Scientists have suggested that taurine, a nutrient found in meat and fish, could boost health and prolong life expectancy.
Researchers based at Columbia University, New York discovered that taurine contributed to physical health benefits, better brain function and increased life expectancy when given to middle-aged animals. During trials, mice aged 14 months responded positively to daily doses of taurine.
The mice were given a taurine supplement once a day. At the end of the trial, researchers found that life expectancy increased by 10% in males and 12% in females. The 14-month old mice are equivalent to humans aged around 45 years old.
Taurine levels decline with age. Before the study started, the team analysed taurine levels in different species. In humans, they found that levels were 80% lower in elderly people compared with those recorded in young people. Taurine is found in products derived from animals and the body can also manufacture it. It is also available in supplement form.
Dr Vijay Yadav explained that the mice that were given a daily dose of taurine appeared healthier and younger. They had better immunity, their energy expenditure was higher, their memory function was superior and they had enhanced bone density.
Researchers also found that life expectancy increased by up to 23% in worms. The team also trialled supplements in 15-year-old rhesus monkeys. During the short trial period of 6 months, there was no change in life expectancy, but improvements were recorded in blood glucose levels, immunity, bone density and body weight.
Professor Henning Wackerhage, from the Technical University of Munich, who was also involved in the project, said that the results almost seemed too good to be true. He explained that taurine seemed to target core elements associated with ageing.
Research on humans is ongoing and although the findings of this study are positive, experts have warned against buying taurine supplements or products enhanced with taurine until there is more evidence to show how taurine impacts human health and ageing.
If the results from the study were applied to human beings, life expectancy would increase by approximately 7-8 years.
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