The word anti-aging has gone out of fashion over the past several years. Now it’s in vogue to embrace the aging process with aplomb and froideur; it’s decidedly not cool to care about gray hairs or wrinkles. But even this “aging gracefully” concept has its own set of issues. It seems to mean only a certain kind of silver-fox, slim, usually white, ideal. That is not what complete acceptance and non-prevention looks like for most people. And then there’s the fact that emotional and mental reality of aging is different from what looks good on social media declarations of “every wrinkle means I smiled.” In short, our reaction to aging can’t be so black and white. After all, it is a reaction to our mortality, and that’s a deeply personal thing.
So if you, like me, are interested in slowing aging and living in a youthful and vibrant way—whatever that means for you—here’s groundbreaking news.
In a new study published in Science, Columbia University researchers have identified a nutrient that may be the key to slowing aging and increasing healthy lifespan. And that nutrient is taurine, an essential amino acid. “This study suggests that taurine could be an elixir of life within us that helps us live longer and healthier lives,” said Vijay Yadav, the lead author of the study. Taurine plays a role in healthy immune system, weight regulation, and nervous system functions—all of which decline as we get older.
This amino acid’s levels decrease as people get older. People in their 60s have only about 1/3 of the levels found in five-year-olds. So researchers were interested in knowing whether higher taurine levels would correspond to slower aging. They discovered that taurine supplements decreased the number of “zombie” cells that should die, but live on and release toxins. Supplementation also increased the number of stem cells and improved the performance of mitochondria. It reduced DNA damage, which scientists have long known is what triggers negative impacts of aging. The effect of taurine supplementation on lifespan could be 10–12%.
The researchers also examined 12,000 European adults, and found that people with high natural levels of taurine were healthier, were less likely to have type 2 diabetes, or to be obese. They had less inflammation and hypertension.
Now, who’s ready for some taurine? Good news is that taurine is only conditionally an essential amino acid. Most of the time, your body makes sufficient amounts of it. But during times of stress and illness, it “becomes” an essential amino acid, which means the only way you can get it is through ingestion. Taurine is found mostly in meat-based foods. And unfortunately, taurine levels in vegans are lower than those of omnivores—78% (in blood) and 29% (urinary taurine) of the control group.
The best way to increase your taurine, if you’re interested in increasing your healthspan and/or suffering from an illness, is to take supplements. Most taurine supplements are synthetic and are safe for vegans. (That whole nasty rumor about Red Bull is just that—a rumor!) Your body also produces taurine when you exercise, so be sure to make regular workouts a part of your wellness routine. 🙂
Would you take taurine supplements? I think I need to try some!
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Photo: Michele Blackwell via Unsplash