Taurine Slows Aging in Mice. Will it Ever Work for People?

A component frequently found in energy beverages and infant formula has been shown to enhance the health and longevity of mice. This ingredient also seems to prolong the life of worms and boosts the well-being of middle-aged monkeys, according to findings from an expansive global team of researchers.

This compound, known as taurine, is an amino acid naturally produced by our bodies and is also present in meats we consume. It remains uncertain if additional taurine decelerates human aging or is even beneficial, yet recent research does link reduced taurine levels with conditions like obesity and diabetes.

Aging remains a profound mystery in biology, remarks Toren Finkel, a biologist and cardiologist from the University of Pittsburgh, who wasn’t part of this research.

After 11 years of investigation, the focus shifted towards taurine largely because it was observed that its concentration diminishes with age in the bloodstreams of mice, monkeys, and humans.

Taurine stands out among amino acids as it doesn’t merge into proteins. Still, it’s believed to serve multiple roles in the human system, ranging from brain development and visual health to aiding digestion.

Vijay Yadav, a molecular physiologist from Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and his team discovered that an additional taurine intake expanded the average life expectancy of mice by 10-12%.

For instance, female mice without the added taurine had an average lifespan of approximately 29 months. This surged to nearly 33 months with added taurine.

A similar lifespan enhancement was observed in the short-lived worm, C. elegans, which experienced a rise from nearly 20 days to about 23 days under the highest taurine dosages examined. Additional taurine was also associated with health benefits in both mice and female monkeys.

Experimental groups of mice displayed improved bone resilience, enhanced muscle coordination, and better memory due to supplementary taurine.

Moreover, six mid-aged rhesus macaques, when provided with added taurine for half a year, appeared to be in better health, weighed less, had sturdier bones, and exhibited improved metabolic health when contrasted with five other macaques who didn’t receive the supplement.

For humans, the experimented taurine dosages would equate to roughly 3 to 6 grams daily, highlights Yadav. In comparison, a standard energy beverage offers 1 gram. Although taurine doesn’t seem to present apparent risks, comprehensive long-term human studies at these elevated dosages remain pending.

Yadav and his team also examined data from close to 12,000 individuals, noting that those suffering from obesity or diabetes typically had lower taurine concentrations in their blood.

However, these are mere correlations, and it’s undetermined if a taurine deficiency contributes to these conditions. In another test, intensive physical activity led to increased taurine levels in human blood.

John Tower, a molecular biologist and geneticist specializing in aging at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and not involved in the research, believes taurine shows potential as an intervention for longevity and health.

However, many uncertainties persist, such as taurine’s exact function in our systems and its efficacy across diverse species, including humans. Finkel remains cautious, suggesting that given the intricacies of aging, a single elixir of eternal youth is unlikely.