The Fountain of Youth may be more like a “squirt”.
Chinese scientists have found that sea squirt – a commonly eaten shellfish throughout East Asia – could potentially help reverse the effects of aging in those who eat it.
“A pill to keep you young might not be such an unrealistic proposition after all – as long as it contains sea squirts,” Professor Lei Fu, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. Xi’an Jiaotong- Statement from the University of Liverpool.
For the uninitiated, the aptly named sea squirt, with its penchant for drawing water from its orifices, is a marine invertebrate eaten raw in Japan and South Korea. Also known as the sea pineapple, the ocean dweller is covered in a rubbery red shell that is removed when served, so diners can feast on its succulent orange interiors.
The creature also contains plasmalogens – the anti-aging ingredient in question. The substance, a type of lipid, is also found in our brains and decreases with age. This can give rise to a variety of neurodegenerative diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease.
The scientists wanted to know if this seafood-derived supplement — specifically, a type called ethanolamine plasmalogens — could help boost cognitive health. So they gave squirts to a group of older mice and then tested them to improve their memory and learning abilities.
Among the experiments, rodents were made to wade through a Morris water maze, a water maze with a single resting platform. Mice don’t particularly like water, so their natural tendency is to try to memorize the location of the platform, until they can swim straight to safety by hitting the drink. But due to lagging mental acuity, older mice generally take longer to find the platform with the same amount of training.
However, older rodents that had consumed plasmalogens fared just as well as younger mice when it came to completing the task.
A subsequent examination of the mouse brains revealed that the plasmalogen-loaded mice had more and better synapses – the connections between neurons – than old rodents that were not fed squirt supplements.
“We found that plasmalogens dramatically increase the number of molecules that contribute to the growth and development of neurons and synapses in the brain,” Fu said. “This suggests that plasmalogens may promote neuroregeneration.”
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, is the first to show the impact of these chemicals on the aging brain. Clock rewind research has also included support from scientists at Stanford University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and the University of China Academy of Sciences.
“Our research suggests that plasmalogens may not only halt cognitive decline, but also reverse cognitive impairment in the aging brain,” Fu said.
In turn, ethanolamine plasmalogens — higher proportions of which are found in some shellfish, as opposed to other meats — may help ward off brain-losing diseases.
If an aging brain wasn’t reason enough, this marine panacea is a prized aphrodisiac in Chile – dubbed the “poor man’s Viagra” – which some have attributed to the fact that the hermaphrodite creature can literally go fuck itself.
It may not be a coincidence that the sex-enhancing drug was recently found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 69%.