Vol.2, No.12, 1390-1396 (2010) Health
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Relationship between food polyamines and gross
domestic product in association with longevity in Asian
Phan Nguyen Thanh Binh1,2, Kuniyasu Soda3*, Chizuko Maruyama2, Masanobu Kawakami4
1Department of Community Nutrition, HCMC Nutrition Center, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam;
2Department of Food and Nutrition, Japan Women’s University, Tokyo, Japan;
3Department of Cardiovascular Research Institute, Saitama Medical Center, Jichi Medical University, Saitama, Japan;
*Corresponding Author: soda@jichi.ac.jp;
4Department of Internal Medicine, Saitama Medical Center, Jichi Medical University, Saitama, Japan.
Received 15 October 2010; revised 1 November 2010; accepted 5 November 2010
The relationship between gross domestic pro-
duct (GDP) and dietary profile, with a focus on
polyamine intake, was investigated in 35 Asian
countries. Data on food supply, GDP, and health
condition were collected from databases of the
United Nations, the International Monetary Fund,
and the World Health Organization, respectively.
The amount of polyamine intake from food was
estimated using polyamine concentrations listed
in published sources. The amounts of putrescine,
spermidine, spermine, and total polyamines in
1000 kcal of food in Asian countries were 39.07
± 17.98, 33.74 ± 14.35, 14.05 ± 6.60 and 86.85 ±
33.96 μmol/1000 kcal, respectively. Putrescine,
spermidine, and spermine constituted 44, 39,
and 17% of total polyamine, respectively. Vege-
tables contributed the largest amount of both
putrescine and spermidine and the second larg-
est amount of spermine (45.5%, 62.2% and 27.2%
of total putrescine, spermidine, and spermine,
respectively). Meat was the richest source of
spermine and contributed the greatest amount
(50%) of this polyamine. We showed a signifi-
cant positive association between GDP and the
amount of polyamine per 1000 kcal of food. Li-
fespan was associated with both GDP and the
amount of polyamine per energy quotient of
food. As several basic research studies have
shown that polyamines help prolong longevity,
it follows that polyamines may have a role in
determining the lifespan of humans.
Keywords: Polyamine; GDP; Longevity;
Cardiovascular Diseases; Food
The polyamines putrescine, spermidine, and spermine,
not only play an essential role in the proliferation and
differentiation of mammalian cells but also have impor-
tant physiological roles on cellular function. In addition,
very recent studies have shown that exogenous polya-
mine suppresses the progression of age-associated pa-
thologies and increases the life span of cells and several
living organisms including mice [1,2]. On the other hand,
there is evidence that increased polyamine concentra-
tions are associated with several deteriorations in health
Food is one of the important sources of body polya-
mines which are absorbed by the intestinal lumen and
then distributed to all organs and tissues [7]. In fact, dif-
ferences in polyamine intake have been shown to influ-
ence blood polyamine concentration in both mice and
humans [8]. As most foods originate from plants or ani-
mals, almost all foods contain polyamines, but in widely
varying concentrations [9-12]. It is therefore very im-
portant to delineate the factors that may influence po-
lyamine intake.
Socioeconomic status is closely associated with fa-
vorable health status and prolonged lifespan [13-18].
Gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the representa-
tive indicators of socioeconomic status of countries, and
we have shown using an open database that individuals
living in European and Western countries with a high
GDP prefer foods containing abundant polyamines
compared to individuals living in countries with a lower
GDP [19]. This study aimed to examine the relationship
between the amount of food polyamine and GDP in
Asian countries. In addition, as polyamines have been
shown to have several roles on health status in experi-
mental models, we also examined the relationship be-
tween health status and polyamine intake in association
P. N. T. Binh et al. / Health 2 (2010) 1390-1396
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
with GDP.
