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Grow New Brain Cells

September 2015

By Forrest Ritiker

For years, scientists believed brain shrinkage was inevitable and irreversible.

Cutting-edge research has shown that brain cells can regenerate.

An amino acid called taurine plays an important role in creating new brain cells.

Researchers found that taurine increased the growth of brain cells by activating “sleeping” stem cells. Taurine also increased the survival of new neurons, resulting in an increase in adult brain cell creation.1-3

Recent studies reveal that taurine has unique biochemical properties that promote new brain cell formation.4,5 Animal studies show that taurine triggers new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus, the area of the brain most concerned with memory.1,6 This can lead to dramatic improvements in cognition and recall.7,8 Low levels of taurine have been observed in patients with Parkinson’s disease.9,10

In addition to these impressive brain benefits, taurine also boosts cardiac function and reduces arterial stiffness as well as reducing the negative impacts of metabolic syndrome.11-16 In fact, taurine supplementation added to the drug metformin has been shown to offer tremendous reductions in tissue damage.17

Taurine levels fall significantly with age, leaving the brain, heart, kidneys, and other tissues deprived of this vital healing compound­—one capable of rescuing dying cells and restoring cellular communication.1,6,18

Experts are beginning to recognize that with age, many can experience a taurine deficiency that is a real and fundamental threat to health.

The great news is that taurine is a super low-cost supplement, meaning everyone can benefit from its potential to slow and reverse degenerative processes.

Taurine Grows New Brain Cells

Taurine Grows New Brain Cells  

For years, scientists believed that brain shrinkage (atrophy) was an unstoppable degenerative process. New research reveals this loss of brain matter is partially caused by reversible processes.19,20 This knowledge opens the door to a new paradigm—one that aims to restore brain structure and function—as opposed to simply treating the symptoms.

One of the chief requirements for growing fresh brain cells is a little known amino acid: taurine. Taurine has a surprising number of critical actions concerning how cells protect and renew themselves.

Because taurine levels decline with age, older adults are unable to maintain the level of new brain cell formation required to preserve their youthful responses to toxic and metabolic insults.1,21 This taurine deficiency may lie at the heart of some of our most dreaded brain disorders.22

Studies now show that restoring taurine content in brain cells can reverse these trends, and rejuvenate brain structure and function. Animal studies show that taurine triggers new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus, a brain region centrally involved in memory.1,23

A study published in the journal Stem Cell Research found that taurine supplementation in middle-aged mice increased the growth of new cells in regions of the brain associated with learning and memory. It accomplished this by activating “hibernating” stem cells that were then capable of maturing into several different kinds of cells.1

In fact, one study showed that when human neural precursor cells (the early-stage neurons and supporting cells in the brain), were cultured with taurine, it produced significantly more brain cells, demonstrating how taurine stimulates stem-like cells to differentiate into functioning brain cells.2

In animals, taurine deficiency impairs brain growth by delaying normal neuronal development.2 Lab studies show that taurine can reverse this problem. When taurine-deficient brain cells are grown in culture and then taurine is added, it results in a sharp increase in the development of new cells. This is attributed to multiple mechanisms of action, including improved mitochondrial function; activation of genes required for normal proliferation, survival, and energy functioning;2 and blocking chemical signals that inhibit neuronal cell regeneration.3

In addition to promoting the growth of new brain cells, taurine enhances neurites, which are tiny projections that help brain cells to communicate with each other. Neurites maximize connections between those cells, along which electrical impulses flow to support memory, cognition, feeling, and thinking. Over time, chemical stresses and toxins can damage these neurites, contributing to slower cognition in older people.24 A lab study revealed that taurine restores normal neurite growth in nerves exposed to toxic chemicals, largely through its protective effects against chemical stresses.25

The findings that taurine can genuinely rejuvenate damaged brains are truly revolutionary, and are beginning to change the way scientists and neurologists are thinking about age- and trauma-related brain changes.26,27

Taurine’s Benefits For Brain Conditions

Two specific conditions taurine has been shown to help benefit are Parkinson’s disease and depression.22,28

Human studies show that taurine plasma levels are reduced in patients with Parkinson’s disease, suggesting both a potential contribution to the disease—and a possible treatment.28 This problem is compounded by the fact that standard treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms involves the drug levodopa, which may further deplete taurine.28 This makes it particularly important for Parkinson’s patients to supplement with this versatile amino acid.

Supplementing with taurine is also important for those suffering from depression.22 Depression is particularly prevalent in diabetics; indeed, there’s a strong school of thought that chronic blood sugar elevations are involved in depression and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.29-31 Intriguingly, taurine supplementation in diabetic rats has been shown to improve depressive-like behaviors; in addition, supplementation improved the diabetes-damaged neurotransmitter function, which helped lead to improved short-term memory.32

What You Need To Know
Taurine Promotes Brain Cell Regeneration

Taurine Promotes Brain Cell Regeneration

  • Taurine is a free amino acid that is vital in slowing key age-accelerating processes, particularly in the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.
  • Laboratory studies show that taurine can achieve what was once thought to be impossible—stimulate new growth and connections of brain cells, which raises the real possibility for restoration of youthful brain function in older adults.
  • Taurine levels decrease with age and with metabolic and neurological disease.
  • Supplementation with taurine, in both animal and human studies, demonstrates the age-decelerating effects of this amino acid.
  • Laboratory studies reveal dramatic improvements in cognition and memory in taurine-supplemented animals, and suggest that human supplementation might slow or reverse changes seen in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Taurine supplementation boosts cardiac function and reduces arterial stiffness, both contributors to early death from heart disease and stroke.
  • Those with metabolic syndrome also stand to gain from taurine supplements, which substantially reduce that syndrome’s negative impacts on cardiovascular risk.

Solving Your Heart’s Energy Crisis

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in US adults.33

A recent study in mice has, for the first time, suggested that taurine might prolong life span by improving heart muscle function.34 The study used mice genetically engineered to be profoundly taurine deficient, a state that causes premature aging and severe heart problems, eventually resulting in early death.34 Painstaking work in other animal models revealed why taurine deficiency leads to these severe effects. Taurine deficiency disrupts the “electron transport chain,” which reduces the amount of energy-rich adenosine triphosphate (ATP) available for heart cells to support their contractions, leading to decreased pumping ability of the heart.

That fundamental finding—that low taurine levels contribute to or exacerbate poor heart muscle function—is now being corroborated by lab and animal studies demonstrating improvements in heart or blood vessel performance.

Poor or unregulated control of arterial smooth muscle is a major contributor to high blood pressure and resulting cardiovascular disease.35 Fortunately, taurine is known to have blood pressure-reducing and heart muscle-protecting effects.11 In a lab study, human artery segments were immersed in a chemical bath that induced contractions similar to those that occur during an angina episode or heart attack. The addition of taurine to the bath resulted in relaxation of the artery.

Animal and lab studies also show that taurine supplementation can mitigate ischemia-reperfusion injury,36,37 a major cause of long-term heart failure and further dysfunction. This type of injury occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia) followed by the restoration of blood flow (reperfusion).38,39 Both processes can lead to an energy crisis and high amounts of reactive chemicals.

Ischemia-reperfusion injury is severely exacerbated by high sugar intake and diabetes because of negative effects on nervous system signals.40,41 Taurine supplementation can abolish those aberrant signals and improve arterial blood pressure following such an injury.42

How Taurine Enhances Brain Function
How Taurine Enhances Brain Function

Taurine has the unique ability to help promote new brain cell formation—but its benefits don’t end there. Taurine has several other important properties that preserve and enhance brain function:

  • Taurine restores to aging brain cells the ability to prevent and clean up after chemical stresses from reactive molecules, to fight brain inflammation, and to generate brain cell relaxing and stimulating signals at appropriate times.1,6,73-76
  • Taurine increases the electrical activity (signaling ability) in nerve cells through effects on calcium, a key element required for proper electrical function of neurons.77
  • Taurine can favorably mimic the actions of certain neurotransmitters, the chemical signals that brain cells use to communicate. From a chemical structural standpoint, taurine closely resembles the neurotransmitter gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA).78,79 GABA is involved in learning, and studies in lower animals demonstrate improvements on simple learning tasks following GABA supplementation.79
  • Taurine supplementation supports learning in higher animals as well. Supplementation in a mouse model of inheritable intellectual disability (fragile X syndrome), which is associated with reduced GABA signaling, stabilized and recovered some cognitive functions to an extent that brought some measures of the animals’ performance close to that of normal mice.78

Human Studies Of Taurine’s Cardiovascular Effects

Human studies are demonstrating the impact of taurine’s cardiovascular effects. Large epidemiological studies show that deficiencies in taurine are associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk factors. For example, when compared to people with the highest taurine levels, those with the lowest levels had a 184% increase in the risk of obesity, a 22% increase in the risk of hypertension, and a 120% increase in the risk of elevated cholesterol.12

While the risk of taurine deficiency is great, encouraging studies show that supplementation with taurine can reduce risk factors for heart disease. And in fact, intervention studies are now showing that supplementation can rectify heart muscle energy deficiency to the point of improving clinical outcomes.43

One of the best examples of this is a Russian study on patients undergoing heart valve replacement and coronary bypass surgery—both of which are huge thieves of cardiac muscle energy. This study showed that supplementation with taurine resulted in improved heart pumping action, reduced the size of the enlarged pumping chambers, lowered triglyceride levels, and significantly improved quality of life.44 These benefits may help to reduce the rates of sudden death after cardiac surgery, which remain unacceptably high.45-48 As is typical with many mainstream doctors, if something costs virtually nothing, as taurine does, they overlook its critical lifesaving properties.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure  

Taurine has been shown to have protective effects against congestive heart failure, a common, energy-related complication in heart attack survivors, cardiac surgery patients, and people with hypertension or severe lung disease; it results from an inability of the heart to pump sufficient blood to meet the demands of the body.49

In a study published in the journal Clinical Cardiology, patients with congestive heart failure took either a placebo or 2,000 mg of taurine three times a day.50 Compared to placebo recipients, supplemented patients experienced significant improvements in the severity of their heart failure, and significant increases in measurements of the heart’s ability to pump blood. In addition, none of the taurine-supplemented patients worsened during treatment, while 29% of placebo subjects did.

In a similarly designed study, heart failure patients who took 500 mg of taurine three times a day experienced increases in exercise time and distance, and increased ability to utilize cardiac energy, compared with placebo. This is a graphic example of how taurine can affect heart muscle energy production, making it more efficient and helping to energize tired heart muscle.51

Another study of heart failure patients showed that taurine supplementation (3 grams per day for six weeks) resulted in significant changes in echocardiogram results, which showed improvements in the pumping action of the left ventricle, the chamber that pumps blood out to the entire body.52

Clearly, ample blood taurine levels are required for proper heart functioning and this data was published by Life Extension® decades ago based on what cardiologists in Japan had discovered when treating congestive heart failure patients with 3 grams of taurine per day.53 Let’s now look at some ways that taurine can reduce the risks for developing cardiovascular disease in the first place.

Taurine Reduces Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is the combination of central obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance/borderline high blood sugar, elevated triglyceride levels, and low HDL cholesterol levels.54 It is strongly associated with short- and long-term risks of cardiovascular and kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, and death.55-58

Taurine supplements have been found to be extremely effective in reducing harmful effects of metabolic syndrome—while at the same time inducing changes that reduce the syndrome’s long-term impact on cardiovascular risk.

