Does Spermidine Increase Autophagy?

Taking out the garbage is an important task. If it doesn't get done promptly, it can start to overflow, inviting unwanted pests, smells, and bacteria. Just like we need to keep our homes clean and free of trash, our bodies need to do the same. The garbage is the part of our cells that become damaged over time. The cells in our bodies rid themselves of the dysfunctional and damaged debris through a process known as autophagy. 

What is Autophagy?

To renew younger, healthier cells, our cells go through a process called autophagy. The term autophagy means "self-eating," as ‘auto’ translates to "self" and ‘phagy’ translates to "eat." While "self-eating" sounds a little intimidating, it's a good thing when it comes to cells. Autophagy is a process in which the body removes dysfunctional cellular material, cleaning out and repairing the cell. The purpose of the autophagy process is to take out cellular debris, allowing our cells to continue to operate with peak efficiency. 

The largest benefits of autophagy appear to be related to longevity and anti-aging. If our cells become stressed, the body increases autophagy to counteract the stress and protect the body, which may positively benefit lifespan. When the body goes through starvation, the autophagy process breaks down unwanted cellular material and reuses it for necessary functions.  

Fasting can increase autophagy, as the body has more energy to spend on cleaning up the cells versus digesting food. Depending on the person's metabolism, significant autophagy can occur after two to four days of fasting. It's believed that when insulin and glucose levels drop, autophagy begins. For people with health concerns, fasting can be a great way to increase autophagy in the body, promoting cellular healing. 

What is Spermidine?

Spermidine is a naturally occurring polyamine found in the tissues of the body that provides various metabolic functions. It is a precursor to spermine and thermospermine, other polyamines. Spermidine is responsible for synchronizing multiple biological processes in the body, helping to control intracellular volume and pH. Due to different mechanisms of action, spermidine is considered a longevity agent. At the molecular level, autophagy is the primary mechanism. It has also been found to provide anti-inflammatory and lipid metabolism benefits and cell growth, proliferation and renewal benefits. 

Spermidine has been found to regulate plant growth as it assists in transcribing RNA and inhibits NOS. Making it a precursor to spermine and thermospermine, which can contribute to plants' tolerance against drought. Spermidine is found in larger quantities of certain plants like wheat germ, soybeans, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms. 

Can Spermidine Increase Autophagy?

Spermidine is derived from putrescine and is a precursor to polyamine spermine. Putrescine, spermine, and spermidine are well-known polyamines that assist in multiple biological processes. Spermidine has been shown to prolong the life span of organisms such as yeast, flies, and nematodes. In studies, spermidine was proven to increase autophagy in mammalian cells and cultured yeast, as well as flies and nematodes. 

Autophagy is essential for removing damaged cellular material and plays a massive role in maintaining homeostasis within the cell. With autophagy's longevity-promoting and health effects, substances that promote autophagy are important for cellular health. As we age, our natural levels of spermidine decline, so it's important to be aware of performing tasks to increase our spermidine levels if possible. 

How Does Spermidine Induce Autophagy?

Studies have shown that animals given an oral supplement of spermidine lived longer and were at less risk for liver issues. It's believed to induce autophagy, increasing the cellular response to debris, making the cells healthier and stronger. There was a dramatic increase in the lifespan of the animals in the study, with as much as a 25% increase in their overall lifespan. Diets naturally high in spermidine content have been studied and conclusions have pointed to positive correlations between spermidine levels and healthspan. Increasing spermidine consumption in humans can induce autophagy, leading to overall increased longevity. 

Spermidine can prevent damaged cells from replicating and becoming tumors or other health issues. Even when people start taking spermidine later in life, they have experienced liver and health benefits. When autophagy is increased, humans generally experience better overall health, as the cells are taking care of any potential problems. 

What Foods Are High In Spermidine?

To increase autophagy, eating foods high in spermidine may be helpful. Spermidine has been shown to significantly benefit overall liver health, even in those predisposed to conditions like liver fibrosis or cancer. Consuming foods naturally high in spermidine is a great way to increase the amount of the polyamine in your diet. What are some foods high in spermidine?

  • Aged cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat Germ
  • Corn
  • Fresh green pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Natto

Whole grains are an excellent source of spermidine, as the endosperm has large amounts of spermidine. Germinated corn, especially dried corn, as the embryo of the corn contains higher levels of spermidine in comparison to the endosperm. Wheat germ is one of the highest spermidine-containing foods as well. 

What Are The Health Benefits Of Staying In Autophagy?

Benefits of autophagy at the cellular level include promoting regeneration and health of cells, toxic waste removal from cells, and residual protein recycling. It may play a prominent role in cancer prevention as well. As we age, autophagy declines, meaning cells that no longer function properly or may cause harm to the body can multiply.   

The health benefits of autophagy are amazing, and research is being done to see the impact on cancer. Cancer starts as defective cells, but the body often recognizes them and uses autophagy to remove them. Some researchers are exploring the fact that autophagy may lower cancer risk. Some studies suggest that cancerous cells can be removed through the autophagy process. More research needs to be done to discover whether target autophagy may be used as cancer therapy. 

Can Spermidine Increase Your Lifespan?

Spermidine has been shown to increase lifespan in model organisms of flies, nematodes, mice, and yeast, so there's evidence to believe it can increase lifespan in humans as well. Supplementing spermidine has improved healthspan and extended longevity at multiple levels. Evidence also suggests that spermidine can delay neurodegeneration in mice and non-mammalian model organisms. 

Until recently, model organisms have been the only focus of the studies of the longevity-enhancing effects performed. Two population-based studies report that spermidine is linked to reduced overall cardiovascular and cancer-related deaths in humans for the first time. High spermidine intake was linked to reduced mortality. 

What Are Long-Term Benefits Of Autophagy?

The long-term effects of autophagy include mental health protection, increased longevity, protection against Alzheimer's disease, and fighting against infectious disease. When cells enter the autophagy process, they start a period of preservation. Instead of taking in extra energy, they utilize the non-functioning or damaged components of cells to help produce their energy. Cells are more resilient towards stress and disease during this period of conservation. One discovery was that the recycling of damaged cells lessens cancer risk as the toxin accumulation is limited. 

Supplements Can Help

The evidence shows autophagy is important to help keep our bodies healthy as well as increase longevity. Eating foods high in spermidine can be helpful, but to ensure you are taking enough, a high-quality spermidine supplement may be an easier option. Take care of your cells, and they will take care of you!


  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.