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It’s always bragged that it ‘gives you wings’.
But Red Bull’s decades-old slogan might actually hold some truth, new research suggests.
Scientists revealed giving mice taurine — an ingredient added to energy drinks — helped them live an extra three to four months.
That, according to the experts who think the substance could be an ‘elixir of life’, equates to around seven or eight human years.
Columbia University academics also claimed that taurine slowed down the aging process, helping rodents stave off age-related issues like weakened bones and muscle loss.
Further experiments, this time on humans, revealed that people with more taurine within their body tend to be healthier.
The study does not offer any proof that taurine will improve human lifespans. But sharing their results in the prestigious journal Science, the team claimed that they believe it has ‘potential’.
Red Bull has claimed that its drink ‘gives you wings’ for more than two decades. But the slogan may actually hold some truth. For each can contains 1g of taurine — an amino acid made in the body and also present in meat, fish and dairy — which scientists believe can help people live longer
Each Red Bull can contains 1g of taurine, an amino acid that is considered vital for maintaining muscle function, eyesight and metabolism. It also, research suggests, supports the central nervous system and immune system.
Taurine is also present in meat, fish and dairy, often in higher quantities. And it can be made naturally in the body, too.
Dr Vijay Yadav, one of the authors, said: ‘We realized that if taurine is regulating all these processes that decline with age, maybe taurine levels in the bloodstream affect overall health and lifespan.’
First, his team looked at taurine levels in the bloodstream of mice, monkeys and people and found that they fell dramatically with age.
For example, results showed that a 60-year-old human had a third of the taurine levels of a five-year-old. They typical Western diet usually has around 750mg per day.
WHAT IS TAURINE?
Taurine is an essential amino acid that’s made naturally in the body and found in abundance in the eyes, heart, brain and muscles.
It is added to energy drinks but is also found naturally in meat, including chicken, beef and turkey, seafood such as tuna, shellfish and clams, and dairy products, including eggs and milk.
Taurine is vital for maintaining muscle function, eyesight and metabolism. It also supports the central nervous system and immune system.
The amino acid also regulates levels of calcium and electrolytes in the body and creates bile salts which are needed for digestion.
There are no known side effects of adding taurine to the diet, as long as it is not consumed in excessive amounts.
The European Food Safety Authority suggests that 6g a day is safe.
To determine whether taurine deficiency drives the ageing process, the researchers studied 250 mice, aged 14 months — around 45-years-old in human years.
Half were given taurine every day, while the others were given a control solution.
The results show that female mice given taurine lived 12 per cent longer than those in the control group, while male mice lived 10 per cent longer.
In the UK, the average man and woman dies at 82 and 86, respectively.
If the findings in mice were ever proven to apply to humans, this would amount to an increase to 88 and 94 for men and women.
In a second arm of the study, scientists gave taurine supplements to mice, monkeys and worms for a year to investigate the effect on health and lifespan.
Results showed that mice given the supplement were healthier ‘in almost every way’, with higher energy levels and a ‘younger-looking’ immune system, the team said.
They also had improved bone mass, muscle endurance and strength and lower levels of depressed and anxious behaviour, insulin resistance and age-related weight gain.
Monkeys given taurine had lower rates of weight gain, blood sugar and liver damage, while they had increased bone density and stronger immune systems.
‘Not only did we find that the animals lived longer, we also found that they’re living healthier lives,’ Dr Yadav said.
Further tests suggest that taurine’s anti-ageing effects are, in part, because it lowers the number of ‘zombie cells’ in the body — those that should die but instead linger and release harmful substances.
As well as energy drinks, it is also found in meat, including chicken, beef and turkey, seafood such as tuna, shellfish and clams, and dairy products, including eggs and milk
They also noted taurine was linked with higher levels of stem cells in some tissues — which can help with healing after injury — and reduced DNA damage.
As part of another investigation, researchers looked at taurine levels and 50 markers of health among 12,000 European adults aged over 60.
Results showed those with higher levels were less likely to have type 2 diabetes or be obese. They also had lower blood pressure and levels of inflammation.
Dr Yadav said: ‘These are associations, which do not establish causation.
‘But the results are consistent with the possibility that taurine deficiency contributes to human aging.’
Finally, the Columbia team recruited athletes and sedentary people to complete a strenuous cycling workout to determine whether exercise affected taurine levels.
Results showed that all participants saw an increase in the amino acid afterwards.
‘No matter the individual, all had increased taurine levels after exercise, which suggests that some of the health benefits of exercise may come from an increase in taurine,’ Dr Yadav said.
He said that taurine should be considered for a randomised clinical trial to determine whether it has health benefits among people.
The supplement has advantages over other anti-ageing drugs in the pipeline because it has ‘no known toxic effects’, can be obtained naturally in the diet and boosted by exercise.
‘Taurine abundance goes down with age, so restoring taurine to a youthful level in old age may be a promising anti-aging strategy,’ he said.
‘This study suggests that taurine could be an elixir of life within us that helps us live longer and healthier lives,’ Dr Yadav added.