2.1. Database
Data on food supply in 2002 were obtained from the
online database of the Statistics Division of the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOS-
TAT). The target populations were 35 Asian countries
that included Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambo-
dia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji,
India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Jordan,
Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic
Republic, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar,
Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa,
Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab
Republic, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Arab Emirates,
Vanuatu, Viet Nam, and Yemen. The concentrations of
spermine, spermidine, and putrescine in foods were ob-
tained from published reports of concentrations meas-
ured in Japanese foods [9,10]. When these reports did
not show the polyamine content of certain foods, we
used additional data obtained from European studies
[11,12] (Table 1). All the food items were categorized
Table 1. Polyamine contents in Asian foods (nmol/g or
Food items Putrescine Spermidine Spermine
Barley 17 16 20
Maize 576 144 8
Millet 19 63 48
Oats 41 133 148
Rice (milled
equivalent) 8 7.5 1.5
Rye 41 133 148
Sorghum 14 12 0
Wheat 19 29.5 0.5
Other cereals 31.7 90 23.7
Cassava 0 0 0
Cloves 0 0 0
Onions 29.5 86.5 4.5
Potatoes 89 68 15.5
Pulses1 26 144 74
Roots & tuber
dry equiv2 118 109.3 19.8
Sweet pota-
toes 29 25.2 16.5
Tomatoes 146.3 22.5 2.5
Vegetables3 113.5 170.2 17.4
Yams 73 89.5 2
Aquatic plants118 109.3 19.8
Apples 10 14 0.5
Bananas 160 50 1.5
Grapefruit 436 19.5 1.5
Grapes 106 87 0
Lemons, limes390.5 19 4.5
mandarins 432 15.5 0
Pineapples 46 30 0
Citrus, other4 460.2 26.5 0
Fruits, other5 74.5 55.4 4
Beans and
Beans6 147 644.8 299.7
Groundnuts7 18 110 88
Peas8 367 341 32
Sesame seed 29 126 22
Soybean 297 909 235.5
seed 34 383 89
Tree nuts9 104.5 108.9 111.6
Cephalopods10 3.3 9.3 93.3
Crustaceans11 26.5 0 0
Fish12 27.2 37.1 53.1
Fish, oil 0 0 0
Molluscs13 19.7 143.5 383.5
Aquatic ani-
mals and
26.3 55.1 87.2
Bovine meat 18.5 17.5 149
Mutton & goat
meat 8.2 39.7 131.3
Pig meat 4.5 9.5 165
Poultry meat15 13.3 48.5 3.5
Meat, other 11.5 26.7 194.2
Offal, edible16 63.8 188 825.8
Dairy prod-
Butter, ghee,
whey & milk 0 0 0
Cheese 0 15 3.5
Cream 0.3 0 0
P. N. T. Binh et al. / Health 2 (2010) 1390-1396
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Eggs 6.5 2.5 2.5
Vegetable oil and animal fat
Vegetable oil 0 0 0
Animal fat 0 0 0
Sugar &
Sugar &
Sweeteners 3 0 0
Beverages and
Beer 153.3 1 0
Wine 49 1.5 0
Tea leaf 49.5 96.3 72.8
Coffee 0 0 0
Other beve-
rages17 0 0 0
Pepper 621 80 45
Pimento &
Spices 0 0 0
† The average content of spermine, spermidine, and putres-
cine in each food item expressed as nmol/g or nmol/mL was
calculated using data for foods available in Japan reported
by K. Nishimura, et al., (Decrease in polyamines with aging
and their ingestion from food and drink. J Biochem 2006;
139: 81-90) and N. Nishibori, et al., (Amounts of
poly-amines in foods in Japan and intake by Japanese. Food
Chem 2007; 100: 433-872). 1Field pies; 2Burdock root and
lotus root; 3Asparagus, bean sprouts, beet, beetroot, brocco-
li, Brussel sprouts, butterbur, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower,
celery, Chinese cabbage, green cabbage, red cabbage, cher-
vil, chicory, cucumber, eggplant, escarole, green leek, leek,
lettuce, mushrooms, parsley, pumpkin, spinach, radish, sal-
sify, sorrel, watercress; 4Oranges, mandarins, and tangerines;
5Pear, strawberry, persimmon, fig, pomegranate, peach,
blueberry, melon, watermelon, cherry, prune, durian, pa-
paya, dragon fruit, kiwifruit, mango, and avocado; 6Adzuki
bean, cow pea, and soybean; 7Peanut; 8Green peas;
9Almond, cashew, and pistachio nuts; 10Squid and octopus;
11Shrimp and crab; 12Horse mackerel, Japanese needlefish,
mackerel, salmon, sardine, tuna, conger, angler, sweetfish,
alfonsino, saury, shark, scabbard fish, yellowtail, swordfish,
bonito, codfish, eel, and whitefish; 13Oyster, white scallop,
coral scallop, and clam; 14Fish and shellfish; 15Chicken and
duck; 16Beef liver, beef intestine, pork liver, chicken liver,
chicken gizzard, and chicken heart; 17Soft drink and cocoa.
