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The secret to eternal youth could be found at the bottom of a Red Bull can, as scientists suggest a common energy drink ingredient as the potential ‘elixir of life’.
A new study has revealed giving mice taurine helped them live for an extra three months and improved physical and brain health.
Scientists have now called for a major clinical trial to determine if the ingredient has the same benefits for humans – or whether a high dosage is even safe to consume.
The animal research is among the latest anti-ageing endeavors and scientists believe they have enough evidence to begin human trials.
But what is the ingredient? Here is everything you need to know about taurine and its health benefits.
Red Bull gives you wings? Company slogan may have some truth to it as common ingredient taurine is dubbed potential ‘elixir of life’
What is taurine?
What are the main functions of taurine in the body?
- Maintaining hydration and balancing electrolytes
- Forming bile salts to help digestion
- Regulating minerals such as calcium
- Supporting the immune system health
- Assisting the function of the central nervous system
Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid which occurs naturally in foods with protein such as meat or fish.
The human body produces taurine and mainly concentrates around the brain, eyes, heart, and muscles.
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, and only becomes useful in times of illness or stress.
It is vital for maintaining muscle function, eyesight and metabolism. It also supports the central nervous system and immune system.
It also regulates levels of calcium and electrolytes in the body, and creates bile salts for digestion.
Deficiency of the amino acid is rare in healthy adults, so its effects are largely unknown.
Could taurine slow down the ageing process?
A team of scientists at Columbia University, New York found through experiments on middle-aged animals that boosting taurine to youthful levels extended life by over 10%.
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.
Dr Yadav said: ‘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.’
If the findings in mice were ever proven to apply to humans, this would equivalate to 88 and 94 for men and women, an increase from the current average at 82 and 86.
An experiment on 250 mice found taurine boost youthful levels by 10%, scientists are now calling for a human trial
But the largely unanswered question is whether the results will show in humans; proper clinical trials where some people are given taurine and others a placebo pill will need to take place first.
Differences in biology may pose an obstacle and there may be some evolutionary reasons why levels fall with age.
However, taurine may have an advantage over other anti-ageing strategies as it is obtained naturally and can and boosted by exercise.
The ingredient has also been available to consume in energy drinks for decades – suggesting it’s safe.
What food is taurine found in?
A common myth is that taurine is made from bull semen, while it was originally so it is now produced and added to products synthetically.
The supplement is manually added to energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster, taurine can be found naturally in some foods.
Shellfish, dark chicken and turkey meat contain the highest levels of taurine and moderate amounts can be sourced from other meats.
Dairy products also contain the ingredient, such as milk or ice cream, but have less of it.
There are few plant-based foods which contain high levels of taurine, with the exception of seaweed.
Studies also show that cooking food doesn’t affect the level of taurine.
There are several health benefits from taurine, the product found in meat and dairy has been linked to lowering blood pressure
Contrary to popular belief, taurine is not made from bull semen, while originally true, it is now added to products synthetically
What are the health benefits of taurine?
Taurine has important functions in the heart and the brain and helps support nerve growth.
It may benefit people with heart failure and prevent their condition from worsening by lowering blood pressure and calming the nervous system.
It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been studied for its role in energy production and improving exercise performance.
Are there any side effects of taurine?
While the health effects of taurine have been recognised, consuming large amounts of energy drinks unfortunately won’t make you any younger.
There are no known side effects of adding taurine to the diet, as long as it is not consumed in excessive amounts.
So, researchers recommend against people buying taurine pills or energy drinks packed with taurine in an attempt to live longer.
The European Food Safety Authority suggests that 6g a day is safe.