As if you need another reason to eat more cheese, new research suggests that certain types of this rich dairy staple may be able to promote heart health and even extend your lifespan.

A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine revealed that spermidine, a compound found in many naturally occurring substances such as certain cheeses, mushrooms, and (you guessed it) semen, led to better heart function and longer lives in mice. And while it’s too soon to say if the same results could be reproduced in humans, according to the researchers, it's not that far-fetched.

Spermidine, a natural compound that was first isolated in semen, was found to extend the lifespan of lab rats even when the supplement was not given to them until middle age. Although spermidine has previously been found to extend the lifespan of more simple organisms such as fruit flies and yeast, this is the first time the research has been reproduced in such a complex organism.

“The mice do not only live longer, when we supplement spermidine to the drinking water, but they are also healthier in terms of cardiac function,” study co-author Dr. Frank Madeo from Medical University of Graz in Austria explained to Medical Daily in a recent email.

Their research revealed that spermidine induces autophagy, which causes heart cells to disable parts of themselves that are dysfunctional or no longer necessary. As a result, the mice given spermidine also have better heart function and lower blood pressure, all which eventually led to longer lifespans.

For the study, some mice were given water mixed with spermidine and some were given plain water. Results showed that mice given spermidine repeatedly outlived those who were given plain water. This trend still remained even when the researchers purposely raised the mice’s blood pressure with a high-salt diet.

While it’s far too early to confirm that spermidine would have the same effect on humans, according to Mateo, spermidine levels decline in the blood serum of humans with the exception of centenarians, where concentrations remain high. This may suggest the supplement plays a role in the aging process.

“We are planning a trial where we administer spermidine to humans and measure their cardiac function,” Mateo told Medical Daily.

As for sources of spermidine, the compound can also be found in whole grains and even semen, although according to study co-author Dr. Simon Sedej, also from the Medical University of Graz, dietary supplements might be a more effective way to get spermidine in your diet.

This is not the first time that spermidine has been associated with exceptional health benefits. For example, a 2015 study found that when given to mice, spermidine was able to restore the internal body clock to normal. According to the researchers, if the same was found to be true in humans, it could not only have implications as a sleep aid, but may also help to curb age-related disease.

Source: Eisenberg T, Abdellatif M, Schroeder S, et al. Cardioprotection and lifespan extension by the natural polyamine spermidine. Nature Medicine . 2016

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