What is Taurine? Nutrient found in meat and supplements may extend life and boost health

Taurine, a nutrient found in meat, fish and sold as a supplement may be the key to living a longer healthier life scientists say.

Scientists in New York have said that the nutrient Taurine extends life and boosts the health of a range of animal species. The nutrient can be found in meat, fish and is commonly sold as a supplement.

Levels of taurine decline with age in different species including people, and experiments on middle-aged animals showed that boosting taurine levels has extended life by over 10% as well as improved physical and brain health. Researchers have said that taurine may be an “elixir of life”, however, increasing taurine levels in people have not been tested.

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The study was carried out by a team at Columbia University in New York, who have recommended against people buying taurine pills and energy drinks packed with taurine in an attempt to live longer.

The study began by analysing molecules in the blood of different species to explore the difference between young and old, and for the past 11 years, the research team have been trying to flesh out its role in ageing. Researcher Dr Vijay Yadav said: "One of the most dramatically downgraded [molecules] was taurine”.

The study found that levels of taurine were 80% lower than in the young. Taurine is pretty much non-existent in plants, so they determined that the nutrient either comes from animal protein in diet or is manufactured by the body.

The study was conducted by giving 14-month old mice a daily dose of the nutrient, which is the equivalent to age 45 in humans. The results, which have been published in the journal Science, showed male mice lived 10% longer, females 12%, and both appeared to be in better health.

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Dr Yadav said of the findings: "Whatever we checked, taurine-supplemented mice were healthier and appeared younger. They were leaner, had an increased energy expenditure, increased bone density, improved memory and a younger-looking immune system."

Lifespan increases were also recorded in worms which saw a 10-23% increase. The researchers also gave 15-year-old rhesus monkeys a six-month course of taurine, while this was too short to notice a life expectancy increase, however, the researchers found improvements in body weight, bone, blood-sugar levels and the immune system.

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It will take proper clinical trials to determine whether it will affect humans in the same way. While taurine is in our diet, it would be hard to eat the quantities used in the experiments.

Prof Wackerhage said rather than rushing for supplements, there were already proven ways of living longer. He said: If you want to live a long, healthy and happy life, then you need a healthy diet - that’s one of the most important things - and of course, you should exercise.”

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