Taurine Deficiency and Aging
Hey friends, hope y’all are having a happy and healthy summer so far! This week, we got the opportunity to interview Vijay Yadav. Vijay is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the Department of Genetics and Development, and he is the senior author of an intriguing new study, published recently in Science, which examines the relationship between taurine and the aging process.
We have discussed taurine before in this newsletter. Notably, a global epidemiological study coordinated by the WHO about 40 years ago found that individuals who had higher dietary intake of taurine (measured objectively through urinary biomarkers, not diet recall) were significantly less likely to die due to ischemic heart disease. Since then, this amino acid-like molecule has been linked to a plethora of health benefits, including better blood sugar regulation, decreased oxidative stress, better athletic performance, and more.
More recently, Yadav and his team started to explore how levels of taurine change with age, and how restoring taurine affects lifespan and various parameters of health in animal models. We found the study very compelling, which is why we had to get him on the show, and we’re hyped to share it with you now.
In the research highlights for this week, we’ve included an overview of the study, as well as a clinical trial which supplemented taurine in older women. But this is an incredibly intricate paper, with a series of elegantly designed experiments — way too much to properly recap in this newsletter. If you want to know more, I would highly encourage you to check out our interview 👀
New humanOS Content
humanOS Radio: Taurine and Biological Aging. Podcast with Vijay Yadav.
This Week’s Research Highlights
A number of studies have shown that blood levels of taurine are associated with parameters of health, but there has been little examination of how taurine affects the aging process. To explore this area, Yadav and his team first compared serum levels of taurine, at different ages, in mice, monkeys, and humans. They found that taurine levels declined substantially in all species, generally starting at around middle age. Taurine levels in elderly adult humans were reduced by 80%, compared to younger subjects. But does a deterioration in taurine drive aging, or is it merely a by-product of the aging process? To answer this question, Yadav and colleagues performed experiments using middle aged and older mice, which were fed either taurine or a control solution. The results were impressive. Taurine-fed rodents showed a median lifespan increase of 10-12% (equivalent to an additional 7-8 years of life in humans). But more importantly, the animals were much healthier as they got older --- they were leaner, had greater bone mass, demonstrated greater muscular strength and endurance, had better insulin sensitivity and blood sugar homeostasis, and exhibited a more youthful immune profile. When the researchers dug a little deeper into cellular mechanisms, they found that taurine supplementation appeared to modulate the hallmarks of aging, which we've discussed previously, including cellular senescence, systemic inflammation, and DNA damage due to oxidative stress (see below!). To see if taurine could improve health parameters in primates, the researchers performed a similar trial in middle-aged rhesus monkeys, and observed improvements in body composition, bone mass, blood sugar, and markers related to liver and immunity. But what about in humans? Yadav and his team then retrieved data from 11,966 subjects of the EPIC-Norfolk study, and analyzed how circulating levels of taurine metabolites correlated with various clinical risk factors. They found that higher blood taurine was linked to lower BMI and less abdominal fat, lower blood glucose, lower CRP (inflammatory marker), reduced prevalence of type 2 diabetes, and others. Finally, to test how blood levels of taurine responded to acute bouts of physical activity, the researchers had human participants perform a graded exercise test. Levels of taurine and taurine metabolites rose substantially, suggesting that an acute increase in taurine may mediate some of the benefits of exercise.
Vijay and the other scientists didn’t get a chance to perform a clinical trial in humans (yet!) using taurine, but an RCT was conducted about a year ago that is worth looking at. Researchers in Sao Paulo recruited 24 women (aged 55-70) and divided them into two groups. One group took 1500 mg of taurine daily, while the other group was administered a placebo. Before and after the intervention, the researchers assessed serum biomarkers of oxidative stress. After 16 weeks, the researchers had two key findings. First of all, the women who took taurine had experienced a 20% increase in levels of superoxide dismutase, while levels decreased in the control group. Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that breaks down free radicals into harmless components (molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide), to shield the body from the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species. Secondly, they found that levels of malondialdehyde increased in the control group, while they remained stable in the group who took taurine. Malondialdehyde is a marker for lipid peroxidation, and typically rises in response to the activity of free radicals, which is why it is one of the most commonly used biomarkers for oxidative stress. So, the women who took taurine showed higher levels of antioxidant enzymes, which appeared to prevent a rise in free radical activity over the course of the study. The researchers conclude that taurine could be a viable strategy to control oxidative stress during the aging process. It is worth noting, especially in the context of other research (including Yadav's study, described above), that 1500 mg is a rather low dose. It would be interesting to see what they would have found if they had used 3 grams or more.
This would be one way to raise taurine levels, though perhaps not the ideal avenue
Random Trivia & Weird News
The novella, published in 1898, features the supposedly “unsinkable” Titan, which is headed to New York but sinks in the North Atlantic after a glancing encounter with an iceberg, and which does not have enough lifeboats for all passengers.
Due to the eerie similarities to the actual sinking of the Titanic, some have suggested that the book was an example of clairvoyance. But Robertson was no psychic — what he had was immense knowledge of maritime trends and ship construction. He was the son of a ship captain, and had himself spent nearly two decades in the merchant service. The fact that someone was able to describe, in a fictional scenario, the sinking of the Titanic before it had even been built is a reflection of how readily foreseeable that disaster really was.
But as they say, safety regulations are written in blood.
Podcasts We Loved This Week
- Stephan Guyenet: The hungry brain – how and why your brain is undermining your weight goals. Via Neurohacker Collective.
- Tommy Wood: How to improve brain health across your lifespan. Via the Reason & Wellbeing Podcast.
- Wendy Kohrt: Acute catabolic (yes, catabolic...) response of bone to exercise. Via Inside Exercise.
Products We Are Enjoying
The animal experiments used above administered a dose of taurine that would translate to anywhere from 3-6 grams of taurine per day in people, and other human trials have usually tested around 1500-3000 mg. A typical American diet only provides around 120-180 mg of taurine daily, so supplementation is almost certainly needed if you aspire to replicate the results observed in research interventions.
Fortunately, 3 grams is generally deemed to be a safe long-term dose, and taurine is super cheap. I personally use this product because the powder is the most cost-effective way to consume a significant amount of taurine, and BulkSupplements.com is a legit company. However, if you prefer the convenience of capsules, that is also available.
humanOS Catalog Feature of the Week
[Insert Content Block from
This week, we'd like to highlight one of the lessons from our new-and-improved Mediterranean Diet course.
Interestingly, taurine may be a secret key to the robust health of people following traditional Mediterranean diets. When researchers examined urinary taurine levels and cardiovascular mortality in people around the world, they found that the populations with the highest taurine levels were in Japan and around the Mediterranean region (these groups also happened to have really low rates of death due to heart disease). However, it is certainly not the only factor at play.
In this lesson, we dig into some of the diet trials that began to reveal how and why the traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with better heart health. And if you go a little further into the course, you can also get some insight into specific dietary components.