There is a range of natural supplements to help keep everything in check when it comes to liver function. One of the most promising yet underappreciated options is tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), a water-soluble bile acid that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 3,000 years to alleviate muscle spasms, heat illness, and fevers.
Yes, "tauroursodeoxycholic acid" is a mouthful to pronounce, but this bile acid metabolite has several therapeutic applications. For example, preliminary data suggest that TUDCA supplements may help treat a handful of chronic health conditions, including cholestasis, insulin resistance, cystic fibrosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and spinal cord injury . Impressive, right?
Read on and we'll get you up to speed on all things TUDCA! (Hint: it's much more than just a "liver supplement.")
Tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) is the taurine conjugate form of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), a major constituent of bile produced by intestinal bacteria. Since TUDCA is a human metabolite of UDCA, it is a naturally occurring secondary bile acid.
Ursodeoxycholic acid derives its name from the Latin root ursus- meaning "bear" since UDCA is a significant bile acid in bears. As such, UDCA is sometimes referred to as "bear bile" despite being found in many animals, including humans.
UDCA has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to treat high cholesterol and liver disease, specifically primary biliary cirrhosis . Likewise, tauroursodeoxycholic acid is used to treat cholesterol gallstones in several countries and is an investigational drug currently being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.
Thus, active individuals and gym-goers often use TUDCA supplements to support healthy liver and cardiovascular function. However, the benefits of TUDCA may be quite far-reaching, going so far as to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig's disease), type-1 and type-2 diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy according to recent experimental studies and clinical trials [3, 4, 5, 6].
Systemically, TUDCA appears to work by inhibiting inflammation and oxidative stress . Within the liver, TUDCA helps support the composition and flow of bile acids essential for cholesterol elimination.
Another intriguing mechanism of TUDCA is reducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in liver cells and neurons . Therefore, TUDCA may protect against cirrhosis and neurodegenerative disease.
The proposed pathway of TUDCA inhibition of apoptosis is convoluted and beyond the scope of this article. To keep it simple, TUDCA blocks the actions of cellular proteins that activate apoptosis, such as cytochrome C .
TUDCA is also a molecular chaperone in the protein folding process, ensuring that proteins in cells function properly . And when mutant (misfolded) proteins arise, TUDCA assists their transfer for degradation.
We acknowledge that this section might be a bit "science-heavy" for some readers, so let's translate what all the technical jargon means in the grand scheme of things of taking a TUDCA supplement.
With regards to liver health, TUDCA is quite important. When the liver doesn't produce enough bile, cholesterol may accumulate in the body. Consequently, high cholesterol levels, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LPL) cholesterol, can cause cardiometabolic and hepatic dysfunctions .
TUDCA is incorporated into liver cell membranes and stimulates biliary secretion, thereby facilitating cholesterol transport via the liver bile duct to the intestines. In turn, a portion of cholesterol is eliminated in the feces (most of it is resorbed as part of the enterohepatic cycle) .
Furthermore, TUDCA is a bile acid known to abrogate endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in cells . The endoplasmic reticulum is a cellular organelle that serves many functions in protein and lipid synthesis. When endoplasmic reticulum stress arises from poor diet, lack of exercise, or other factors, cells generate reactive oxygen species and misfolded proteins that disrupt cellular processes and contribute to inflammation .
By stabilizing the endoplasmic reticulum and regulating programmed cell death, TUDCA confers benefits in treating a long list of non-liver health conditions, even obesity, stroke, and cardiovascular disease . Another lesser-known benefit of TUDCA is protecting eye health.
As you can see, the therapeutic potential of this unsung bile acid is quite extensive. But how much TUDCA is necessary to produce meaningful health benefits?
Most TUDCA supplements come in capsules of 250 - 500 mg. Based on clinical studies, an effective dosage of TUDCA ranges from 8-12 mg per kg body weight per day . (Note that this dose is extrapolated from published data on free ursodeoxycholic acid therapy. Tauroursodeoxycholic acid is about 75% ursodeoxycholic acid and 25% taurine by mass.)
If you're looking for a pure TUDCA supplement to add to your health and fitness regimen, the new Jacked Factory Essential Series TUDCA Capsules are set to launch in the coming weeks!
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