Taurine prolongs life and promotes health, researchers say. Mice, like humans, are healthier when they have more of it in their blood.
Taurine levels decline with age in several animal species, including humans. Experiments on middle-aged animals have shown that raising taurine levels to youthful levels prolongs life by more than 10 percent and improves physical and mental health. The researchers say taurine could be an “elixir of life,” – but boosting taurine levels in humans has not yet been tested. The Columbia University team in New York advises against buying taurine pills or taurine-enriched energy drinks to live longer. However, animal studies are the latest development in the search for ways to slow aging.
The study first analyzed molecules in the blood of different animal species to examine the differences between young and old. “One of the most depressed [molecules] was taurine,” researcher Dr. Vijay Yadav said. In the elderly, taurine levels were 80 percent lower than in the young. Taurine is virtually absent from plants. So the nutrient either comes from animal protein (meat, fish, eggs, milk) in the diet or is produced by the body itself. For the past 11 years, the research team has been trying to explore its role in aging.
A daily dose was administered to 14-month-old mice, roughly equivalent to 45 years of age in humans. Published results showed that male mice lived 10 percent longer and females 12 percent, and both appeared to be in better health. “No matter what we checked, the taurine-fed mice were healthier and appeared younger,” Dr. Yadav said. “They were leaner, had higher energy expenditure, higher bone density, better memory and a younger-looking immune system.” Worms were also found to have a 10 to 23 percent increase in lifespan. Then, 15-year-old rhesus monkeys were given a six-month course of taurine. While too short to detect a difference in longevity, the researchers also noted improvements in body weight, bones, blood sugar levels and immune system.
But many of the big questions remain unanswered: Would the same results be possible in humans? Why do taurine levels drop in the first place if it’s so good for health? How does it slow the aging process? Are there any dangers to taking taurine?
The researchers analyzed 12,000 people and found that those who had more taurine in their blood were generally healthier. The researchers said that if the data from mice were extrapolated to humans, it would equate to seven to eight additional years of life. But only clinical trials – in which some people receive the nutrient and others a placebo – will show whether there is a benefit. Differences in human biology could prevent taurine from working, or there could be an evolutionary reason why taurine levels decline with age.
The scientific report suggests that taurine plays a role in reducing cell division, a hallmark of aging. The nutrient also appears to keep mitochondria – the power plants in the body’s cells – functioning correctly. But how it does, all this is still unexplored.
Taurine is present in our diets, but eating the amounts used in the experiments would be difficult. The equivalent dose from the animal experiments, transferred to humans, would be 3 to 6 grams daily. Nevertheless, those who want to become immortal should keep their meat consumption in check. A maximum of 300 to 450 grams of low-fat meat and one to two weekly fish portions are recommended.
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