchers point out, for readers seriously hoping to live longer, that only three things have been shown to prolong the lifespan of vertebrates. One is severely cutting the number of calories consumed. Another is restricting the amount of methionine (a type of amino acid found in meat and other proteins) in the diet, and the third is using the drug rapamycin, which also, unfortunately appears to suppress the immune system. Given those choices, aged cheese may be the best way to go.