According to a study recently published in Science, taurine deficiency is a driver of aging. Findings showed that taurine supplements slowed down the aging process in worms, mice, and monkeys and extended the healthy lifespans of middle-aged mice by up to 12%.
Led by Columbia University an international team of researchers discovered that this amino acid appears to have a strong link to the aging process. The team examined taurine levels within the bloodstreams of mice, monkeys, and humans and found that its levels significantly decrease with age, for example, levels in 60-year-old humans were a third of what would be found in 5-year-old children.
“For the last 25 years, scientists have been trying to find factors that not only let us live longer, but also increase healthspan, the time we remain healthy in our old age,” says the study’s leader, Vijay Yadav, Ph.D., an assistant professor of genetics & development at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “This study suggests that taurine could be an elixir of life within us that helps us live longer and healthier lives,” Yadav adds.
In previous research Yadav explored taurine with osteoporosis, finding that it played a role in bone construction. Other research revealed associations with immune function, obesity, and the nervous system.
“We realized that if taurine is regulating all these processes that decline with age, maybe taurine levels in the bloodstream affect overall health and lifespan,” says Yadav. “That’s when we started to ask if taurine deficiency is a driver of the aging process, and we set up a large experiment with mice,” explains Yadav.
For this study, approximately 250 14-year-old mice ( equivalent to a 45-year-old human) were either given taurine or a control placebo solution every day. At the end of the study, the team found that the taurine group an experienced increased average lifespan of 12% in female mice and 10% in male mice. This is an additional 3-4 months of life for mice which translates to roughly 7-8 years for humans.
Widening their scope, Yadav had other aging experts measure different health parameters in mice, findings showed that at the age of 2 ( the equivalent of 60 human years) the taurine group that received supplements for a year was significantly healthier across all parameters than the untreated control group. For example, they observed that age-associated weight gain was suppressed in the female mice, even during menopause, increased energy expenditure and bone mass, improved bone strength and endurance, and the amino acid helped to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Next, the team investigated how taurine would affect different species, finding the same results in middle-aged rhesus monkeys that received taurine supplements for 6 months. In these experiments the amino acid successfully prevented weight gain, lowered fasting blood glucose levels, decreased markers of liver damage, as well as increased bone density in the spine and legs, as well as improved immune system health.
Senescence-wise taurine helped to make improvements down to the cellular level by lowering the number of old zombie cells that don’t die and wreak havoc on the other cells and tissues around them, decreasing DNA damage, and improving the ability of cells to sense nutrients.
The team examined the relationship between taurine levels and 50 health parameters in 12,000 adults aged 60+, findings revealed that overall the healthier participants had higher levels of taurine, having fewer cases of obesity, hypertension, inflammation, and diabetes.
In another experiment, the team investigated how taurine levels would respond to exercise, measuring levels in male athletes and sedentary people before and after finishing a cycling workout. Findings showed that there was a significant increase in taurine levels among both groups.
“No matter the individual, all had increased taurine levels after exercise, which suggests that some of the health benefits of exercise may come from an increase in taurine,” Yadav says.
Although these results are promising no firm conclusions can be made regarding taurine supplements improving the health and longevity in people, even though these experiments indicated positive potential.
“These are associations, which do not establish causation,” Yadav says, “but the results are consistent with the possibility that taurine deficiency contributes to human aging.”
The only way to make certain conclusions is to conduct randomized clinical trials. Currently, there are trials being planned for taurine and obesity, but there are none as of yet looking at any other health parameters.
Yadav is certain that taurine could be pivotal for anti-aging benefits to human health and longevity. “Taurine abundance goes down with age, so restoring taurine to a youthful level in old age may be a promising anti-aging strategy.”