How Spermidine-rich Foods Feed A Healthy Aging Brain

Spermidine-rich foods

Spermidine-rich foods feed a healthy aging brain through promoting mitochondrial health. Mitochondria are the “energy factory” organelles inside our cells. They degrade as we age, and thereby, so do we. Learn how to boost your mitochondrial health through consuming spermidine-rich foods.


Spermidine-rich foods

Credit: EuropePMC

Yes, it’s a word with an unappetizing origin, but spermidine is in many foods you eat, and it turns out that if you eat more spermidine-rich foods, you might get to enjoy your golden years with robust cognitive health.

This story begins in Austria and deals with the study of mitochondria, an organelle in our cells that create the energy needed to live.

Spermidine-Rich Foods Improves Cognitive Health

Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi

Researchers at the University of Graz in Austria published a new study that found mitochondria to be a key element in cognitive function, given that dysfunctional mitochondria is linked to age-related memory impairments.

Mitochondria are vital to cellular respiration that enable cells to be healthy throughout the body and brain. Throughout life, mitochondrial quality is controlled by autophagy, a process that eliminates damaged cells and encourages healthy, respiring cells to proliferate. But like a lot of things, the machinery that controls autophagy declines as we get older, leading to an unhealthy proliferation of weak or senescent brain cells.

(Read why cellular senescence is a major cause of aging and the various chronic diseases that accompany it.)

In its attempt to address decreased cognitive performance, a hallmark of brain aging, the University of Graz study shows that “spermidine improves cognitive function,” largely due to its ability to promote autophagy.

Autophagy is a regulated cell mechanism that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components – it is often thought of as a recycling process. Life extension seen in model organisms supplemented with spermidine seems to be autophagy dependent, meaning that increasing autophagy directly resulted in extending lifespan. This has caused much interest in further exploring how spermidine is acting and what anti-aging benefits it could have.

As I wrote in How Intermittent Fasting Ignites Cellular Autophagy and A Longer, Healthier Life, Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine because his work on cellular autophagy provides us with greater clarity about how the body’s cells detoxify and repair themselves.

Cellular autophagy is a crucial process for cells to survive and stay healthy, but unfortunately you typically have to under-eat or fast to activate autophagy. During a period of ingesting limited calories, or starvation, not only do cells break down proteins and nonessential components and reuse them for energy, but also cells use autophagy to:

  • Destroy invading viruses and bacteria; and
  • Rid themselves of damaged structures; a process which…
  • Is thought to get disrupted in cancer, infectious diseases, immunological diseases and neurodegenerative disorders; including Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

And, don’t forget — autophagy can slow down the aging process.

The University of Graz study proposed that dietary spermidine acts in a neuroprotective manner during normal aging. The beneficial effects of spermidine appear to depend on autophagy (and likely mitophagy) related processes that culminate in improved mitochondrial capacity. (Mitophagy is the selective degradation of mitochondria by autophagy. It often occurs to defective mitochondria following damage or stress.)

The study thus concludes:

Nutrition rich in spermidine in the human diet may provide a potent strategy to prevent the course of age-related or disease-driven cognitive decline in the general population.

In the video below, biochemist Eleanor Sheekey explores what spermideine is and what health benefits it may influence.


  • What is spermidine – 00:30
  • Spermidine & anti-aging (autophagy) – 02:30
  • Cognitive function – 05:20
  • Clinical trials and thoughts – 10:30


Sources of Spermidine

spermidine-rich foods

Many foods contain spermidine, and there are a few spermidine supplements available as well. Frankly, although I haven’t spent hours researching it, I don’t get the value proposition of spermidine supplements, given it’s abundantly available in food, and the supplements are very expensive.

Personally, I’ll put my nickels into the foods rich in spermidine.

The foods richest in spermidine are:

  • Soybeans
  • Green peas (I even put them in my oatmeal…. yeah, a fanatic)
  • Potatoes
  • Chicken
  • Pears
  • Mushrooms

Two major spermidine supplements are:

More Spermidine Studies

If your appetite for information about spermidine is not satiated, check out these studies:

Your Takeaway

Remember these four things:

  1. Mitochondria are the respiratory or energy-producing organelles inside our cells. As we age, our body’s tend to lose the ability to repair mitochondria dysfunction, which is linked to age-related memory impairments and other cognitive processes.
  2. Mitochondrial quality is controlled by autophagy, a process that eliminates damaged cells and encourages healthy, respiring cells to proliferate. This process degrades as we get older, leading to an unhealthy proliferation of weak or senescent brain cells.
  3. Spermidine-rich foods improve cognitive function, largely due to its ability to promote autophagy.
  4. Eat more spermidine-rich foods, such as soybeans, green peas, pears and mushrooms.



Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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