Although ailments multiply with old age, being very old is not considered a disease. For this reason, it is difficult to propose trials to test drugs that aim to treat what happens to us when time passes. However, there are several groups of scientists who want to carry out large experiments on humans to see if it is possible to act on aging and the health problems that accompany it. In the US, a team led by Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Research on Aging at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, is about to launch the TAME project, a series of trials with more than 3,000 participants to test the anti-aging power of Metformin, a drug used against diabetes. To achieve approval from the FDA, the body that decides which drugs are marketed in the US, will analyze the effects of metformin in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancer or dementia, all of which are more frequent in older age.
Magazine Science publishes an international study that proposes to include taurine among the substances that can slow down aging. This amino acid, famous as an additive in many energy drinks, is found naturally in the body and can be consumed by eating meat, fish or dairy products. In their article, the researchers explain how they have verified that, in all the animals studied, the levels of taurine in the blood decrease with age. In humans, the team led by Vijay Yadav of Columbia University found that taurine in people aged 60 was only a third of that in people aged 5. The researcher became interested in taurine during previous work on osteoporosis. , when he observed its function in the generation of bone.
The amino acid has also been related to a better functioning of the immune system and less obesity and has an essential role from embryonic development. As explained in the article, the organisms have a concentration up to four times higher in embryonic tissues than in adults and the lack of taurine during the initial development of an individual can cause osteoporosis and blindness, problems that can be alleviated with supplements. .
Based on this correlation between taurine deficiency and aging, the researchers tested whether giving it as an additive to the mice would reduce their biological age. To do this, they chose 14-month-old mice of both sexes, the equivalent of about 45 human years. Every day, part of the mice in the experiment received a taurine pill and another part took a placebo. After the experiment, the rodents that had taken taurine lived, on average, 12% longer if they were females and 10% longer if they were males. It was up to four more months, the equivalent of eight human years. The benefit wasn’t limited to increased longevity anyway, they also had better health and youthful traits such as stronger bones and muscles, less depression, less insulin resistance associated with diabetes, less obesity, and a stronger immune system.
Hallmarks of Aging
In addition to these more visible traits, the study also found taurine’s positive effects on what are known as the hallmarks of aging. The pills reduced cellular senescence, the buildup of cells unable to divide that continue to release harmful substances that inflame and injure neighboring cells. In addition, it protected against telomerase deficiency, which can lead to lung fibrosis or dementia, reduced accumulated DNA damage, and eased inflammation. Similar beneficial effects were also observed in macaques.
The study also tested the effects of exercise on taurine, both in athletes and sedentary people. After subjecting them to an intense cycling session, taurine levels increased in all individuals, a little more in sedentary people than in athletes. The authors believe that these results support the idea that taurine and its metabolites explain, at least in part, the health benefits of exercise and how it slows down aging. In addition to exercise, this amino acid can be consumed with meat or fish, but not on a vegan diet.
In addition, the authors studied 12,000 people over the age of 60 and found that higher taurine levels were associated with less obesity, fewer diabetes diagnoses, less hypertension, and lower levels of inflammation, although Vijay cautions that this data is a correlation that it will need to be tested with randomized trials showing that a lack of taurine causes aging and that supplements reverse the process. “We need a randomized placebo-controlled trial to find out if taurine works in humans before suggesting the use of taurine supplements in humans,” Vijay says. “This will require three or four more years,” he calculates.
20 factors that prolong life
Rafael de Cabo, a researcher at the National Institute on Aging, in Baltimore (USA), recalls how not so long ago, “the only intervention that served to prolong life in mice was caloric restriction.” “In recent years, we have seen more than 20 interventions, with molecules such as resveratrol or metformin, that prolong life, something that seemed unthinkable,” he recalls. De Cabo considers the study interesting, although he argues, like the authors themselves, that a follow-up study is necessary to see how taurine levels evolve over time in the same people and what effect it has on certain health markers to fully understand what It happens with taurine. “In addition, they still need to find the mechanism that explains this relationship between taurine and aging, which they don’t have,” he points out.
In the meantime, De Cabo recommends caution with the use of taurine supplements. “If you look at the data from the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), the safety of taurine supplementation is very good, it is not a compound that we do not know anything about, but I think that taking everything you want without consulting the doctor is not It is a good idea, particularly for people who have chronic illnesses”, says the researcher. “We don’t know, for example, what interactions it may have with other medications, such as those used for diabetes or antidepressants,” he adds. On the possibility of drinking energy drinks that contain taurine, De Cabo warns that “those drinks have many other substances, in addition to taurine.” “It is not the way to take it. We know that a healthy diet and exercise maintain proper taurine levels. It’s more uncomfortable than opening a can, but in the long run it’s better,” he concludes.
Anna Novials, a researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS) believes that “the work is very interesting” and values the possibility of proposing studies to see the role of taurine in people with diabetes. “It would be one of the mechanisms by which exercise improves metabolic patterns in healthy individuals and in diabetics,” she explains. She also does not rule out the interest of this amino acid to combat diseases associated with old age, but warns of the difficulty of carrying out the large studies necessary to verify its validity with a natural molecule that would not allow a patent to be exploited. The studies, in addition, should be very long-term to see if it can significantly prolong life, as has been seen in mice. Or if, as has happened with other substances, it turns out that it is not as effective in humans. Although the data presented in Science are promising, for now, there is no guarantee that taurine will be a new elixir of youth.
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Source: EL PAIS