Of all the supplements out there, there are some in particular that many people tend to lean on as they get older. Collagen to support a youthful complexion, turmeric to keep those joints feeling comfy, omega-3s for heart and brain health—the list goes on. Well, recent research suggests there’s another natural compound with lots to offer anyone whose birthday cake is filling up with candles: taurine.
What is taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid (building block of protein) 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. 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: The amino acid 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.
What this latest study has to say
Our ability to manage oxidative stress tends to decline as we age—and a recent study out of Brazil, published in the journal Nutrients, set out to discover whether taurine can help. Based on what we know about taurine’s antioxidant and mitochondria-boosting properties, the researchers investigated the impact of taurine supplementation on markers of oxidative stress.
Here’s how it worked: After having their blood levels of oxidative stress markers tested, half of a small group of women ages 55 to 70 supplemented with 1,500 milligrams of taurine per day (split into three 500-milligram doses) for 16 weeks. The other half took a placebo. When the 16 weeks were up, the researchers tested everyone’s blood again to check out the supplement’s impact on those indicators of oxidative stress.
The results? The women who took taurine 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. This leads the researchers to believe that supplementing with taurine could be a seriously helpful tactic for managing oxidative stress as we get older.
Considering the widespread impact oxidative stress has on our bodies, especially as we age, these findings are pretty exciting. After all, 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.
That said, this study is likely the first of many—and further studies will provide more insight into the benefits of taurine supplementation for different groups of people, as well as dig more into the ideal amount for those groups. Up next: A look at how obese women ages 60 to 75 who have sarcopenia (muscle mass decline that chronic inflammation can worsen) respond to 3,000 milligrams of taurine per day, according to Freitas.
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 Freitas emphasized to SciTechDaily, “a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise is fundamental for the anti-aging effect to occur.”