the following 12 groups for further analysies; including
1) Cereals, 2) Vegetables and starchy roots, 3) Fruits, 4)
Beans, 5) Seafoods, 6) Meat, 7) Dairy products, 8) Eggs,
9) Vegetable oil and animal fat, 11) Sugar and sweeten-
ers, and 12) Beverages and stimulants. As the data on
food supply from the WHO does not necessarily indicate
the absolute amount consumed by each nation, and in
order to ascertain the features of dietary patterns, we
used a relative measure of the amount of various foods,
such as food consumption per energy quotient. GDP per
capita in 2002 was obtained from the International Mon-
etary Fund (IMF), and age-standardized mortality rates
(per 100,000 population) due to cardiovascular diseases
(CVD) and cancer in 2002 and life expectancy at birth in
2006 were derived from the World Health Organization
Statistical Information System (WHOSIS).
2.2. Statistics
The data were analyzed using the statistical package SPSS
for Windows (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Pearson’s
correlation coefficients were calculated to examine the
association between the relative amount of polyamine in
foods, GDP per capita, and life expectancy. A P-value <
0.05 was considered statistically significant.
3.1. Polyamine Contents in Asian Foods
The average content of the three polyamines, putrescine,
spermidine, and spermine in each food item is shown in
Table 1. Polyamine content ranged widely among the
foods, with several foods having increased polyamine
concentrations. The highest putrescine levels were found
in maize, citrus fruits, grapefruit, peas, soybeans, and
other beans. Spermidine concentrations were high in
soybeans, other beans, and vegetables, while spermine
concentrations were high in edible offal, molluscs, meats,
soybeans, and other beans. Generally, foods of plant ori-
gin tended to have higher contents of spermidine com-
pared to spermine, whereas foods of animal origin had
the opposite composition. The levels of all polyamines
were very low or undetectable in vegetable oil, animal fat,
sugar and sweeteners, eggs, and dairy products including
butter, cream, whey, cow milk and infant milk formulas.
3.2. Daily Amounts per capita and Amounts
per 1000 kcal of Polyamines
Table 2 shows the daily amounts per capita and Table 3
shows the daily amounts per 1000 kcal of the three po-
lyamines in Asian countries. The average estimated daily
intake of putrescine, spermidine, spermine, and total
polyamines in Asian countries were 106 μmol, 91 μmol,
38 μmol and 235 μmol, respectively. Putrescine, spermi-
dine, and spermine accounted for 44%, 39%, and 17% of
total polyamine intake, respectively. The amounts of
putrescine, spermidine, spermine, and the sum of the
three polyamines per 1000 kcal energy were 39, 34, 14,
and 87 μmol/day.
3.3. Sources of Polyamines
The proportions of the three polyamines provided by
each food group are shown in Figure 1. Overall, vegeta-
bles provided the largest amount of putrescine and sper-
P. N. T. Binh et al. / Health 2 (2010) 1390-1396
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Table 2. The daily amounts of polyamines in each food group.
c Amount Putrescine Spermidine Spermine
(g/day) (µmol/day) (µmol/day) (µmol/day)
Cereals 417.4 ± 101.2 26.04 ± 35.19 12.28 ± 8.63 0.92 ± 1.17
Vegetables and roots 497.6 ± 290.0 48.40 ± 30.81 59.70 ± 35.20 8.68 ± 4.90
Fruits 172.0 ± 116.3 23.85 ± 19.19 6.72 ± 5.06 0.32 ± 0.25
Beans 28.6 ± 30.9 2.24 ± 2.87 6.03 ± 9.24 2.33 ± 3.14
Seafoods 75.4 ± 97.4 1.86 ± 2.60 2.80 ± 3.65 4.64 ± 5.80
Meat 89.7 ± 67.5 1.30 ± 1.09 3.64 ± 3.34 21.34 ± 16.73
Dairy products 138.8 ± 136.5 0 0.04 ± 0.09 0.01 ± 0.02
Eggs 14.2 ± 13.8 0.09 ± 0.09 0.04 ± 0.03 0.01 ± 0.01
Vegetable oil 21.7 ± 14.3 0 0 0
Animal fat 5.1 ± 6.5 0 0 0
Sugar and sweeteners 63.2 ± 36.1 0.19 ± 0.11 0 0
Beverages and stimulants 34.6 ± 42.1 1.87 ± 2.84 0.11 ± 0.17 0.04 ± 0.01
Total 1558.2 ± 480.9 105.85 ± 52.48 91.36 ± 41.61 38.29 ± 19.61
Per-capita daily availability of amount of food and the amount of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine from each food group are expressed as the
mean ± standard deviation (SD). Values < 0.001 are expressed as 0.
