TUDCA is a unique bile acid that helps with liver and gallbladder issues. Research has found that it may also help protect the brain and improve eye health. Read on to see the incredible benefits of this bile acid.
What is TUDCA?
Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, more commonly referred to as TUDCA, is a bile acid that is found in trace amounts in the human body. Bile acids are compounds released from the gallbladder that help digest fats .
Bear bile, which contains large amounts of TUDCA, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 3,000 years. However, TUDCA obtained from bears is extremely controversial due to animal welfare concerns. Bile is either extracted from live bears on “farms,” where bears are kept in small cages and are subjected to either perpetually open wounds or to constant invasive surgery or wild bears are hunted for their gallbladders. These practices persist even though TUDCA can be chemically synthesized [2, 3, 4].
TUDCA’s Mechanisms Of Action
- TUDCA increases glucose-induced insulin release via the cAMP/PKA pathway, increasing insulin sensitivity .
- TUDCA relieves endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. The ER makes sure proteins are folded properly [8, 9].
- TUDCA reduces programmed cell death (apoptosis) in healthy cells . TUDCA prevents the molecule BAX from reaching the mitochondria. BAX causes mitochondria to release cytochrome C, which causes enzymes (caspases) to initiate apoptosis .
- TUDCA inactivates Bcl-2-associated death promoter (BAD), a molecule involved in apoptosis .
- TUDCA removes toxic bile acids from the liver and prevents them from damaging liver cells .
Health Benefits of TUDCA
1) TUDCA Decreases Elevated Liver Enzymes
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) are two important enzymes in the liver. Elevated levels of these enzymes can indicate liver problems
In one study done on 12 women with PBC over two months, TUDCA reduced liver enzymes by 51% .
TUDCA decreases liver enzyme levels even at low doses. A study of 5 liver disease patients found that 10 – 13 mg TUDCA daily for three months was able to reduce the liver enzyme alanine transaminase (ALT) levels .
2) TUDCA Helps Treat Cholestasis
Cholestasis is a condition where bile doesn’t flow properly from the liver to the gallbladder and then to the small intestine .
Cholestasis is characterized by a lack of bile in the small intestine and an accumulation of bile in the liver .
Cholestasis is often associated with other liver conditions, including primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) .
One study found that TUDCA was able to reduce cholestasis caused by liver injury from lack of blood flow .
3) TUDCA Combats Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a condition of the liver in which scar tissue replaces healthy cells. It is a common cause of death and illness and is currently the fourteenth leading cause of death worldwide .
A study (DB-RCT) found that TUDCA was safe and effective in the treatment of liver cirrhosis in 18 patients with the disease .
4) TUDCA Helps Treat Hepatitis
A study (DB-RCT) of 150 patients found that TUDCA was more effective than placebo and progressively improving chronic hepatitis over the six-month trial period .
In one study, TUDCA reduced liver damage, oxidative stress, and scarring of tissue in mice with fatty liver disease .
5) TUDCA Increases Insulin Sensitivity
Because of its rumored ability to burn fat, TUDCA is often used as a weight loss drug or a bodybuilding supplement.
However, there was no change in the sensitivity of fat tissue to insulin .
Moreover, no effects on blood glucose or insulin levels were seen, and TUDCA had no significant influences on body fat or weight .
6) TUDCA Helps Treat Complications of Diabetes
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of diabetes in which the blood cells of the light-sensitive tissue in the eye (retina) are damaged. TUDCA prevented damage to human retina cells exposed to high levels of sugar .
7) TUDCA May Help Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
Amyloid beta (Aβ) plaques are proteins that play a critical role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. TUDCA was able to decrease Aβ plaques in the brains of mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease .
Another study found that TUDCA was able to reduce neuron cell death (apoptosis), which is involved in Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the brain .
TUDCA significantly reduced apoptosis caused by Aβ plaques in mice .
Six months of TUDCA supplementation prevented memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease .
8) TUDCA May Help Treat Parkinson’s Disease
TUDCA protected nerve cells in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease .
TUDCA prevented c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation. The JNK pathway leads to the death of neurons in Parkinson’s disease .
TUDCA reduced cell death in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease .
9) TUDCA May Help Treat Huntington’s Disease
A study found that TUDCA was nontoxic and protected nerve cells in a mouse model of Huntington’s disease .
TUDCA reduced cell death by 80% in rats with symptoms of Huntington’s disease .
