Stanford Scientists Discover That Adding a Particular Seafood to Your Diet Can Reverse Signs of Aging

Researchers discovered that supplementing a diet with the sea organisms Ascidiacea, also known as sea squirts, reverses some of the main signs of aging in an animal model.

Supplementing your diet with the sea organisms Ascidiacea, also known as sea squirts, reverses some of the main signs of aging, according to a new study using an animal model.

While the Fountain of Youth, the mythical spring that restores youth to anyone who bathes in it or drinks its waters, is clearly fantasy, scientists are hard at work looking for ways to combat aging. Some of these scientists just had a breakthrough: they discovered that supplementing a diet with sea squirts, reverses some of the main signs of aging.

While more research is needed to verify the effect in humans, as the study was conducted using mice, the findings are very promising.

If you’ve ever glanced in the mirror and seen greying hair and wrinkles, or if you’ve forgotten the name of a close friend, you may desire a medication that might halt or even reverse the effects of aging.

According to a new study, this may not be such a silly idea. Researchers from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Stanford University, Shanghai Jiao tong University, and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences discovered that supplementing a diet with the sea organism Ascidiacea, also known as sea squirts, reverses some of the main signs of aging in an animal model.

Sea squirts can be eaten raw and are found in dishes from Korea (where it is known as meongge, or 멍게) and Japan (hoya, or ホヤ). Credit: Jpatokal

Sea squirts may be eaten raw and can be found in recipes from Korea (where it is known as meongge, or 멍게) and Japan (hoya, or ホヤ). These aquatic critters contain plasmalogens, which are essential to human body processes. Plasmalogens are naturally found throughout our bodies, notably in the heart, brain, and immune cells, but the quantity in our bodies declines as we age. This loss is also a characteristic of various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The researchers evaluated the effects of adding plasmalogens to the food of elderly mice to see whether increasing plasmalogen levels may prevent the effects of aging.  They discovered that the supplements had a significant impact on the mice’s learning abilities and physical symptoms.

Professor Lei Fu, the corresponding author of the study, says: “Our research suggests that plasmalogens may not just stop cognitive decline, but may reverse cognitive impairments in the aging brain. Additionally, aged mice fed with the plasmalogens grow new black hair that is thicker and glossier than aged mice not fed the supplement.”

This study is the first to show, in detail, how plasmalogens affect the aging brain.

The sea organisms Ascidiacea, also called sea squirts, contain substances called plasmalogens, which are vital to our body processes. Credit: Prilfish

Making new connections

The effects of the plasmalogen supplement on learning and memory were evaluated by training mice to navigate a Morris water maze, which consists of a pool of water with a platform that acts as a resting place. Mice typically dislike swimming, so after five days of training, they remember where the platform is and swim directly to it as soon as they enter the pool. Older mice, on the other hand, take longer to locate the platform following the same amount of training.

Astonishingly, when fed with plasmalogens, aged mice perform more like young mice, finding the platform much quicker than the control group of aged mice that have not been given the supplement.

To find the reason for the improvement shown by plasmalogen-fed mice, the researchers took a closer look at changes happening within the brain. They found that mice that were fed the plasmalogen supplement had a higher number and quality of synapses – the connections between neurons – than the aged mice not given the supplements.

Aged mice showed improved learning and memory when fed with plasmalogen supplements from Ascidiacea – also known as sea squirts. In this study, mice were trained to find a hidden platform in a pool of water (Morris water maze), and the image shows the paths they took to reach the platform. After five days of training, young mice were able to remember the platform’s location, whereas aged mice took longer and swam further to reach the platform as they forgot its location. However, when fed a plasmalogen supplement, the aged mice took a shorter, quicker route to the platform than those not given the supplement – suggesting improved cognitive function. Credit: Lei Fu

Synapses are a fundamental part of our neural networks and, therefore, crucial for learning and memory. Our synapses tend to be very plastic as children, but they decrease in number and deteriorate with age and in neurogenerative diseases, resulting in cognitive impairments.

Accordingly, in this study, the aged mice fed with plasmalogen supplements showed greater potential for learning new skills and creating new neural networks than the aged mice whose diet was not supplemented. This suggests that dietary plasmalogens can halt the age-related deterioration of synapses.

A further characteristic of getting older, and thought to be a significant factor in neurodegeneration, is inflammation in the brain. Too much inflammation can have a negative effect on cognitive ability, as the brain’s immune system becomes overactive and turns on itself, attacking neurons and preventing synapses from functioning correctly.

In this study, the inflammation in aged mice was greatly decreased in those given plasmalogen supplements compared to those on a normal diet, providing some insight as to why they performed better in learning and memory tasks.

