Higher Taurine Intake Correlates With Some Measures of Strength in Middle Age

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

taurine may support muscle strength middle age

Story at-a-glance

  • Taurine is an amino acid found in animal foods such as seafood, grass fed red meat, dairy products and pastured eggs
  • Taurine is considered a "conditionally essential," or semi-essential, amino acid because, while your body can naturally produce it, supplementation might be necessary under certain conditions
  • Research involving Japanese adults suggests higher taurine intake may protect muscle strength in middle age and beyond
  • Higher taurine intake was linked to a significant increase in knee extension muscle strength over eight years
  • Taurine levels are thought to play a key role in aging and longevity, however levels typically decline with age

Taurine is a type of amino acid, which are the building blocks of proteins. Unlike many other amino acids, taurine is not used to build proteins but rather plays several other critical roles in the body, such as supporting nerve growth, producing bile salts and helping with digestion and maintaining proper hydration.1

Taurine is considered a "conditionally essential," or semi-essential, amino acid because, while your body can naturally produce it, supplementation might be necessary under certain conditions, such as in infants or in people with specific medical conditions.

Taurine levels, however, decline with age2 and are thought to play a key role in aging and longevity. In fact, research involving Japanese adults suggests higher taurine intake may protect muscle strength in middle age and beyond.3

Higher Taurine Intake May Support Muscle Strength in Middle Age

The study was conducted as part of the National Institute for Longevity Sciences-Longitudinal Study of Aging (NILS-LSA) in Japan. Participants, all aged 40 years or older, provided dietary data at the beginning of the study and underwent physical fitness assessments at the start and eight years later.

The researchers specifically investigated how taurine intake affected changes in four measures of physical fitness: knee extension muscle strength, flexibility (sit-and-reach test), balance (one-leg standing with eyes closed) and walking speed. Adjustments were made in the analysis for factors such as sex, age, body measurements, educational level, health status, smoking, depressive symptoms and medical history to isolate the effects of taurine.

The average daily taurine intake among the study participants was 207.5 milligrams (mg). However, higher taurine intake was linked to a significant increase in knee extension muscle strength over eight years. According to the study:4

"Knee extension muscle strength is an indicator of lower limb muscle strength, which is directly related to the ability to perform activities of daily living, such as walking and standing. Muscle strength is influenced by the muscle cross-sectional area and fast/slow muscle fiber ratio. Aging leads to a decrease in muscle cross-sectional area and fast-muscle fiber size, leading to muscle weakness."

This positive association was particularly notable in participants aged 65 years and older, where higher taurine intake correlated with a slower decline in muscle strength — although taurine intake did not show a significant relationship with the other assessed fitness parameters of flexibility, balance and walking speed.

The research suggests that taurine intake from the diet could play a crucial role in preserving muscle strength among older adults, marking the first research to link dietary taurine with muscle strength maintenance over time. It's also possible, however, that taurine may serve as a marker for intake of other beneficial compounds in the diet. As noted by Fight Aging!:5

"In the context of recent studies on taurine supplementation, [this] … open access paper seemed interesting. The authors report on correlations between taurine intake in the normal diet with a few measures of fitness and muscle strength in middle-aged individuals. Human studies of taurine supplementation require a dose in the range of 1.5-6.0 grams per day to remove the 50% loss in circulating taurine.

This supplement dose is the human equivalent extrapolated from the effective doses in mice and non-human primates. Here, dietary intake of taurine in the study participants was estimated to be ~200 milligrams per day, which is actually higher than previously reported averages, particularly for vegetarians.

Given that, one might argue that taurine levels in the diet are a proxy for the influence of some other better-studied aspect of dietary choices on long-term health, such as overall protein intake."

Taurine Helps Keep Aging Muscles Strong

Taurine has been found to play a significant role in countering the effects of aging on muscle regeneration, the researchers explained.6 This suggests that taurine not only supports normal muscle function but may also be crucial in maintaining muscle strength as people age.7

Long-term consumption of taurine could enhance its levels in muscle tissues, helping regulate the crucial flow of calcium ions that are essential for muscle contractions. This process could be key to maintaining muscle strength and overall physical health in middle-aged and older adults.8 Further, animal studies have revealed that taurine plays a role in how muscles function, affecting:9

  • Muscle performance — Taurine helps muscles contract more effectively by managing the flow of calcium ions within muscle cells. This is important because calcium ions are key to muscle contractions.
  • Muscle relaxation — When there's not enough taurine, muscles may not relax as smoothly after contracting.
  • Aging and muscle health — In older rats, adding taurine to their diet increased its presence in their muscles, which improved muscle function. Conversely, animals that couldn't transport taurine properly showed signs of faster aging and had shorter lifespans. Their muscles also aged quicker both in appearance and function.10
  • Heart health — Low taurine levels can make the heart prone to fibrosis, a condition where the heart becomes stiffer as you age.

