Some of the most powerful nutrients yet discovered for ensuring a sharper, stronger memory are made naturally by your own body.
I’m talking about nutrients like enzymes and vitamin D. Recently, scientists uncovered another naturally occurring nutrient that could eventually be accepted as a potent brain-saver. In fact, it looks to be a powerful new tool for reducing risk of death from all causes, not just brain diseases.
But I hope you’re sitting down because WHERE they discovered this breakthrough is sure to give you pause. They found this critical brain nutrient… in human sperm.
Now, before you dismiss this new discovery called spermidine as just too weird, I urge you to keep reading and take a look at the amazing research.1 (And you may be relieved to learn you can get it from plant sources, too.)
The first tests of spermidine showed that in both people and animals, the substance could boost brain power. And now thanks to further research we have an idea as to exactly how it strengthens memories old and new.
To operate at full capacity, your brain requires constant cleaning. It’s a busy organ and the nonstop communication and networking among its neurons give rise to a steady accumulation of cellular debris and waste products. If not eliminated, this cellular waste can injure neurons and lead to what’s called neurodegeneration.
Neurodegeneration signifies exactly what it sounds like – it’s the breakdown and death or serious malfunction of the neurons in the brain.
As the neurons transmit their messages to each other, harmful chemical byproducts along with broken down cellular structures – such as dysfunctional mitochondria, the cell’s energy producers — build up, and the brain has to dispose of the waste with a process called autophagy – literally “self-eating.” Scientists use this moniker because the body is consuming its own tissue (or in this case, tissue debris).
The “self-eating” process occurs when microscopic sac-like structures surround the “garbage” (like tiny garbage bags) and then break down the refuse with special enzymes that allows the newly generated raw material to be reused and recycled by the cells.
Research shows that as we get older, the self-eating autophagy process in the brain slows down. Because of this slowdown, as you might expect, neurons become vulnerable to damage and even death from the toxic effects of the microscopic uncollected trash heaps. And when that happens, diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative conditions can make mincemeat of your memory and intellectual abilities.2
Spermidine and Autophagy
Studies show that not only does spermidine help spur on a higher level of autophagy, but it carries on this function, for neurons, in a very important place – in the spaces between neurons called synapses.
Synapses are not only crucial structures for the brain’s recall of old memories, but they also help the brain incorporate and retain new information. If the autophagic “self-eating” process falters the synapses become cluttered, then this interferes with all of these mental processes.
And stimulating the proper clearing of synapses is one of spermidine’s most important functions. Plus, researchers have found that when spermidine facilitates this removal function, it also helps to maintain the “plasticity” of neuronal networks – their ability to form new connections that improve our memories of the things we learn during daily life.3
Beyond supporting autophagy, spermidine has been shown to:
- Keep your body’s internal clock functioning properly as you age. Maintaining this clock, which produces what’s called the body’s circadian rhythm, may make you less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease as well as cancer.4
- Lower your blood pressure. Research in Europe shows spermidine does more than clear waste from the brain. It also improves autophagy in the kidneys, heart and arteries, as well as clearing out malfunctioning mitochondria in those tissues. These benefits may lower the risk of hypertension and death from heart problems.5
- Act as a powerful antioxidant, protecting cell membranes and other parts of the cell from free radical damage.6
- Increase your life expectancy. A 20-year Austrian study involving people who were aged 45 to 84 at the beginning of the research showed that the people who consumed the most spermidine had the lowest chance of dying during the the study7
Vegetarian foods that are relatively high in spermidine include cereals, legumes (beans) and soy. Mushrooms, hazelnuts, peas, spinach, pistachios, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans also have significant spermidine, but not quite as much. Meats and poultry contain significant amounts of spermidine, while fish has somewhat less. Dairy products and eggs generally contain even less.8
Few studies have been done on the effects of spermidine supplements. But research in Japan and Europe, so far, has got researchers saying that consuming spermidine may soon be a widespread strategy for protecting brain health as we age.9