There are many varieties of sea squirts (Ascidiae). Some are shown in Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (1904). Credit: Ernst Haeckel

Possible pathways of action

Although it is still unclear how dietary plasmalogen supplements seem to cause such significant changes in learning and memory, Professor Fu speculates on possible pathways of action.

“We found that plasmalogens significantly increase the number of molecules that aid the growth and development of neurons and synapses in the brain. This suggests that plasmalogens can promote neuroregeneration.

“There is also an increasing body of evidence that plasmalogens directly affect the structural properties of synapses. Plasmalogens may increase the fluidity and flexibility of synaptic membranes, affecting the transmission of impulses between neurons.”

Additionally, Professor Fu explains that plasmalogens may also have indirect effects on our brains.

“Some studies have shown that dietary plasmalogens affect the microorganisms in the gut. It has been widely reported that the connection between the organisms in our gut and our brain influences neurodegeneration. It may be the plasmalogen’s effect on this connection that causes the improvements in learning and memory are seen in this study.”

Professor Fu is so convinced by the results of this study that he takes a plasmalogen supplement each day.

“For the first time, we show that plasmalogen supplements might be a potential intervention strategy for halting neurodegeneration and promoting neuroregeneration.

“The oral intake of plasmalogens could be a feasible therapeutic strategy to improve cognitive function in older people.”

So, it could be that a pill to keep you young may not be such an unrealistic proposition after all – as long as it contains sea squirts.

Reference: “Plasmalogens Eliminate Aging-Associated Synaptic Defects and Microglia-Mediated Neuroinflammation in Mice” by Jinxin Gu, Lixue Chen, Ran Sun, Jie-Li Wang, Juntao Wang, Yingjun Lin, Shuwen Lei, Yang Zhang, Dan Lv, Faqin Jiang, Yuru Deng, James P. Collman and Lei Fu, 23 February 2022, Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences.
DOI: 10.3389/fmolb.2022.815320

Alzheimer'sAnti-agingChinese Academy of SciencesParkinson's DiseasePopularStanford University
Comments ( 39 )
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  • Sekar

    Interesting .

    However , I suspect this is the tale of the Bind men of Indo-sthan describing an elephant s they feel it up and encounter various parts of the elephants body..

    1. Aging = Cell Degeneration on a slow fuse.
    2. Let us look at birth – growth (due to growth hormones and food and nutrition) which lasts for XX number of years , after which the decay of cells exceeds the fresh regeneration of new Cells and :”Aging” starts. This is a Systemic level view of Cells in a Human / Mice.
    3. There are many factors which contribute to Cell Decay of different sub-systems in the Human/ Mice System , depending on the Cell Structure, energy supply to the cell to ensure normal functioning of the Cell and the Organ in question.
    4. This article focus on Neuron System is a interesting finding. Wonder what role the Plasmaloogens plays in the blood-brain barrier?
    5. Getting every cell in the Human/Mice ecosystem to stop aging after it reaches maturity ,would be a herculean task and may actually be counter-productive. What is Cancer? Uncontrolled growth of Cells which takes down the Organ affected.

    Views expressed are personal and not binding on anyone.

  • Rocky Stefano

    Haven’t plasmalogens been linked to Alzheimer’s?

  • Jeff T

    This article sounds sus. I’ll wait until the study is at least replicated before i change my diet or buy supplements.

  • Blake

    Can reverse aging! If you’re a mouse!

  • H Patterson

    So what supplemental *form* of plasmalogen are they most effective for the human body to absorb? They don’t describe the type of supplement the researcher(s) began taking. Not the brand, but the form. Some are more bioavaiable as refrigerated liquids, others are fine as a powder… Obviously its not the easiest thing to eat or taking a supplement makes it more concentrated/efficacious if researchers chose to get that route. But what method of supplement did they choose?

  • Silverfox

    Where can these plasmalogens be purchased?

    • David Ocyaden

      where to buy PLASMOLOGENS

  • Kenny S

    I think I’ll do as Jeff T. It’s too early to jump on the bandwagon of plasmalogens. For all we know it could lower my immune system in the long run. I’m not trying to row that boat.

  • Teresa Acosta

    I’ve never seen sea squirts offered a menu

  • Blair Sadewitz

    “Linked with Alzheimer’s”? Yeah, they have been, indeed! People with Alzheimer’s tend to have _less_ of them.

    I don’t think there is a single “magic bullet” with regard to longevity.

    “Growing evidence suggests that ethanolamine plasmalogens (PlsEtns), a subtype of phospholipids, have a close association with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Decreased levels of PlsEtns have been commonly found in AD patients, and were correlated with cognition deficit and severity of disease. Limited studies showed positive therapeutic outcomes with plasmalogens interventions in AD subjects and in rodents.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6466717/

  • William G Stewart

    You can’t “reverse” aging anyway. You can maybe slow it down, but not with this. This whole story sounds like BS to me.

