Taurine, a nutrient found in various foods and produced within the body, could hold the key to a longer and healthier life, according to a recent study conducted by Columbia University researchers and an international team of aging experts. Published in Science on June 8, the study reveals that taurine deficiency contributes to the aging process in animals and demonstrates that taurine supplementation can slow down aging in worms, mice, and monkeys. In fact, middle-aged mice that received taurine supplements experienced an extension of their healthy lifespan by up to 12%.
Over the past two decades, scientists have intensified their efforts to identify interventions that can improve health in old age. This study focused on molecules present in the bloodstream that are associated with aging. The researchers investigated whether these molecules actively drive the aging process or simply accompany it. Taurine emerged as a potential driver of aging due to its significant role in various age-related processes such as immune function, obesity, and nervous system functions.
The study began by examining taurine levels in the bloodstream of mice, monkeys, and humans. The results showed a substantial decrease in taurine abundance with age, with 60-year-old individuals having taurine levels approximately one-third of those found in 5-year-olds. Subsequently, the researchers conducted an experiment using approximately 250 14-month-old mice, which is equivalent to middle-aged humans. Half of the mice were administered taurine supplements daily, while the other half received a control solution. The findings revealed that taurine supplementation increased the average lifespan of female mice by 12% and male mice by 10%, corresponding to an additional three to four months of life, equivalent to around seven or eight human years.
To further understand the impact of taurine on health, the researchers enlisted the expertise of other aging researchers. Their investigations involved measuring various health parameters in mice that had been supplemented with taurine for one year. The results demonstrated that these animals exhibited improved health in almost every aspect compared to their untreated counterparts. Taurine supplementation suppressed age-related weight gain in female mice, increased energy expenditure, enhanced bone mass, improved muscle endurance and strength, reduced depression-like and anxious behaviors, lowered insulin resistance, and even promoted a more youthful-looking immune system.
Similar positive effects of taurine supplementation were observed in middle-aged rhesus monkeys, with benefits including weight control, improved glucose levels, enhanced bone density, and better immune system health.
Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid-like compound that plays crucial roles in various physiological processes within the body. It is commonly found in foods rich in protein, such as meat and fish, and is also produced endogenously in the body. Taurine is involved in multiple cellular functions and has been recognized for its importance in energy production, bile acid metabolism, osmoregulation, and modulation of neurotransmitter activity.
The researchers emphasized that while the findings from animal studies are promising, further research is needed to determine the potential health benefits and longevity effects of taurine in humans. Randomized clinical trials will be essential to provide more conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of taurine as an anti-aging intervention in humans.
As people continue to live longer, the pursuit of interventions that can extend healthspan becomes increasingly important. The study's findings suggest that taurine supplementation may hold promise as a strategy to promote healthy aging and potentially extend human lifespan. With its natural presence in the body and ability to be obtained through diet or supplements, taurine offers potential advantages as an anti-aging compound. While more research is needed, the study's results open up new possibilities for enhancing health and well-being in old age.