Table 3. The daily amounts per 1000 kcal of polyamines in each food group.
Food groups Amount Putrescine Spermidine Spermine
(g/1000kcal) (µmol/1000kcal) (µmol/1000kcal) (µmol/1000kcal)
Cereals 158.7 ± 41.4 9.99 ± 13.26 4.64 ± 3.25 0.35 ± 0.42
Vegetables and roots 183.3 ± 104.3 17.68 ± 10.49 21.89 ± 12.01 3.22 ± 1.82
Fruits 62.7 ± 38.2 8.59 ± 6.24 2.46 ± 1.73 0.12 ± 0.09
Beans 10.2 ± 10.4 0.84 ± 1.17 2.32 ± 3.93 0.89 ±1.35
Seafoods 28.2 ± 36.8 0.70 ± 0.98 1.04 ± 1.37 1.72 ± 2.14
Meat 32.7 ± 24.9 0.47 ± 0.42 1.32 ± 1.26 7.74 ± 6.07
Dairy products 50.4 ± 47.7 0.0 ± 0.0 0.01 ± 0.03 0.003 ± 0.007
Eggs 5.1 ± 4.8 0.03 ± 0.03 0.01 ± 0.01 0.003 ± 0.002
Vegetable oil 7.9 ± 4.7 0 0 0
Animal fat 1.8 ± 2.3 0 0 0
Sugar and sweeteners 23.2 ± 12.5 0.07 ± 0.04 0 0
Beverages and stimulants 12.6 ± 14.6 0.69 ± 1.01 0.04 ± 0.06 0.01 ± 0.03
Total 576.8 ± 128.7 39.07 ± 17.98 33.74 ± 14.35 14.05 ± 6.60
Per-capita availability of the amount of food and the amount of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine per person are listed by food category.
The daily amounts per 1000 kcal are expressed as the mean ± SD. Values < 0.001 are expressed as 0
Figure 1. The contribution of each food group to the amount of putrescine (A), spermidine (B) and spermine (C).
P. N. T. Binh et al. / Health 2 (2010) 1390-1396
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midine, and also provided the second largest amount of
spermine (45.5% of putrescine, 62.2% of spermidine,
and 27.2% of spermine). Other important sources of
putrescine were cereals and fruits, which provided
24.0% and 22.3% of total putrescine, respectively. Cere-
als, fruits, and beans supplied 15.5%, 7.7%, and 6.6% of
total spermidine, respectively. Animal meats were the
biggest source of spermine, and provided 50% of total
3.4. Associations between the Amounts of
Putrescine, Spermidine, and Spermine
per Total Energy and GDP per capita
The GDPs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
and Timor-Leste could not be obtained. These two coun-
tries were therefore excluded from the analyses which
subsequently included 33 countries. The GDP data were
transformed to natural logarithms to approximate a nor-
mal distribution. Pearson’s correlation coefficients were
calculated to investigate the relationship between po-
lyamine amount per food energy (1000 kcal) and GDP.
As shown in Table 4, GDP per capita correlated posi-
tively with all three polyamines, with different levels of
correlation being observed. Although the correlation
coefficients between GDP and spermidine and putresine
per energy quotient were < 0.4 with p values < 0.05,
spermine per energy quotient showed a strong positive
correlation with GDP.
