If given a choice, most people wish they could have more years, as long as they can live them in good physical and mental health. That’s why tales of mystical fountains that restore youth have endured across cultures and folklore. While a true “fountain of youth” remains elusive, modern science has uncovered certain nutrients that may impact the aging process.
One of these is the amino acid Taurine. You may have seen Taurine listed as an ingredient in many energy drinks. In a recent animal study, published in July 2023, scientists discovered that when aging mice, rats, and monkeys were supplemented with Taurine, their lifespan and health span increased significantly.REF#3042
These findings suggest that maintaining optimal Taurine levels may contribute to healthy aging. They also raise questions. Does Taurine deficiency disrupt the amino acid’s anti-aging benefits, and could boosting Taurine intake buy us more time to enjoy life?
What is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid that is present in all mammals. It's considered a "conditionally essential" amino acid in humans because the body can produce it in small amounts but Taurine mustalso be obtained from food sources. These include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs. Animals, including humans, initially obtain taurine through their mother's milk. Taurine is one of the most abundant free amino acids in breast milk.
Taurine is found in high concentrations in most human cells.REF#3043 It is not incorporated into proteins like other amino acids. Instead, it has its own diverse roles in the body, with a wide range of cell-protecting properties. Research has found that cells that lack Taurine exhibit significant abnormalities.
Taurine deficiency is rare in healthy adults. However, certain people may have a higher risk of taurine deficiency including:
- Newborns and infants: Taurine is an essential nutrient for infants, but it is not produced in sufficient amounts by the body until around 6 months. Taurine deficiency is rare in healthy breastfed infants. However, it can occur in infants who are exclusively breastfed and have mothers with low Taurine levels or in infants who have certain medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or liver disease.
- Pregnant and lactating women: Taurine levels tend to be lower in pregnant and lactating women. This is because Taurine is transported across the placenta and into breast milk.
- People with certain medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, and liver and kidney disease can interfere with Taurine absorption or production.
- People who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet: Since Taurine is found primarily in animal products, vegans and vegetarians may be at risk of Taurine deficiency if they do not consume other foods that contain Taurine, such as fortified plant-based foods or Taurine supplements.
If you are concerned about your taurine levels, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine whether you need to supplement with Taurine and how much to take.
Taurine and Health
As a multifunctional amino acid with its own unique properties and functions in the body, Taurine is considered critical for overall health. Maintaining optimal Taurine levels has been shown to avert deficiency-related health issues.
Research has shown that it is involved with the following functionsREF#3043:
- Regulating blood pressure and heart function: In Japan, it is approved as a treatment for congestive heart failure.
- Supporting brain health and cognitive function: Taurine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.
- Protecting against cellular damage: Taurine neutralizes free radicals and reduces oxidative stress that damages cells.
- Boosting the immune system: Taurine enhances white blood cell activity.
- Forming bile salts to support fat digestion: Taurine is crucial for conjugating bile acids, which help absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
- Skeletal muscle functioning: Taurine helps support muscular function by regulating calcium and other mechanisms that impact cellular processes.REF#3044
- Supporting vision: High levels of Taurine in the retina support healthy photoreceptor cells.
Scientists do not fully understand how Taurine improves health and extends lifespan. Some human studies have shown that people with higher levels of taurine in their blood tend to live longer and have a lower risk of age-related diseases. However, while the results so far are promising, the research is still in its early stages.
Taurine and Aging
Research suggests that Taurine levels decline steadily with age and that this decline may contribute to age-related diseases and mortality. This age-related Taurine depletion likely results from a combination of factors:
- Reduced Taurine production: The body's ability to produce Taurine declines with age due in part to the reduced function of the enzymes involved in Taurine production.
- Increased Taurine excretion: Taurine is excreted from the body in the urine and feces. The rate of Taurine excretion increases with age. This is thought to be due to a decline in kidney function and changes in the gut microbiome.
- Changes in cellular Taurine transport: The ability of cells to transport taurine declines with age. This means that less Taurine can enter cells, which can lead to Taurine deficiency.
Regardless of the mechanisms, it is clear that maintaining youthful Taurine levels becomes more difficult with age. Restoring Taurine status through supplementation may increase lifespan and improve multiple aspects of health.
What the Research ShowsREF#3042
Recent animal research indicates Taurine may have significant anti-aging effects by influencing several biological mechanisms associated with aging. The study, published in the journal Science in 2023, found that mice that received Taurine supplements lived significantly longer than mice that did not receive it.REF#3042
Some of the most interesting research results from the study include:
- Taurine supplementation reduced cellular senescence, which is when cells lose function as they age. Taurine may help cells continue to divide and maintain their specialized roles longer.
- Taurine seems to protect telomeres, the caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten each time a cell divides. Shorter telomeres are linked to aging. By preserving telomere length, Taurine may promote cellular vitality.
- Taurine was shown to reduce mitochondrial dysfunction in aging mice. Mitochondria are the energy generators in cells, so boosting mitochondrial function could enhance cell and tissue performance.
- Taurine seems to combat aging by reducing DNA damage. Oxidative stress and other factors can damage DNA over time. The researchers found Taurine decreased DNA damage in mice, which may help maintain the integrity of genetic information.
- Taurine supplementation decreased chronic low-grade inflammation in aging mice. Inflammation increases with age and contributes to many age-related diseases. Taurine may help suppress this.
More studies are needed to fill the gaps between animal and human research, but these intriguing findings indicate the potential for Taurine supplementation through diet or supplements to promote longevity.
Taurine Safety and Precautions
Taurine is considered a safe and well-tolerated supplement with no known toxic effects.REF#3045 A risk assessment study has indicated that the highest safe level of Taurine intake from food or supplement is 3 grams per day, based on toxicological indications from a review of all related human clinical trials. The European Food Safety Authority has suggested that up to 6 grams per day is safe.REF#3046 However, no studies have confirmed what dose of Taurine might cause adverse effects.
There are a few known potential side effects from Taurine supplementation:
- Taurine may interact with certain medications, such as blood pressure medications and diuretics.
- Taurine may lower blood sugar levels.
- Taurine may increase anxiety and nervousness in some people.
- Taurine may cause diarrhea and other digestive problems in some people.
Many energy drinks have low doses of Taurine as an ingredient. While the level of Taurine in these drinks may not cause any problems, many other ingredients in these drinks, such as caffeine and sugar, could.
Overall, Taurine is a safe supplement for most people. However, human research is needed to confirm the potential health benefits and life-extending effects of Taurine in humans.
Since healthy humans rarely have Taurine deficiency, it is still too early to determine whether it should be taken as a supplement. Eating foods rich in Taurine, exercising, reducing stress, and getting sufficient sleep are still the most effective ways to age in good health.
People considering taking Taurine supplements or drinking energy drinks or other foods with Taurine should talk to their doctor first, especially if they have any underlying health conditions.
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