The Nutrient with the Embarrassing Name

by TC Luoma

Add It to Your Diet to Live Longer

This compound, found in a well-known, inexpensive health food, has been shown in animal models to increase lifespan by as much as 25%.


I’m into longevity. I study ways to make humans… ah, who am I kidding? I study ways to make ME live longer. I employ life extension hacks. I concoct formulations. I have a collection of refrigerated corpses in the basement that I study for clues to eternal life. Did I just say that out loud?

But I’m not like the old, feeble people who subscribe to Life Extension magazine so they can just cling to this mortal coil a few days longer to see their turnip crop come to fruition one more time, or dodder/dance at their grandson’s wedding. Phooey to that.

No, I want to remain as alive, as electric, as turgid as I am now for as long as I can. If, at the age of 90, I’m not busting broncos, roping cattle, or herding alpaca all day long and then falling into bed with a buxom big-animal veterinarian, I’ll consider my life-extension endeavors to have been a failure.

Not that I’ve ever done any shit like that, but you get the idea.

The hack I’m currently jazzed about is a substance with the joke-magnet name of spermidine, and yes, it was first isolated from seminal fluid. Get over it.

What’s important is that spermidine has been shown in some animal models to increase lifespan by as much as 25%. Moreover, you probably don’t need to take much of it at all to benefit from its effects and, better yet, the richest source is a food product that many of us used to eat regularly before it fell out of fashion.

What Exactly is Spermidine?

Spermidine is a polyamine compound involved in a whole bunch of biological processes that have to do with cell proliferation and cell differentiation. More specifically, it helps regulate apoptosis and autophagy.

The first term refers to a cellular process by which cells choose to “kill” themselves when confronted by serious disease. The second is related to the first and refers to a process whereby the cell actually “eats” itself by releasing destructive enzymes.

These processes sound like a bad thing, but they’re not. A healthy body has to know when to clean house, so to speak, and if apoptosis and autophagy were slowed or impeded, damaged cells or organelles could accumulate, ultimately resulting in cancer, premature aging, and/or death.

On the other hand, you don’t want apoptosis and autophagy running rampant, either.

Spermidine, much like calorie restriction or life-extending drugs like rapamycin or metformin, performs (among other things) what I call the “Goldilocks function,” which is establishing a “just right” balance between the two processes, thereby theoretically extending life.

Where Do I Get Me Some Spermidine?

Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how much spermidine you should take for life-extending purposes. But the recommended daily dosage of one popular spermidine supplement is 1 mg. (3 capsules) per day, which is probably in the ballpark of an efficacious dose. The trouble is, a bottle of 270 capsules (0.3 mg. of spermidine per pill) will cost you an outrageous 150 bucks or so.

Luckily, foods like soybeans, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms contain comparatively large amounts of spermidine (207 mg/kg, 199 mg/kg, and 89 mg/kg, respectively). But the grand champion is the stuff that health food nuts from the 1980s used to routinely spoon onto their cereal: wheat germ. One kilogram contains 243 mg. of spermidine.

Wheat Germ

See where I’m going? You can get a far greater amount of spermidine than what’s contained in supplements by just eating a few grams of wheat germ, and at an astronomically better price.

The life-hacker friend who tipped me off to this whole spermidine scandal bought 5 kilograms (about 11 pounds) of unrefined wheat germ for $30 off eBay. He did the math, and that works out to be the equivalent of a bazillion or so of the supplement company’s pills.

The cost difference between the two products works out to be around a pretty amazing 7,000 percent.

My friend even contacted the spermidine supplement company, and they begrudgingly agreed with his calculations. However, they did counter with the idea that some people may suffer stomach upset with wheat germ and the omega-3s it contains might go rancid.

Nice try, spermidine supplement people, nice try.

If you decide to add spermidine to your diet through the use of wheat germ, you don’t necessarily have to go with the 5-kilo bag. Amazon carries a nice selection of smaller-sized wheat germ products. My go-to brand is Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Germ (Buy at Amazon).

Granted, it’s not as economical as buying a horse-sized bag off of eBay, but it’s still a pretty good deal when you compare it to the average spermidine supplement.




  1. Jingling Fan, et al “Spermidine coupled with exercise rescues skeletal muscle atrophy from D-gal-induced aging rats through enhanced autophagy and reduced apoptosis via AMPK-FOXO3a signal pathway,” Oncotarget, 2017, Mar 14; 8(11): 17475-17490.

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