It would be great if a simple pill could make us live longer, fitter and healthier lifes. At least in mice and monkeys, researchers now seem to have hit the jackpot: taurine, a common ingredient in many energy drinks, seems to be a new anti-ageing superhero.
First of all, you may be wondering why on earth are you reading about ageing or anti-ageing in a section that is usually dedicated to nutrition and fertility?
Well, everything related to nutrition works systemically in our body, which means that it affects all parts and functions of our body. In this blog we usually look at things with particular interest for its impact on fertility but many of the recommendations and components we discuss also affect other aspects of our body, such as the way we age.
But before I tell you more about it, let’s start with some basic facts.
Getting old, what does it actually mean?
As we get older, a series of changes take place that affect almost every part of our body. For example getting older changes our skin. As we age, our skin loses elasticity and moisture. The result is dry skin, wrinkles and age spots (a whole industry profit from this). Muscle mass also decreases, so our muscles become weaker. At the same time, bone density suffers, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. It is not for nothing that an old man who is still at the top of his sport receives almost as much attention as a celebrity. Apart from weight (which tends to increase due to the slower metabolism), many other things decline, such as hormone levels, cardiovascular function, memory, cognitive performance, telomeres and so on.
Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that contain the genetic information in our cells. They are made up of repeated DNA sequences and proteins. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten because a small part of a telomere is lost during each cell division. This natural process is known as telomere shortening. If telomeres become too short over the years, this can lead to cell damage and affect the cell cycle. This is associated with ageing and age-related diseases. Telomere length is thought to be a marker of overall health and biological age.
At the same time, the risk of disease becomes bigger. As we age, the likelihood of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease increases. This is partly due to the long-term effects of hereditary predisposition, environmental factors, and wear and tear on the body over time.
How can we influence ageing
Ageing is not for cowards, is the title of a book. But, and here I quote my mother: “If you don’t want to grow old, you have to die young.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t see that as a real alternative.
The question is, how can you grow old a little bit slower, a little bit fitter and a little bit healthier? Of course, there are many circumstances that determine how we age. Unfortunately, many of them are beyond our control, such as our family background, certain environmental factors or simply fate itself. But there is no doubt that we can all do a lot to influence the way we age through a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
For example, it is well known that smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse not only lead to serious health problems but can also accelerate the ageing process. Giving up these harmful substances can improve health and reduce the risk of age-related diseases. So – stay away from all that stuff!
Stress is very negative as well. Chronic stress can speed up the ageing process. Stress hormones such as cortisol can increase inflammation in the body and damage cells.
How to slow down ageing
Stress management strategies such as relaxation techniques, regular exercise, social support and getting enough sleep can help reduce stress and slow down the ageing process.
An active lifestyle can play a crucial role in keeping the body strong and healthy. Regular physical activity improves circulation, promotes muscle development, and helps prevent age-related loss of muscle mass and bone mineral density. It can also reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. What’s more, it boosts your mood too!
Drinking enough water is also important. It is essential for optimal metabolism. Good hydration can help maintain skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles (I have been known to carry a small bottle of drinking water with me most of the time).
Finally, many studies have shown that a healthy diet can be crucial to how we age. A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients and antioxidants that can protect the body from free radical damage. In contrast, a poor diet high in sugary and/or highly processed foods, saturated fats and trans fats can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, which can accelerate the ageing process.
And what about supplements?
To be honest, many of the claims about the effects of dietary supplements on the ageing process and general health that you find on the internet are often scientifically inconclusive. Much of the claimed benefits are based on preclinical studies or limited clinical trials with contradictory results. In addition, supplements can also interact with other medications or health conditions.
Nevertheless, there are a few nutrients that anti-ageing experts like to use and are quite successful. These include, for example, antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and coenzyme Q10. They neutralize free radicals in the body that can cause cell damage and premature ageing.You can find these antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, and some vegetable oils, but also in many dietary supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly the long-chain variants EPA and DHA, are often discussed for their potential benefits for heart health, brain function and mitigating inflammatory responses in the body. Grapes, red wine, and some other plants contain resveratrol. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and may promote longevity. Collagen is a protein that is important for skin, bone, joint and connective tissue health. Taking collagen as a dietary supplement is thought to provide the body with building blocks to compensate for the breakdown of collagen as we age.
