Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, commonly known as TUDCA, is a bile acid that is naturally produced by the liver that supports the digestion and utilization of fats and oils. In recent years, TUDCA has gained attention for its numerous health benefits, and TUDCA is one of the most commonly prescribed supplements by the practitioners of Phoenix Rising Integrative Medicine.
Ultimately, TUDCA supports digestion by supporting healthy fat metabolism and breakdowns as well as appropriate nutrient absorption, and it has been shown to support cellular and mitochondrial health; however, the human body only produces small amounts of TUDCA. In a healthy individual, the body recirculates about 95% of the body’s bile salts, but poor diet, certain medications, and poor liver function can impair this process, and so often times, supplementation is key.
One of the most well-established benefits of TUDCA is its ability to protect and promote liver function,, as it has been shown to have hepatoprotective effects, meaning it can protect liver cells from damage caused by toxins, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Studies have shown that TUDCA can improve liver function in people with liver diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), viral hepatitis, and drug-induced liver injury (1, 2, 3).
In addition to its hepatoprotective effects, TUDCA also has anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is associated with many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. By reducing inflammation, TUDCA may help prevent or improve these conditions. A study in mice with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) found that TUDCA reduced inflammation and improved gut function (4).
TUDCA may also have a protective effect on the eyes. A study in rats found that TUDCA protected retinal cells from damage caused by oxidative stress (5). Another study in mice found that TUDCA prevented age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in older adults (6).
TUDCA has been shown to have a beneficial effect on gut health. It can improve the balance of bacteria in the gut, known as the gut microbiome, which can have a positive impact on digestion, immune function, and overall health. A study in mice found that TUDCA increased the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while reducing the abundance of harmful bacteria (7).
TUDCA has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which is the ability of the body to use insulin effectively to regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body becomes less responsive to insulin. A study in obese mice found that TUDCA improved insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation (8).
TUDCA has neuroprotective effects and may be beneficial in preventing or treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A study in rats found that TUDCA reduced inflammation and protected brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress (9). Another study in mice found that TUDCA prevented memory loss and improved brain function in a model of Alzheimer’s disease (10).
TUDCA has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels by increasing the excretion of cholesterol from the body. High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease, so this benefit may help reduce the risk of heart disease. A study in rats with high cholesterol levels found that TUDCA reduced total cholesterol and improved the ratio of “good” (HDL) to “bad” (LDL) cholesterol (11).
Other benefits of TUDCA have also been shown:
In conclusion, TUDCA is a promising supplement with numerous health benefits. TUDCA may be a useful supplement for those looking to support liver function, reduce inflammation, promote gut health, and more. As always, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
Wang K, Liu R, Li J, Mao J, Lei Y, Wu J, Zeng J, Zhang T, Wu H. Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid Protects Against Liver Fibrosis by Alleviating Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2018;45(2):799-815. doi: 10.1159/000487416. Epub 2018 Feb 8. PMID: 29421892.
Lee WM. Drug-induced hepatotoxicity. N Engl J Med. 2003;349(5):474-485. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra021844. PMID: 12904518.
Rui L, Dong X, Wang Y, et al. Protective effect of tauroursodeoxycholic acid on hepatocytes against injury induced by ethanol. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;107:310-315. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.08.047. Epub 2018 Aug 29. PMID: 30172026.
Ke F, Yadav PK, