Ingredient found in energy drinks could help you live years longer
If you're flagging and need a little pick-me-up, it's tempting to reach for an energy drink for that quick boost.
And if you've ever scoured the ingredients, you may have come across a little-known chemical called taurine – an amino acid naturally found in meat, fish and even your own body.
Now, research published in the journal Science has shown it could add an extra seven to eight years to your life. While taurine is produced by your body, the levels of the nutrient usually decrease with age in different species, including people.
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A team from Columbia University, in New York, analysed middle-aged animals and found that boosting the amino acid back to youthful levels extended life by more than 10 per cent.
This thrilling new development in the never-ending quest for longer life began by trying to establish what exactly the differences are between young and old in the blood of different species.
Fascinatingly, one of the 'most dramatically' downgraded molecules was taurine – with elderly people found to have 80 per cent lower levels of the amino acid, compared to the young.
To analyse the effects of taurine on longevity, the research team gave a daily dose to 14-month-old mice – the equivalent to about 45 years of age for humans.
The mice were found to not only live longer, but also appeared to be in better health. Researcher Dr Vijay 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."
Researchers said if the mice data was applied to people, it would represent an extra seven to eight years added to life. Taurine seems to 'hit the engine room of ageing', with researchers believing it really could be an 'elixir of life'.
Yet despite the promising findings, there's still a need for proper clinical trials, where some participants are given the amino acid and others a placebo pill, to draw firm conclusions for humans.
At the moment, it remains unclear why taurine slows down ageing, and if there are any associated dangers in taking it. The team also suggested that differences in human biology may stop taurine from working or there may be some evolutionary reason why levels naturally decline with age.
With this in mind, researchers stressed against buying taurine pills or energy drinks packed with the amino acid in an attempt to boost their lifespan.
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