3.5. Correlation among the Amount of
Polyamine, GDP, and Health Status
GDP was associated positively with life expectancy (r =
0.890, p < 0.001) and negatively with mortality due to
cardiovascular diseases (r = –0.640, p < 0.001). Life
expectancy was associated negatively with CVD mortal-
ity (r = –0.674, p < 0.001). Although no significance
associations were found, the correlation coefficients be-
tween CVD mortality and spermine/energy, spermidine/
energy, putrescine/energy, spermine plus spermidine/
energy, and total amount of all three polyamines/energy
all had negative values (r = –0.276, –0.057, –0.035,
–0.154, and –0.103, respectively). No significant associ-
ation was found between life expectancy and cancer
mortality. As shown in Table 4, GDP and life expectancy
were associated positively with the total amount of food
polyamine per energy, with various levels of correlation
being observed.
Reference to our previous report on European foods [19]
showed that although there were many similarities in the
Table 4. Correlation between polyamine/energy and GDP and
life expectancy.
GDP Life expectancies
r P r P
Putrescine / energy 0.366 0.036 0.232 0.181
Spermidine / energy0.386 0.026 0.308 0.072
Sermine / energy 0.607 <0.001 0.585 < 0.001
Spermine plus
spermidine / energy0.532 0.001 0.453 0.006
Polyamine / energy 0.480 0.004 0.367 0.030
The correlation between each polyamine / energy and GDP (natural
logarithm) was examined in 33 countries, as the GDP of the Demo-
cratic People's Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste could not be
obtained. r indicates the correlation coefficient of the linear regres-
sion between polyamine/energy and GDP or life expectancy.
proportions of supplied foods, there were striking dif-
ferences in the higher amounts of dairy products and
animal-derived products consumed in European coun-
tries, whereas consumption of cereals was higher in
Asian countries. Similarly, polyamine concentrations in
Japanese foods [9,10] were similar to those in European
foods [11,12], whereas in some foods, especially cheese,
the concentrations were markedly different. These va-
ria-tions in polyamine content could be explained by the
effects of food processing and storage changes, and one
of the weaknesses of the present study was the inability
to comprehend these changes. However, the estimated
daily amount of food polyamines in Asian countries was
similar to those contained in a previous report on Japa-
nese foods [9] in which the daily amount of supplied
putrescine, spermidine, and spermine per person were
113, 82, and 39 μmol, respectively. In that study, putres-
cine, spermidine, and spermine accounted for 45%, 37%
and 18% of total daily polyamine supply in Japanese
diets, respectively. The daily amount of polyamine
availability from foods in Asian countries was consider-
ably lower than that reported in European countries, es-
pecially countries with a higher GDP (350-500 μmol/
day/person) [20,21]. However, the proportions of each of
the three polyamines relative to total polyamines were
similar to those in European countries [20,21]. The low-
er amount of total polyamine availability appeared to be
due to the lower amount of total food supply in Asian
countries, as the amounts of spermine and spermidine
per food energy in Asian countries were higher than
those in European countries, while the sum of the total
amount of the three polyamines per energy was similar
to European and Western countries with a lower GDP
The results of the present study using databases for
Asian countries were relatively similar to those reported
in earlier studies in European and Western countries in
which socio-economic status showed a close positive
association with longevity and a close negative associa-
P. N. T. Binh et al. / Health 2 (2010) 1390-1396
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
tion with CVD mortality [13-18]. The results of the
present study also indicated that reducing the incidence
of CVD is very important for improving health status
and prolonging lifespan, even in Asian countries. Studies
using personal databases have shown decreases in CVD
incidence and increases in life span are often associated
with socioeconomic status [13-18]. Although the factors
affecting health condition according to socioeconomic
status are not fully understood, the present study showed
that the amount of polyamine in foods was associated
closely with GDP per capita. A very interesting finding
in our study was that the amount of food polyamine per
energy quotient was associated not only positively with
GDP but also negatively with CVD incidence. As the
current study was an ecological investigation, it would
therefore be expected there were potential confounding
factors in these associations. However, recent basic re-
search studies have shown that increased polyamine in-
take prolongs the longevity of some small organisms and
rodents [1,2], and therefore increased polyamine intake
may theoretically help maintain vascular health by in-
creasing the amount of arginine available for nitric oxide
(NO) synthesis [22-25]. These findings and those of the
present study suggest a possible role of food polyamines
on human health.
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