Of all the supplements out there, there are some in particular that people tend to lean on as they get older. For instance, collagen to support a youthful complexion, turmeric to grease the joints, omega-3s for heart and brain health—the list goes on. One you might not have heard of before but has a lot of science on its side? Taurine. If you’re birthday cake is starting to fill up with candles, read on to learn about the well-researched benefits of this natural compound.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid found in your heart, brain, and muscles. It’s long been known for its role in supporting healthy mitochondria, the organelles that power all of the cells in your body. In addition to producing the energy your cells need, these tiny powerhouses also support the body’s ability to recover from exercise and illness alike, and even coordinate the process through which the body clears out damaged, defective cells. To say they’re important for your overall health—especially over time—is an understatement. After all, mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked with a broad spectrum of health woes, many of which crop up as we age.
Exactly how taurine works to keep mitochondria healthy is pretty nuanced (scientists are still unraveling it), so just know this: It acts as an antioxidant, protecting mitochondria from oxidative stress, which occurs when there’s an excess of free radicals and can negatively impact cells and contribute to serious health issues.
New Research Suggests Taurine Has A Significant Impact On Aging
Research on the relationship between taurine and the aging process is nothing new. Given what we know about taurine’s antioxidant and mitochondria-boosting properties, it only makes sense! One 2022 study published in the journal Nutrients, for example, found that supplementing with taurine could be a seriously helpful tactic for managing oxidative stress as we get older. After supplementing with 1,500 milligrams of taurine per day (split into three 500-milligram doses) for 16 weeks, the older women who participated in the study had significantly higher levels of an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (or SOD), which plays a key role in the cell’s defenses against free radicals.
Oxidative stress has a far-reaching impact on our bodies, especially as we age. In fact, the buildup of free radicals is associated with the development of some of the most widespread chronic diseases we face today, Ellen de Freitas, one of the study leaders, told SciTechDaily.
More recently, a study published in Science went even further, suggesting that declining levels of taurine (something that occurs as we age) are actually a driving force of aging—and that “restoring their concentration or function to ‘youthful’ levels could serve as an anti-aging intervention.” In a nutshell, keeping taurine levels up could make for a healthier (and potentially even longer) life.
Researchers came to this conclusion by increasing taurine levels in older worms, mice, and monkeys, which led to a number of functional improvements, including decreased DNA damage and healthier mitochondrial function. This ultimately increased the health span (the portion of life spent in good health) of all of the animals studied and even lengthened the life span of the worms and monkeys.
While this finding was the result of a study performed on animals, researchers did some interesting investigations into humans, as well, discovering a link between several chronic health issues that typically occur with age and lower levels of taurine and that endurance exercise boosted levels of taurine.
Combined with the results of their animal research, the study authors believe this information makes a pretty solid case for further study on how taurine supplementation could potentially benefit aging people.
The body of evidence that suggests taurine is a healthy aging powerhouse is growing stronger and stronger, so you can bet that more research is on the way. Further studies will provide more insight into the benefits of taurine supplementation for different groups of people, as well as dig into the ideal amount for those groups.
It’s a promising picture, especially considering some of taurine’s advantages over other supplements and drugs currently being researched for their anti-aging effects. “Taurine is naturally produced in our bodies, it can be obtained naturally in the diet, it has no known toxic effects (although it’s rarely used in concentrations used ), and it can be boosted by exercise,” lead study author Vijay Yadav, Ph.D., of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, told Science Daily. “Taurine abundance goes down with age, so restoring taurine to a youthful level in old age may be a promising anti-aging strategy.”
While you keep your eyes peeled for the next round of research, if you’re interested in incorporating taurine into your daily routine, talk to a nutritionist (you can schedule a free consultation with a The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist here) about whether it makes sense for you. Just keep in mind that, as scientists in this field have suggested, “a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise is fundamental for anti-aging effects to occur.” So don’t expect a supplement alone to course-correct crummy nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle!