A study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University suggests that there may be a simple way to help reduce the risk of liver cancer and extend our ‘shelf life’: the study concluded that you should eat cured cheese as well as mushrooms, soybeans, corn and other foods rich in a compound called spermidine.
An experiment with mice, found that rodents that were fed an oral spermidine supplement were less likely to develop hepatic fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common form of liver cancer), compared with rodents who did not receive this supplement. In addition, spermidine increased the life expectancy of mice by up to 25%.
Previous research suggested that dietary spermidine may have some health benefits. A study published in Nature Medicine, in 2016, showed that taking oral spermidine supplements was associated with better heart health and greater longevity in mice, while a more recent study linked the compound to lower blood pressure.
In the present study, scientists wanted to find out if spermidine might have anti-cancer properties. They administered an oral spermidine supplement to mice predisposed to developing liver fibrosis, which can lead to liver cancer. The results showed that the mice were not only less likely to develop hepatic fibrosis but also lived much longer compared to rodents in the control group. The mice took the supplement for life.
More studies are needed to determine the safety and efficiency of giving spermidine supplements to humans, but the authors believe it could offer significant health benefits.
"Think: adding spermidine to every bottle of beer could balance alcohol and help protect the liver. It's still early, but perhaps one day this approach will provide a novel strategy to prolong life, prevent or reverse liver fibrosis, and prevent, delay or cure hepatocellular carcinoma in humans," Liu said.
The study was published in the journal Cancer Research.