New anti-ageing superhero: taurine
Very recent research on taurine has received a lot of attention in the regular media. Taurine is a so-called amino sulfonic acid that occurs naturally in the body.
Fun Fact: Unlike humans, cats cannot produce taurine themselves in sufficient quantities and have to get taurine from their food. And now guess which “food” popular with cats contains particularly high levels of taurine? Correct – a mouse 🐭🐭🐭 (okay, that’s only a fun fact if you’re not a mouse yourself, I admit).
Taurine in the body
Taurine has multiple roles in our body, such as supporting the cardiovascular system, regulating metabolism, blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. It is also found in the brain and plays an important role in regulating neurotransmitter balance. It can influence the transmission of nerve impulses and support brain function. Taurine is therefore also associated with improved cognitive function and mood.
In addition to that, taurine boosts the immune system and improves immune cell function. It plays a role in fighting inflammation and infection. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to reduce oxidative stress and thus the risk of various diseases.
Taurine in food
Taurine is found in various foods, especially animal products such as meat, fish and dairy products. It is also added as an ingredient in some energy drinks, although the concentrations in these drinks are often higher than the natural amounts normally found in the body.
Taurine and anti-ageing
A new study by Vijay Yadav and Henning Wackerhage of the Technical University of Munich now shows that taurine can significantly slow down ageing. This is not just any study, but one that has made it into the Olympus of scientific work, the scientific journal “Science”. The study found that increased levels of taurine in the blood can extend the lifespan of mice by an incredible ten to twelve percent.
Think about it: For a human being with a normal life expectancy of around 80 years an extension of lifespan of 10 % would result in almost 90 years if the same effectiveness was achieved – that’s really A LOT!
In addition, positive effects on general health have been noted, such as improved memory, increased muscle strength, less depressive or anxious behaviour, a stronger immune system and increased bone density.
Low levels of taurine in the blood, on the other hand, have been linked to increased blood pressure, increased levels of inflammation and diabetes. While it is not yet known exactly which processes are prevented or inhibited by taurine deficiency, researchers are hoping for further financial support to find out more.
Taurine as a food supplement
The study also showed (and this is where it gets really interesting) that taurine supplementation in mice and rhesus monkeys led to an increase in healthy lifespan.
Unfortunately, there are still no findings on the prevention of age-related diseases in humans by taking taurine ☹. Of course, hopes are high, and we will certainly see the first research data on this topic in humans in the near future…
Nevertheless, supplements with taurine have been on the market for many years. Taurine is often touted as cell protection for athletes with frequent overloads, primarily because of its antioxidant effect.
As an ingredient in energy drinks, together with caffeine taurine is supposed to make you fit . (However, the stimulating effect of such drinks is mainly due to the high amount of caffeine.)
No matter what taurine has been used for as a food supplement so far, the good news is that years of use have made it unequivocally clear that consuming taurine is safe for humans. In a 2012 report, the European Food Safety Authority found no side effects from consumption. This is true up to a massive amount of up to six grams of taurine per day.
Beware of energy drinks
Energy drinks every day until the doctor comes? Not the smartest of ideas… Despite a nice content of taurine, energy drinks unfortunately also have a lot of other ingredients, such as caffeine, sugar or sweeteners, as well as food additives. Therefore, for many people, consumption cannot be advocated for health reasons, or only to a limited extent.
By the way, eating more animal products is also not a good alternative for getting more taurine. They are often heavily loaded with hormones and unhealthy fats.
If you would like to test whether you can benefit from additional taurine, you should give preference to food supplements that have been tested for quality. Make sure that they are manufactured in a way that requires only few food additives and are preferably vegan. (e.g. Fertilovit MT).
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