Taurine also acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that may be useful in warding off sarcopenia, an age-related condition characterized by the loss of muscle mass and function. In a study involving older mice, taurine supplementation counteracted the effects of aging in skeletal muscle.11

Specifically, taurine helped improve muscle regeneration after injury by reducing inflammation and preserving muscle fiber integrity. It also reduced oxidative stress in aged muscles by maintaining cellular redox balance.

Is Taurine Deficiency a Driver of Aging?

Of the amino acids, taurine is the most abundant source of sulfur and is required for a wide range of physiological processes, including the healthy function of your immune system, nervous system,12 metabolism and digestion — but that's not all.

According to research published in the June 2023 issue of the journal Science, taurine also appears to play an important role in longevity and healthy aging.13 According to the editor's summary of the study:14

"Supplementation with taurine slowed key markers of aging such as increased DNA damage, telomerase deficiency, impaired mitochondrial function, and cellular senescence. Loss of taurine in humans was associated with aging-related diseases, and concentrations of taurine and its metabolites increased in response to exercise. Taurine supplementation improved life span in mice and health span in monkeys."

For the study, researchers gave taurine supplements to middle-aged mice daily. Remarkably, both male and female mice that received taurine lived longer than those that didn't, with their life spans increasing by about 10% to 12% and their life expectancy at 28 months rising by 18% to 25%.15

But extending life isn't enough; the quality of that extended life is also crucial. The study found that taurine not only helped the mice live longer but also kept them healthier for longer. The supplemented mice showed improved functions in critical areas such as bones, muscles, pancreas, brain, fat, gut and the immune system, effectively increasing their health span, or their period of healthy living.

Similar results were observed in monkeys and even extended to other species, like worms. Further investigation revealed that taurine supplementation reduced common signs of aging. It helped decrease cell aging, protected against damage to the ends of chromosomes, improved mitochondrial function, reduced DNA damage and lowered inflammation.16

Moreover, in humans, lower levels of taurine and related compounds were linked with several health issues, including obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation and diabetes. Interestingly, exercise was found to increase taurine levels in the blood, which may help explain some of the antiaging benefits of physical activity.

Overall, taurine supplementation could be a promising way to not only extend life span but also improve quality of life as we age, by mitigating various biological signs of aging. "This identifies taurine deficiency as a driver of aging," the researchers concluded.17

Taurine Deficiency Linked to Chronic Diseases

In addition to playing a key role in longevity, a deficiency of taurine may contribute to chronic disease. Research suggests people with lower blood levels of taurine have increased risk of several chronic and/or degenerative diseases, including:18,19,20

Obesity

Diabetes

Insulin resistance

Liver disease

High blood pressure

Systemic inflammation

Retinal degeneration

Heart disease

Immune dysfunction

Muscle wasting

Patients suffering from heart failure also tend to be deficient in taurine, which is thought to be related to its ability to improve mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. Restoring taurine levels in these patients has been shown to improve the contractile function of their hearts.21 Stroke victims may also benefit from taurine, which is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and is beneficial for the central nervous system.22

Taurine deficiency is also associated with endoplasmic reticulum stress,23 a major contributor to prion diseases. Taurine is also thought to be important for proper protein folding. As such, taurine may also be an important aid in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Signs of taurine deficiency are varied due to taurine's many biological effects. Common symptoms include:24,25,26

  • Fatigue and low energy, as taurine is involved in energy production
  • Muscle cramps, muscle weakness, muscle wasting/atrophy and poor exercise performance, as taurine is essential for muscle health and function
  • Increased oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, which contributes to and is a hallmark of most chronic diseases
  • Impaired immune function, as taurine is involved in immune cell function and the regulation of inflammation
  • Vision problems associated with retinal degeneration, as taurine is essential for development and maintenance of the cells in your retina

Food Sources of Taurine

Taurine is found in animal foods such as seafood, red meat, poultry and dairy products, and it's always best to get your nutrients from your diet.

If you're a vegan, however, you may want to consider a high-quality taurine supplement, as you're not getting any from the foods you eat. While your body can synthesize some taurine, it's not going to be sufficient in the long run, especially as you get older and your body's ability to synthesize it diminishes.

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