Aged Cheese & Cancer Prevention

There is a new study on a simple way to help reduce the risk of liver cancer that was reviewed by Honor Whiteman. This simple step could also extend lifespan by consuming mushrooms, soy, whole grains, aged cheese and other foods that are rich in spermidine.

Mice that are fed an oral supplement of spermidine were less likely to develop liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the most common form of liver cancer, compared with rodents that did not receive the supplement.  A research team from Texas A&M University in College Station found that spermidine increased the lifespan of mice by as much as 25%.

Leyuan Liu, Ph.D., study co-author of the Institute of Biosciences & Technology at Texas A&M, reported their findings in the journal Cancer Research.  Spermidine is a polyamine compound that has at least two amino groups that was originally isolated from sperm. It is also found naturally in a variety of food products that include aged cheese, mushrooms, legumes, soy, whole grains and corn.

Research in the past has suggested that dietary spermidine may have health benefits, as the study published in Nature Medicine last year indicated.  The study associated oral supplementation of spermidine with better heart health and longevity in mice and another study linked the compound to reduced blood pressure. This latest study investigated whether spermidine might have anti-cancer properties.

The researchers gave an oral spermidine supplement to mice that were predisposed to develop HCC or liver fibrosis, which is a buildup of scar tissue in the liver that can lead to liver cancer. They were less likely to develop HCC or liver fibrosis than the rodents that were not given the supplement, but they were also found to live much longer.  The increase in lifespan was as much as 25%. If we use human terms it would mean the average American could live to be over 100 instead of about 81 years old.  The 25% increase in lifespan was only seen in mice that had lifelong spermidine supplementation. Those that received the supplement later in life had a 10% increase in longevity.

Research previously conducted on harnessing cells own self-eating behavior to fight cancer was found to lack autophagy, the process by which cells eat their own debris and contribute to cancer development. They found the benefits of spermidine diminished in the absence of a protein called MAP1S that is known to trigger autophagy.  The team speculated that the cancer protective effects of the compound are down to its enhancement of MAP1S related autophagy. They still need further studies to determine the safety and efficacy of spermidine supplementation in humans but they do believe that it could offer significant health benefits.

They hypothesize that by adding spermidine to every bottle of beer, it might balance out the alcohol and help to protect the liver. They hope that someday this approach will provide a strategy to prolong lifespans, prevent or reverse liver fibrosis and prevent, delay or cure hepatocellular carcinoma in humans.

Dr Fredda Branyon