Bile acids, a compound that helps digest fat is produced in the liver and released through the gallbladder into the small intestine. A component of the bile acid, tauroursodeoxycholic acid (also known as TUDCA) is found in very small traces in the human body.
UDCA or ursodeoxycholic acid, an FDA approved medication is used for the treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis, an autoimmune liver disorder. TUDCA and UDCA are both components of bile acid. The difference between the two is in their bioavailability and solubility in the body. Supporting evidence shows that TUDCA helps in the treatment of not just liver-related but other diseases as well.
How is TUDCA Produced
TUDCA has been in use in traditional medicines, for more than three thousand years, to treat a diverse range of ailments in China. The Chinese harvested TUDCA from the bile of bears which contains over 50% TUDCA. The bile is extracted at either live bear farms or from wild bears hunted for their gallbladder.
Animal welfare concerns have raised the red flag on these live bear farms as the animals are enclosed in small cages and subjected to regular invasive surgery to extract TUDCA. Fortunately, TUDCA can and is available as a chemically synthesized product and manufactured as a biopharmaceutical. Constant research and development in TUDCA production have made the bear farms unnecessary – although the practice persists in China.
In the human body, TUDCA is manufactured through a microbial process. The bile ducts in the liver release bile salts into the intestines where the gut microbes metabolize it into UDCA. The UDCA molecule then connects to a taurine molecule to create TUDCA. However, the gut microbes can only do this if there is bile salt to work with.
What does it do?
According to scientists, TUDCA acts by relieving ER stress, thus ensuring that proteins are folded properly. It may also act by increasing glucose-induced insulin release, thus increasing insulin sensitivity. TUDCA is believed to reduce apoptosis in healthy cells by preventing BAX from reaching the mitochondria.
It also inactivates the Bcl-2-associated death (BAD) promoter that is involved in apoptosis. There is evidence that TUDCA removes toxic bile acids from the liver.
Health Benefits of TUDCA
Health benefits of TUDCA are associated with the many problems that can be caused due to the reduction of bile flow from the liver to the intestines. This reduction happens either due to less or low-quality production of bile or a physical blockage that does not allow the flow.
In either case, the gut microbes do not get the required quantity of TUDCA to work with. Detox experts can give you a good explanation of how TUDCA works and helps keep your system healthy. In a nutshell, TUDCA not only helps in stimulating the bile flow, but it also improves the quality of bile produced.
Cholestasis and TUDCA
A condition that happens when the flow of bile to the small intestine from the liver and through the gallbladder is either reduced or restricted; Cholestasis is also associated with primary biliary cirrhosis, an autoimmune disease that damages and destroys bile ducts.
Primary biliary cirrhosis and hepatitis are caused by elevated levels of ALT and AST enzymes. Studies conducted over two months on twelve women taking TUDCA showed a 51% reduction in the levels of liver enzymes. Another study, on twenty-three patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, found improved levels of ALT, AST, GGT, and alkaline phosphatase after taking TUDCA. There are also reports of TUDCA reducing Cholestasis caused by an injured liver due to lack of blood.
Liver Cirrhosis and TUDCA
A common cause of illness and death, liver cirrhosis happens when scar tissue replaces the healthy tissue in the liver. A study conducted with eighteen patients undergoing treatment for liver cirrhosis found TUDCA safe and effective.
Hepatitis and TUDCA
A study conducted with 150 patients suffering from hepatitis C indicates TUDCA as more effective than a placebo. Over a six-month trial, TUDCA also shows a marked progressive improvement in treating chronic hepatitis. There are studies underway to investigate how TUDCA affects hepatitis B and D.
Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and TUDCA
A functional rating scale, ALSFRS-R is used to measure disability in ALS patients. A high score indicates less disability. A study conducted over one year with thirty-four ALS patients taking 1g TUDCA daily, showed the patients achieving higher ALSFRS-R scores.
Diabetes and TUDCA
Diabetic patients often have elevated copper levels. According to a study, TUDCA reduced high levels of copper to normal in Type 1 diabetic mice. Scientists are also exploring the effects of TUDCA on retinal cells to see if it can help in diabetic retinopathy cases.
Alzheimer’s and TUDCA
Amyloid-beta plaques have a critical role in developing Alzheimer’s disease. TUDCA can help reduce Amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. It can also help prevent memory loss and DNA from breaking down.
Parkinson’s and TUDCA
According to scientists, TUDCA may help increase the life of the brain cells along with help in the functioning of the mitochondria. This would help prevent JNK activation, which leads to neuron death in Parkinson’s disease.
Huntington’s and TUDCA
Studies have indicated that TUDCA protects nerve cells and reduces brain cell death. Besides, it protects cognitive function and prevents mitochondria swelling.
Stroke and TUDCA
TUDCA may be helpful in post-stroke recovery by raising bile acid levels in the brain. A study found that TUDCA reduced wound volume and cell death in the striatum after a stroke.
Heart Health and TUDCA
Endothelial cells line the insides of your blood vessels and organs. Increased glucose levels in the blood cause damage to the endothelial cells, increasing the chance of cardiovascular diseases. TUDCA reduces oxidative stress, thus protecting and preventing the cells from high glucose in the blood. TUDCA also helps in protecting the cells of the heart in the event of a heart attack along with helping heal the damaged cells post the attack.
Thyroid and TUDCA
The efficient functioning of the thyroid is important for the system. It not only determines your energy levels but can also influence how efficiently the body uses insulin. TUDCA helps with the thyroid function by up-regulating the energy in the cells. A study has shown that TUDCA can increase the brown adipose tissue, which is metabolically more active than white adipose tissue, by 100%. Increasing the amount of energy, TUDCA helps the body utilize insulin more efficiently.
A dose-response study over six months indicated little difference between TUDCA tested doses of 500, 1000 and 1500mg per day on liver markers. While 500mg was most cost-effective, 1500mg dose was the most effective in reducing enzyme levels.
According to a study, an effective, tolerable and administrable dose would be 60mg per kilogram of body weight per day. Obese but healthy people can tolerate TUDCA doses of up to 1750mg daily for around four months.
Taken at 10 to 13mg daily for three months, TUDCA brings about a reduction in levels of liver enzyme. Bile salt composition improvement has been observed with a dose of 15 to 20mg per kilogram of body weight.
Patients who have undergone liver transplant showed no adverse effects to 500 mg TUDCA taken daily for one year. Primary biliary cirrhosis patients tolerate between 750 to 1500mg of TUDCA taken daily for two to six months.
Ask the Experts
The digestive system is a critical part of the body and its efficient functioning will keep your system healthy. While there are many benefits of taking TUDCA as a supplement, it is advisable to consult a Detox expert before you start.
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