Taurine May Lead to a Longer, Healthier Life

Taurine May Lead to a Longer, Healthier Life
  • New research on animals and humans finds taurine levels decline with age.
  • The study also discovered that mice and monkeys meet healthier markers after taking taurine for a set period of time.
  • A lot of taurine research is on animals—not humans.

Many people have a goal of leading a long, healthy life. But the factors that lead to aging are complex and researchers are still learning about what drives it. Now, a new study suggests that the nutrient taurine may be a factor.

The study, which was published in the journal Science and conducted by dozens of aging researchers around the world, involving several studies on animals and humans.

The researchers first looked at levels of taurine in the blood of mice, monkeys, and people, and found that levels decreased with age. In humans, for example, the taurine levels in 60-year-olds were about a third of those in 5-year-olds.

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The researchers then took 250 14-month old mice (which are about 45 years old in people years) and fed them either a bolus of taurine or a control solution daily. The researchers discovered that the female mice given taurine had a 12% higher lifespan and the male mice had a lifespan that increased 10%. (That translates to three to four extra months in mice and about seven or eight years in humans.)

Other experiments on mice found that, at age two—which is about 60 human years—animals that took taurine for a year were healthier in nearly every way than those who didn’t take the supplement.

There were similar results in middle-aged monkeys who were given taurine supplements every day for six months. The nutrients prevented weight gain, reduced fasting blood glucose and markers of liver damage, increased bone density in the spine and legs, and improved the health of their immune systems.

It’s important to note that the research was mostly done on animals—not humans. “These studies suggest that taurine in abundance is a regulator of health in old age and its supplementation may have beneficial effects as well,” says study co-author Vijay Yadav, Ph.D., an assistant professor of genetics and development at Columbia University. “Our next goal is to perform a controlled trial in humans.”

This raises a lot of questions about taurine and its uses. Here’s what you need to know.

What is taurine?

Taurine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in foods with protein, like meat or fish, says Jessica Cording, RD, author of The Little Book of Game-Changers.

Your body uses taurine for actions in cells, including energy production, according to the Mayo Clinic. Taurine also helps your body process bile acids and balances the fluids, salts, and minerals in your body.

“Unlike many other amino acids, taurine is not used in the construction of proteins,” says Scott Keatley, RD, co-owner of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy. “It is considered a semi-essential micronutrient because the body can produce some amount of taurine, but not always enough. Hence, dietary intake is sometimes needed especially in times of stress.”

Taurine is found “abundantly” in the brain, retina, heart, and blood cells called platelets, Keatley says.

Worth noting, per Cording: Taurine is “very common” added to energy drinks.

The potential benefits of taurine

There are not a lot of studies on the impact of taurine on humans. However, research has shown that it’s involved in several brain processes. “It’s an important nutrient for brain function,” Cording says.

It’s also sometimes discussed as an important nutrient for heart health, Cording says. Research has shown that taurine has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, may help regulate blood pressure, and can even protect against coronary disease.

“Prior to this study, taurine was already recognized for various potential health benefits,” says Keatley. “It may help in managing diabetes by improving glucose control and reducing insulin resistance. Taurine may also have antioxidant properties, potentially helping to fight inflammation and protect the body’s cells from damage.”

Cording notes this important point: “We don’t really have any clear guidelines around taurine.” Meaning, there’s no official recommendation for all Americans to have a certain amount of taurine every day. Still, Keatley says that “athletes take taurine for improved performance, while others might use it to help manage conditions such as heart disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and even to improve mentality.”

“But most of the potential benefits of taking taurine have been associated with animal and in-vitro studies, not with humans,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. “More research is needed in clinically-controlled human trials to confirm any health benefits.”

Are there risks to taking taurine?

Taurine is “generally considered safe” when taken in moderation, says Keatley. However, having too much of it can lead to side effects, including:

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

“People with kidney problems should avoid taurine supplements, as their kidneys may not be able to remove it effectively, leading to accumulation in the body,” says Keatley.

Foods that contain taurine

You can get taurine from certain foods. Keatley says these are the biggest sources:

  • Seafood: Shellfish, salmon, and mackerel are high in taurine.
  • Meat: Chicken, beef, and pork contain taurine, with darker meat typically containing more than white meat.
  • Dairy products: Milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt contain taurine.
  • Energy drinks: Many energy drinks contain taurine. “It’s worth noting that these drinks often also contain high levels of caffeine and sugar, which might not align with all healthful diets,” says Keatley.

The bottom line

While there has been some research on taurine, there is still a lot to be explored. “Most of the research we have on taurine is in animals,” Cording says. “We need more human studies to have a better understanding of this is something that should be recommended for humans.”

She suggests focusing on food sources of taurine. Gans agreed. “At this time, I’m not sure there is enough clinical evidence to suggest taking taurine,” she says. “The majority of people can get adequate amounts from their daily diet, along with what their body produces.”

Worth noting: Yadav also does not recommend taking a taurine supplement. “We do not recommend taurine supplementation in humans as of now,” he says. “We need to first test it in different groups and populations.”

If you’re still interested in taking a taurine supplement, Keatley recommends talking to your doctor first. “If someone is interested in taking taurine, they should consult with a healthcare professional first,” he says. “This is especially important for people with existing health conditions or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”

Keatley also stresses that the recent study that tied taurine to anti-aging is mostly based on mice, monkeys, and worms. “More research, specifically well-controlled human trials, is needed to establish the anti-aging effects of taurine in humans,” he says.

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Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamor, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.

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