Studies of diabetic and/or obese mice and rats demonstrate that taurine leads to consistent improvements in multiple components of metabolic syndrome, including insulin secretion and sensitivity and glucose tolerance.13-15

One study also showed that taurine-deficient mice develop kidney changes identical to those in human diabetic nephropathy, the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease.59 This suggests that taurine supplementation in metabolic syndrome patients might lower renal disease risk.16,60

And, in a remarkable pair of studies, taurine was shown to amplify the beneficial effects of metformin, a naturally derived antidiabetic drug with multiple health-promoting effects in metabolic syndrome. In the first study, when rats were treated with both taurine and metformin, they were better protected against chemical and metabolic stresses than when either was used alone.61 For the second study, the combination of taurine supplementation and metformin was found to provide the same pattern of protection as insulin against diabetes-induced metabolic changes, including preservation of renal function.17

Human Studies Of Taurine And Metabolic Syndrome

Human Studies Of Taurine And Metabolic Syndrome  

Human studies demonstrated just how important taurine supplementation is for people with metabolic syndrome, which exacerbates the age-related decline in taurine levels. Compared with healthy people, obese people have as much as a 41% reduction in taurine levels compared with healthy controls,62 while diabetics have a 30% reduction in taurine levels.63

The good news is that supplementing with taurine significantly reduces many of the risk factors faced by those with metabolic syndrome. For example, at doses of 3 grams per day for eight weeks, a group of obese adults had significant 29% reductions in plasma markers of inflammation (hs-CRP) and 20% reduction in lipid peroxidation (thiobarbituric acid reducing substances.)62

And when diabetics supplemented with 1.5 grams per day, not only were their taurine levels restored to normal, but their platelet aggregation was reduced to levels seen in healthy controls.63 (Platelet aggregation is elevated in diabetics,64 increasing the risk for stroke- or heart attack-inducing blood clots.)65 This study also involved a laboratory test of platelet aggregation, which showed that while taurine reduced aggregation in blood from diabetic patients, it had no effect at all on blood from healthy controls. (This is a safety concern about virtually all prescription antiplatelet drugs).

In addition to the heart disease and stroke risk induced by aggressive platelet aggregation, diabetics (and even nondiabetic people with chronically “high normal” blood sugar levels) are at increased cardiovascular risk from physical stiffening of their arteries.66-68

Again, taurine supplementation is able to reverse this dangerous state of affairs. In a study published in Diabetes & Vascular Disease Research, young adults with type I diabetes and impaired endothelial function supplemented with 500 mg of taurine three times a day. After just two weeks, their abnormal arterial stiffening and reactivity returned to levels found in controls!69

Since type I diabetes (formerly known as “juvenile-onset,” or “insulin-dependent” diabetes) exposes its victims to much greater elevation and fluctuation in glucose levels even than those seen in type II (“adult-onset”) diabetes, seeing this dramatic effect in the more severe form of the disease is especially encouraging for the much larger population of type II diabetics.49,70,71

Summary

Taurine, a little-known amino acid,72 can do the seemingly impossible: stimulate new brain cells to grow in adult brains. This capability creates an entirely new paradigm for the ways we think about age-related cognitive decline, and even major neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Taurine levels fall as we age, leaving our brains relatively unprotected. Taurine levels are low in people with age-related brain disorders. Animal studies reveal that supplementation can not only restore youthful taurine levels, but also improves deficits in memory and cognition.

Taurine also has a fundamental connection with longevity, particularly related to cardiovascular disorders. Animal studies demonstrate protection against heart disease with taurine supplementation, and human studies show that supplementation produces dramatic improvements in heart and blood vessel function.

People with metabolic syndrome have lower taurine levels than their healthy peers; again, taurine supplementation drives down the detrimental effects of metabolic syndrome while inducing changes that reduce the syndrome’s long-term impact on cardiovascular risk.

A balanced supplement program should aim at restoring youthful levels of nutrients known to counteract the chemical stresses, inflammatory changes, and toxic exposures we experience through life. The evidence for the amino acid taurine suggests that it be included in such a regimen.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

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