10) TUDCA May Help Treat ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
ALSFRS-R is a functional rating scale for measuring disability in ALS patients, with higher scores indicating less disability. A study (DB-RCT) of 34 ALS patients showed that patients taking 1 g TUDCA daily had higher ALSFRS-R scores after one year .
TUDCA was well-tolerated, and there were no differences in adverse effects between the TUDCA and placebo groups .
11) TUDCA Protects Against Strokes
Another study found that TUDCA decreased blood clot volume and cell death due to stroke .
TUDCA reduced both wound volumes and cell death in the striatum (a part of the brain) of rats by 50% after a stroke .
12) TUDCA Reduces Damage From Heart Attack
TUDCA reduced heart cell death following a heart attack in rats .
The study suggested that TUDCA is a viable treatment for heart attacks .
13) TUDCA May Improve Retinal Health
A study done on mice reported that TUDCA is effective and safe in the treatment of a mouse model of RP .
The study noted that TUDCA preserved rod and cone (cells of the eye responsible for vision) function, and prevented cell death of rods of cones .
TUDCA slowed retinal degeneration in mice .
TUDCA slowed retinal degeneration and vision loss in rats .
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is an eye disorder that damages the retina. TUDCA was effective in treating a mouse model of LCA .
Choroidal neolization (CNV) is the creation of new blood vessels in the choroid layer of the eye, which is a thin layer directly behind the retina that absorbs scattered light. It results in significant and permanent vision loss from the formation of scar tissue .
In mice whose eyes were exposed to a laser to cause CNV, TUDCA prevented CNV formation .
The study suggested that TUDCA is a potential candidate drug in the treatment of CNV-related retinal diseases .
Side Effects Of TUDCA
Dosage Of TUDCA
A dose-response study of TUDCA tested doses of 500 mg, 1000 mg, and 1500 mg per day over six months, finding that there was little difference between the doses .
1500 mg was the most effective at lowering enzyme levels while 500 mg was the most cost-effective .
One study suggested 60 mg/kg/day as a tolerable and administrable dose for humans .
TUDCA taken at 10 – 13 mg daily for three months is able to reduce liver enzyme levels .
In otherwise healthy obese persons, doses of 1,750 mg daily have been tolerated for up to four weeks .
In liver transplant patients, 500 mg of TUDCA taken daily for one year was not associated with any adverse effects .
TUDCA In Combination With Other Treatments
1) TUDCA and Doxycycline
A study found that a combination of TUDCA and Doxycycline was effective in treating Familial Amyloidotic Polyneuropathy (FAP) in mice. FAPs are a group of life-threatening disorders that cause nerve lesions [48, 49].
Doxycycline on its own was also effective in treating FAP, but neither TUDCA nor doxycycline alone was as effective as their combination .
2) TUDCA and Multiple Drugs/Supplements
One study used a drug “cocktail” comprised of six drugs and supplements:
- Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)
- N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)
The cocktail was able to effectively treat damage to the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts in liver transplant patients .
3) TUDCA and Glutamine
A combination of TUDCA and glutamine was more effective than either drug alone in treating the passage of bacteria out of the intestines and into normally sterile tissues (bacterial translocation). Bacterial translocation is a complication of bile obstruction (obstructive jaundice) .
4) TUDCA, Citicoline, and NT-4
A combination of citicoline, neurotrophin-4 (NT-4; a protein that controls the survival and development of neurons), and TUDCA was effective as a therapy for retinal degeneration .
User Experiences with TUDCA
TUDCA for nonalcoholic fatty liver (steatohepatitis): “TUDCA seriously played a huge role in saving my life. If you’re taking a lot of supplements or medications, or get frequent stomach pain across the upper quadrants, or else abuse your liver, try this”.
TUDCA for Parkinson’s disease: “I have been taking TUDCA since November 27th, 2014, about 6 months after my Parkinson’s diagnosis. I started with 1,000 mg of TUDCA plus an assortment of other supplements for alpha-synuclein aggregation and brain inflammation. After about six months, I was not experiencing any symptoms even when tired, stressed or sick. I still have no symptoms. It will be three years this November”.
TUDCA for bodybuilding: “My results were amazing and the side effects were essentially nonexistent and I truly think a lot of that had to do with me running this tudca as it was really the only thing different I had added to my usual cycle”.
TUDCA for liver health: “Anyone with liver issues will benefit from the product. The capsules taste awful but that’s not really an issue nor the manufacturer’s fault, some powders just have a foul taste even in a capsule. I’ve been taking it for 2 weeks now, since taking this my blood work has shown liver values are back in normal range”.