I was surprised to see this story abut the anti-aging effects of taurine picked up by the mainstream media. Many such stories – addressing obesity, aging, and other public health scourges – are passed over…
Taurine supplements may not only increase lifespan, but ‘healthspan’ –
the length of time we remain healthy into our old age..
Taurine is simply an amino acid that is not involved in producing proteins. According to Wikipedia, it’s primary roles include, “conjugation of bile acids, antioxidation, osmoregulation, membrane stabilization, and modulation of calcium signaling. It is essential for cardiovascular function, and development and function of skeletal muscle, the retina, and the central nervous system.”
It’s also found in many so-called energy drinks, including Red Bull. The ‘taur-‘ in taurine comes from the Latin Taurus – meaning Bull or Ox (photo, top of page). In this case, also implying ‘as strong as one’.
So, it’s important enough without any putative antiaging effects. But, now, a team, of researchers from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center say they’ve demonstrated that taurine supplements in middle and older age can extend not only calendar age, but promote healthier aging.
What they did
“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 study leader, Vijay Yadav. Taurine has been on his radar for a while, as a result of previous investigations. “Taurine first came into Yadav’s view during his previous research into osteoporosis that uncovered taurine’s role in building bone. Around the same time, other researchers were finding that taurine levels correlated with immune function, obesity, and nervous system functions.”
To create a baseline on which to judge taurine levels and their effects on different kinds of mammals, researchers measured at levels of taurine in the bloodstream of mice, monkeys, and humans, and found that taurine abundance decreases substantially with age. In people, taurine levels in 60-year-old individuals were only about one-third of those found in 5-year-olds.
What they found
According to an abstract of the study report: The researchers found that taurine suppressed age-associated weight gain in female mice (even in ‘menopausal’ mice), increased energy expenditure, increased bone mass, improved muscle endurance and strength, reduced depression-like and anxious behaviors, reduced insulin resistance, and promoted a younger-looking immune system, among other benefits.
“Not only did we find that the animals lived longer, we also found that they’re living healthier lives,” Yadav says.
In further experiments in which taurine supplements were given to mice and other animal subjects, lifespans were extended significantly.
“This study suggests that taurine could be an elixir of life within us that helps us live longer and healthier lives,” Yadav says.
Other substances are being considered as possible anti-aging drugs. Metformin, rapamycin, and NAD analogs are being considered for testing in human clinical trials.
“I think taurine should also be considered,” Yadav says. “It has some advantages: Taurine is naturally produced in our bodies, it can be obtained naturally in the diet, it has no known toxic effects, and it can be boosted by exercise.”
As I said previously, This is just one of many stories from the learned literature addressing aging, obesity and other serious health issues. Mainstream journalists – usually so hard to impress with important health or scientific news – have decended on this story like starving lions. I suspect it was Yadav’s perhaps overenthusiastic references to taurine as ‘an elixir of life’ that got their attention.
Nevertheless, after reading an abstract of the study report, I can see how taurine – with its multiple effects on many of the body’s systems – could make it extremely important in all our futures.
I agree that human clinical trials of taurine supplementation should be undertaken as expeditiously as scientific method and medical rules allow. But I would also like to know more about why taurine levels in our bodies decrease so dramatically as we age. If we could catch and tame that one, it would be a real advance in the war against aging.
Meanhile, I’ve discovered that taurine supplements are available from the so-called ‘health food’ stores. If you’re interested in trying them, ask your doctor first, then proceed under their guidance…
~ Maggie J.