  • Matthew

    I recommend to directly check with Stanford U for the authenticity of the article.

  • Biff

    I’m going to supplement my diet with mice whom are taking plasmalogen supplements

    • C'mon Biff

      Maybe they can teach you grammar!

  • Ceci

    Ah Biff, funny guy.

  • Eric M

    Sea Squirts sounds like something you get from eating bad fish.

  • Wei Wuxien

    How about they monitor Professor Fu for a year or two and see what the results are. (He is so convinced by the results of this study that he takes a plasmalogen supplement each day.)
    I’m also curious as to which actual supplement he is taking..

  • Brandon

    Isn’t this what led to the downfall of rapture?

  • todd

    getting my rod and reel and going fishing for some sea squirts!

  • Steve

    There are numerous studies on the diets effect on disease and aging. They mostly conclude a whole food plant based diet is the most effective way to control disease. The largest study was The China Study conducted by T. Colin Campbell. It is worth the read. Supplements have proven to be ineffective. Our bodies are a system and not controlled by one chemical. This Sunday needs more peer review.

  • TommyV

    What does this have anything to do with the rapture?

  • Robert Miller

    Only squirts I ever see are in my underwear

    • Connie Robertson

      I want to know where I can order the plasmalogen supplement?

  • Erin

    Curious indeed. Agree with another comment, wait until we know what it does to the rest of the body or how it interacts with medications or other supplements and how much is required to have an affect on a large adult. And is it sustainable?I.e. can they be farmed safely with the same level of potency? I would hate to see these things end up in the endangered species list as people rush to fish them out of the oceans.

  • Torpedo

    This report seems incorrect. I have been around Koreans for about 20 years. They look beat compared to other groups. I am not in a believer.

  • Joyce Marie Hand

    Steve, I agree with you on the vegan diet. I am the healthiest of my family and the only vegetarian.

  • Disappointed

    know what else has high levels of plasmalogens? Pork and beef, why the hell would you eat something called a sea squirt when steak exists… This isn’t some magical discovery, it’s a clickbait article, with a photoshopped picture.

  • V Samos

    Yes, let’s create another wet market!

    • Bruzote

      What’s better is sea squirt that has been pooped out by lemurs. So, you can put TWO more critters in the wet market. Sweeet.

    • Tony Campbell

      YEP,thus starts the depletion of this organism by Human predation to satisfy some Niche Market to benefit vain,Self absorbed Humans

  • Me

    Then there’s the heavy metals and toxins this thing has filtered from the water.

  • Abbi Katt

    OK,fine:a youthful brain. But let’s move on to what really matters: What to eat to keep the SKIN looking really young?

  • Randall Andrews

    I don’t see how this study can apply to humans. In the original paper, the daily plasmalogen dosage was 300 mg/kg. However, the only plasmalogen I could find for sale has a dosage of 1000 ug (1 mg) per day, so I would have to take 2600 tablets each day to duplicate the dosage level of the study. What is the point of dosing the mice at a level which is infeasible for humans?

    • Bruzote

      Hypnotoad sells plasmalogen. All hail Hypnotoad!

  • G-Man

    Great : | another animal to exploit and eat for the benefit of human kind. Woo hoo! Hopefully it won’t go the way of tiger balls and shark fins that’s leading to their extinction. If you want to live longer eat plants, folks. That’s another proven method to advance aging. Educate yourselves – the great extinction continues with articles like this. (Just read your note Steve – Yep)

  • Bruzote

    Great. One more type of animal we can exterminate while pursuing magic powders and extracts to make us live longer and give us greater virility. Ah, the wonders of hard science.

  • Elizabeth Watson

    So does this mean our poor depleted seas will now be totally robbed & eradicated of sea squirts!? Not a great thought to me. Scientists can be clever in discoveries but the end results have changed our world a lot which has wrecked our echo systems badly. Our seas for one! What’s the good of anti ageing medications to live longer if our world has been destroyed in the process!? I just don’t get it. Seems stupid to me!

  • Viv

    After taking a look at those things on a plate, it looks like i’m dying of old age at the regular time.
    I ate shiokara – raw squid in squid guts sauce on a dare once when I was a bit drunk in a Karaoke bar in Japan, and 30 years later I can still remember that experience. One I definitely don’t want to repeat. This looks a lot like that did.

  • Tim Dunn

    Look up plasmalogens on Wikipedia, and you will find that they work against ROS (reactive oxygen species,) which are very destructive to human tissues, as well as many other substances. Many substances will do that, and it is widely believed that ROS are a cause of aging. Many, many supplements oppose ROS, such as NAC, alpha lipoic acid, EGCG,resveratrol, etc. In the diet, colorful fruit have the same function – blueberries, apples, tea, coffee, all neutralize ROS. They are described as anti-oxidants. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reactive_oxygen_species https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antioxidant