The Red Bull energy drink first came on the market in 1997, and it wasn’t long before other brands followed. These energy drinks were notably different than those boasting high levels of caffeine. Most had a relatively new ingredient that many consumers didn’t recognize. Taurine, an amino acid that has stimulating effects, was the secret ingredient in many of these drinks. Many years later, taurine continues to provide millions with an energy boost when needed. But believe it or not, there are actually many health benefits of taurine beyond these energizing effects. In fact, scientists are now finding that there’s a link between taurine and aging. Learning more about this link might offer some additional insights about how to extend human longevity.
When it comes to taurine, there is a great deal that is yet to be known. But recent research examining the health benefits of taurine in different species offers some insights. For one, there is an inverse relationship between taurine and aging. In other words, as we get older, taurine levels in the body progressively decline. This raised the question whether supplementing the body with taurine might not enhance wellbeing. Preliminary studies suggest that this indeed may be the case, and several theories exist on why this may be the case. If any of these theories prove to be true, taurine might end up being the next anti-aging approach.
Taurine’s Background and History
While taurine is relatively new in terms of energy drinks, its history dates back over a century. German scientists discovered this unusual amino acid in 1820 when studying bile of bulls. In fact, given that the Latin name for bull is taurus, these scientists decided to call their discovery taurine. Since that time, it has been recognized that taurine is present in most meats and seafoods. However, it is nearly non-existent in plants, which explains why vegetables tend to have minimal levels. In contrast, most animals have notable taurine content, which suggests that there are health benefits of taurine. In other words, insufficient amounts may explain an association between illness, taurine and aging.
Based on this information gathered over the years, scientists now describe taurine as a semi-essential amino acid. This suggests that while animals and humans produce taurine in the body, consumption is still needed. The ratio between that which is inherently produced versus that from dietary intake is not precisely known. However, negative health benefits of taurine appear to occur as the body’s production declines. Thus, lower taurine and aging effects occur because intake routinely doesn’t keep pace with lost production. This is the hot topic that anti-aging researchers are exploring currently to better define taurine’s role.
Recent Taurine Research
The most recent research concerning taurine and aging comes out of Columbia University. Studies were conducted to compare various species in their response to taurine over time. In terms of different species, mice, worms, monkeys and yeast were used in the experiments. The researchers would then administer taurine to half of each group and used the others as controls. In every case except for the yeast species, taurine was associated with greater longevity over time. In addition, the researchers also recognized other health benefits of taurine in these responsive species. All of their evidence pointed to positive results with higher taurine levels compared to controls that received no taurine supplements.
As with any experiment, the key findings are often in the details. In this regard, the health benefits of taurine can be compared among the different animal types. In the study evaluating nematode worms, the taurine group saw an increased longevity by 10-23%. For the mice, taurine-treated animals lived 10-12% longer with female mice receiving a slightly greater benefit. Monkeys also had improved longevity if treated with taurine. However, primates also showed healthier weights and improved bone density. Other positive findings suggested taurine provided better strength and endurance as well as better insulin sensitivity. In short, all groups suggested high taurine and aging healthily was linked in a positive way.
Theories About Taurine and Aging
While there is an assumed link between taurine and aging, the mechanism behind this link is not known. There are, however, many theories that might account for the health benefits of taurine. One of the leading theories involves the potential antioxidant effects of taurine. As free radicals accumulate via metabolism and inflammation, taurine may counteract this. But as levels of taurine fall with aging, these protective effects may decrease. This could reduce health and wellness as well as lifespan. Many scientists suspect this may be among the most likely reasons taurine is helpful in advancing age.
Other theories are a bit more complicated. Interestingly, taurine works as a neurotransmitter, and in this regard, its presence might improve nerve cell communications. This might provide some of the health benefits of taurine. Others believe taurine works at the level of the mitochondria. Mitochondria function could be enhanced by taurine leading to better metabolism. This could explain better insulin sensitivity effects and healthier weights with high-taurine subjects. Finally, being present in bile salts, taurine could improve nutrient absorption. Naturally, healthier nutrition could also link taurine and aging benefits. Each of these theories are supported by reason, but none have yet to be fully validated.
Putting It All Together
So, what does all of this mean? Taurine research at this time remains relatively limited at this time. Based on current knowledge, our bodies produce taurine, but it seems this declines as we get older. In fact, lower levels of taurine are associated with obesity and Type II diabetes in humans. In contrast, animal research shows that supplements have some advantage providing some health benefits of taurine. Immune and metabolic function tends to be enhanced with taurine. Likewise, taurine and aging look to be inversely related. While the jury is out on just how much taurine might be beneficial, some supplements may be worthwhile. And with a safety profile that’s quite favorable, perhaps a Red Bull every now and then isn’t a bad idea.