Taurine, one of the most abundant amino acids in animals, is a semi-essential micronutrient. According to a new study that evaluated the amino acid’s effect on health and longevity across several animal models, taurine deficiency may be a driver for aging.
The findings suggest that reversing age-associated taurine loss via supplementation improved the healthy lifespan in worms, rodents, and nonhuman primates. The study also suggests that further investigation, namely in human trials, is warranted to examine taurine’s effect on healthy lifespan in humans and the potential risks involved.
This work is published in Science, in the article, “Taurine deficiency as a driver of aging.”
Previous studies in several species have shown that taurine deficiency during early life causes functional impairments in skeletal muscle, eyes, and the nervous system in ways that are related to aging-associated disorders. Small clinical trials of taurine supplementation have suggested benefits in metabolic and inflammatory diseases, but the influence of taurine concentrations on animal health and longevity remains poorly understood.
To better understand if and how taurine abundance influences a healthy life span, Parminder Singh, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Pankaj Kapahi, PhD, at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, together with colleagues, measured blood taurine concentrations at different ages in mice, monkeys, and humans.
The large group of researchers uncovered that in 15-year-old monkeys, serum taurine concentrations were 85% lower than in 5-year-old monkeys. Similarly, taurine levels decreased by more than 80% over the human lifespan. Declining taurine levels were also observed in aging mice and the authors found that mice lacking the major taurine transporter had shorter adult life spans.
Not only that, but reversal of this decline through taurine supplementation increased the median lifespan of worms and mice by 10–23% and 10–12%, respectively. Notably, in mice, orally administered taurine at 500 and 1000 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day was also associated with improvements in strength, coordination, and cognitive functions and slowed several key markers of aging, including cellular senescence, mitochondrial and DNA damage, and inflammageing.
What’s more, they also showed that taurine supplementation in middle-aged rhesus macaques positively affected bone, metabolic, and immunological health.
Although the authors noted that reversal of taurine deficiency during aging shows potential to be a promising anti-aging strategy, further research and human clinical trials are needed to see if taurine supplementation increases the healthy lifespan in humans.
Although few risks to taurine supplementation have been suggested, the potential for risks still warrants consideration because large, long-term human safety trials are lacking, noted an accompanying perspective. In addition, the equivalent doses used in this study would be very high in humans. “Thus, like any intervention, taurine supplementation with the aim of improving human health and longevity should be approached with caution,” the authors asserted.