Scientists have discovered that a shortage of the amino acid taurine causes animals to age more quickly. However, researchers have also found that oral taurine supplements can delay the aging process and increase the healthy lifespan of animals. This discovery is significant because scientists have been searching for ways to increase health span, the length of time that humans remain healthy in old age, for the last 25 years.
An international team of researchers performed a study on worms, mice, monkeys, and humans. They found that taurine supplements delayed aging in worms, mice, and monkeys and increased the healthy lifespan of middle-aged mice by up to 12 percent. The researchers analyzed taurine concentrations in the blood at varying ages in monkeys and humans. Taurine levels were found to decrease with age in a variety of species, including humans, by an estimated 80 percent over the course of a typical human life.
When oral taurine supplements were given to middle-aged worms and mice, their median lifespans increased by 10-23 percent and 10-12 percent, respectively. Taurine supplementation improved strength, coordination, memory, and aging markers in mice. Mice who were missing the main transporter that takes the amino acid into the cells lived shorter lives as adults. When taurine was given to middle-aged rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) for six months, there were noticeable improvements in their bone density, blood sugar levels, and markers of liver and immune function.
The analysis also showed that people with obesity and diabetes had lower levels of taurine in their blood, while people who exercised had higher levels. This suggests that taurine may be responsible for some of the health benefits of exercise and anti-aging effects.
The researchers found that taurine affected all the established hallmarks of aging. However, causality remains to be tested. Although taurine is widely supplemented in baby formula and energy drinks without significant suggested risks, it is important to consider potential risks and interactions with other factors. Therefore, taurine supplementation with the aim of improving human health and longevity should be approached with caution.
Joseph McGaunn and Joseph Baur from the University of Pennsylvania, who were not involved in the study, wrote in a perspective article, “A singular focus on increasing dietary taurine risks driving poor nutritional choices, because plant-rich diets are associated with human health and longevity. Thus, like any intervention, taurine supplementation with the aim of improving human health and longevity should be approached with caution.”
Oral taurine supplements can delay aging and increase the healthy lifespan of animals. Although it is unclear whether taurine supplementation will become an anti-aging therapy, it is reasonable to test it at least. Taurine is found naturally in meat, fish, and dairy products, but not often in plants. Humans can synthesize taurine, though nutritional sources are often necessary during early life since newborns’ bodies are not skilled at producing it. There is a need for large, long-term human randomized control trials, and although no toxic effects are known to be associated with taurine, the doses used in the study have rarely been used in humans.