A deficiency of taurine — a nutrient produced in the body and found in many foods — is a driver of aging in animals, according to a new study led by Columbia researchers and involving dozens of aging researchers around the world.
The same study also found that taurine supplements can slow down the aging process in worms, mice, and monkeys and can even extend the healthy lifespans of middle-aged mice by up to 12%.
The study was published June 8 in Science.
“This study suggests that taurine could be an elixir of life within us that helps us live longer and healthier lives.” says the study’s leader, Vijay Yadav, PhD, assistant professor of genetics & development at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
To learn how taurine impacted health, Yadav brought in other aging researchers who investigated the effect of taurine supplementation on the health and lifespan in several species.
The researchers found that taurine suppressed age-associated weight gain in female mice (even in “menopausal” mice), increased energy expenditure, increased bone mass, improved muscle endurance and strength, reduced depression-like and anxious behaviors, reduced insulin resistance, and promoted a younger-looking immune system, among other benefits.
At a cellular level, taurine improved many functions that usually decline with age: The supplement decreased the number of “zombie cells” (old cells that should die but instead linger and release harmful substances), increased survival after telomerase deficiency, increased the number of stem cells present in some tissues (which can help tissues heal after injury), improved the performance of mitochondria, reduced DNA damage, and improved the cells’ ability to sense nutrients. Similar health effects of taurine supplements were seen in middle-aged rhesus monkeys.
The researchers do not know yet if taurine supplements will improve health or increase longevity in humans, but two experiments they conducted suggest taurine has potential.
In the first, Yadav and his team looked at the relationship between taurine levels and approximately 50 health parameters in 12,000 European adults aged 60 and over. Overall, people with higher taurine levels were healthier, with fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, lower obesity levels, reduced hypertension, and lower levels of inflammation.
The second study tested if taurine levels would respond to an intervention known to improve health: exercise. The researchers measured taurine levels before and after a variety of male athletes and sedentary individuals finished a strenuous cycling workout and found a significant increase in taurine among all groups of athletes (sprinters, endurance runners, and natural bodybuilders) and sedentary individuals.
Only a randomized clinical trial in people will determine if taurine truly has health benefits, Yadav adds.
Parminder Singh, Kishore Gollapalli, Stefano Mangiola, Daniela Schranner, Mohd Aslam Yusuf, Manish Chamoli, Sting L. Shi, Bruno Lopes Bastos, Tripti Nair, Annett Riermeier, Elena M. Vayndorf, Judy Z. Wu, Aishwarya Nilakhe, Christina Q. Nguyen, Michael Muir, Michael G. Kiflezghi, Anna Foulger, Alex Junker, Jack Devine, Kunal Sharan, Shankar J. Chinta, Swati Rajput, Anand Rane, Philipp Baumert, Martin Schönfelder, Francescopaolo Iavarone, Giorgia di Lorenzo, Swati Kumari, Alka Gupta, Rajesh Sarkar, Costerwell Khyriem, Amanpreet S. Chawla, Ankur Sharma, Nazan Sarper, Naibedya Chattopadhyay, Bichitra K. Biswal, Carmine Settembre, Perumal Nagarajan, Kimara L. Targoff, Martin Picard, Sarika Gupta, Vidya Velagapudi, Anthony T. Papenfuss, Alaattin Kaya, Miguel Godinho Ferreira, Brian K. Kennedy, Julie K. Andersen, Gordon J. Lithgow, Abdullah Mahmood Ali, Arnab Mukhopadhyay, Aarno Palotie, Gabi Kastenmüller, Matt Kaeberlein, Henning Wackerhage, Bhupinder Pal, Vijay K. Yadav. Taurine deficiency as a driver of aging. Science, 2023; 380 (6649) DOI: 10.1126/science.abn9257
Columbia University Irving Medical Center. (2023, June 8). Taurine may be a key to longer and healthier life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 8, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/06/230608195654.htm