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Taurine—the elixir of life that could help us live longer

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Taurine, an amino acid in meat, fish and eggs, could help us live for up to eight years longer.

Our taurine levels naturally drop as we age—but boosting them through diet or supplements could increase our lifespan by around 10 percent, which could add seven to eight years to our life.

Scientists from Columbia University believe taurine could be the secret ‘elixir of life’—although their research has so far been restricted to animal studies, and they don’t know if similar life extensions would be seen in people.

In their tests on mice, the researchers discovered that a daily taurine supplement increased longevity by around 10 percent in male mice and by 12 percent in the females.  The mice were 14 months old, the equivalent of 45 years in people, by which time their taurine levels were 80 percent lower than in young mice.

“Taurine-supplemented mice were healthier and appeared younger”, said Vijay Yadav, one of the researchers.  The taurine mice were more energetic, had better bone density, improved memory, and had a younger-looking immune system.

In tests on other laboratory animals, the researchers found taurine increased lifespan by as much as 23 percent in worms, and 15-year-old rhesus monkeys saw improvements in body weight, bone health, blood-sugar levels and immune system functioning after being given taurine supplements for six months.

“I thought this is almost too good to be true.  Taurine somehow hits the engine room of ageing,” said Henning Wackerhage, another researcher.

Studies on humans are in their early stages, but preliminary results from 12,000 people given taurine supplements found they were in better health generally.  Even so, it doesn’t prove that similar improvements in longevity would be seen in humans, the researchers caution.  They also say there could be evolutionary reasons for our taurine levels to fall as we get older.

Extrapolating from the mice studies, we would need to consume between 3 to 6 g of taurine a day to start seeing improvements to our longevity, and that’s hard to get only from our diet, and so taking taurine supplements would be essential.  Only meat, fish and eggs contain taurine, and it’s not found in plant foods.

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References
Science, 2023; 380: doi: 10.1126/science.abn.9257
Article Topics: longevity, Taurine
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