Benefits of Taurine: Does It Boost Longevity?

Taurine, often overlooked amidst the labels of energy drinks, has been found to have a wide range of health benefits, from aiding blood sugar and blood pressure regulation to providing antioxidant protection. Recent research even reported on its potential to extend lifespan.

What is taurine?

Taurine is considered a 'conditionally essential' or 'semi-essential' amino acid, as our body won’t use it to synthesize protein (which is one of the main roles of essential amino acids as building blocks of protein).

Instead, research has found that the body makes taurine by breaking down other amino acids in the liver. It’s primarily found in the brain, retina, heart, and reproductive organs. However, studies have shown that taurine declines with age. Hence, replenishing taurine levels through diet or supplementation may be beneficial.

It’s a natural component of many diets, commonly found in animal-based foods such as meat, fish, and dairy products. Shellfish, dark meat poultry, and beef are rich sources of taurine. Meanwhile, vegans and vegetarians may need to supplement as plants do not contain significant amounts of this amino acid.

It’s also a common ingredient in energy drinks, such as Monster, Nos and Red Bull, which has 1,000 mg of taurine per eight-ounce serving.

5 health benefits of taurine

Known for supporting heart and brain functions, taurine assists nerve growth and has shown potential benefits in cardiovascular health, diabetes management, and athletic performance. Here are five evidence-based potential benefits of taurine:

1. May boost physical performance

Taurine has been observed to increase after intense activities such as cycling, indicating its role in energy metabolism during exercise. It aids in increasing oxygen uptake and extending the time to fatigue, which may enhance both aerobic (endurance exercise) and anaerobic (high intensity exercise) performance.

In addition, taurine may help reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness and improve recovery times, aiding in improved overall athletic performance. While taurine is known to boost energy levels, it's important to note that the available data show mixed results and are insufficient to conclusively determine how taurine consumption directly impacts energy metabolism in healthy individuals.

2. Protects cells

The mitochondria is known as the powerhouse of a cell and produces energy. Taurine is a robust antioxidant and helps maintain mitochondrial function by mitigating oxidative stress. It’s been found that taurine deficiency may significantly increase the production of harmful free radicals. By protecting cells from oxidative stress, taurine helps maintain their structural integrity and ensures the smooth functioning of essential cellular processes, further enhancing cellular resilience.

3. May support heart health

Researchers have found a few different pathways through which taurine may have a beneficial impact on heart health. Its primary biological effects include modulating blood pressure and serving as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Both animal models and human clinical trials have reported that taurine supplementation may reduce total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and inflammatory biomarker levels such as C-reactive protein.

These studies have shown a positive impact of taurine supplementation on patients with heart failure and high blood pressure. However, more long-term research with larger sample sizes is needed.

4. May help improve insulin sensitivity

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2022 reported that taurine may become a new possibility for diabetes management. The review reported on taurine’s effectiveness in enhancing glycemic control among diabetic patients. It’s shown to significantly reduce hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), fasting blood sugar, and the homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (method of measuring insulin resistance), which are crucial indicators of long-term glucose metabolism. However, further research would be needed to support these findings.

Optimal insulin sensitivity is key to healthy glucose metabolism. Our cells' sensitivity, or lack thereof, refers to the body's ability, or inability, to respond to insulin, transporting glucose from the bloodstream into cells for energy production or storage. Enhanced insulin sensitivity ensures better regulation of blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and its associated complications. Insulin resistance, characterized by decreased sensitivity to insulin, is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

5. May increase longevity

Taurine has been found to reduce mitochondrial dysfunction, a major contributor to age-related diseases. It may also address several hallmarks of aging, including slowing down cellular aging and decreasing DNA damage. Additionally, taurine may help attenuate inflammation, further supporting its role in slowing the aging process.

Research has demonstrated that taurine supplements can significantly extend the lifespan of mice. In females, the lifespan extension was about 12%, and in males, it was approximately 10%. This extension translates to an addition of roughly seven to eight human years or three to four months in mouse years. Yet again, further studies in humans would be needed to support this potential benefit.

Daily requirements and sources

The average daily intake of taurine varies depending on dietary habits. Non-vegetarians typically consume between 40 and 400 mg of taurine per day, with the typical American diet providing about 123–178 mg daily. In contrast, those following a vegetarian diet might consume considerably less, around 17 mg per day, due to the absence of meat and fish, which are rich in taurine. Some examples of taurine-rich foods include:

  • Meat, especially beef, chicken, and turkey
  • Fish and seafood, such as tuna, tilapia, scallops, mussels, clams, and oysters
  • Dairy products
  • Dried seaweed (nori)
  • Other red algae

For individuals considering taurine supplementation, the dosage can vary based on personal goals. While there are no upper limits established, based on existing data, 3 grams per day has been proven to be safe and effective in improving health outcomes. However, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before adding taurine to your supplement stack.

Risks and considerations

Taurine is recognized as safe when consumed from food sources, but as a supplement, it can interact with different medications. Taurine may enhance the effects of antihypertensive drugs, potentially causing blood pressure to drop too low. Those taking antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, statins, and blood thinners should consult with a healthcare professional before starting taurine supplementation.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit their taurine intake to amounts typically found in food, as the safety of higher doses during these periods has not been established. Similarly, individuals with conditions like adrenocortical insufficiency or epilepsy should seek medical advice before taking taurine supplements. It's also important to note that following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet may lead to lower taurine levels, necessitating awareness of potential deficiency risks.

Should you supplement with taurine?

Research has reported that taurine may support heart health and metabolism and potentially extend lifespan. Taurine's potential ability to aid in lowering blood pressure, fighting oxidative stress, and enhancing athletic performance and blood sugar control demonstrates its versatility. Whether found naturally in animal proteins or taken as supplements, taurine offers accessible ways to meet the recommended doses.

Considering its safety and potential benefits, taurine stands out as a valuable supplement for various health needs. However, consult your healthcare professional before starting supplementation to ensure it safely complements your health regimen.

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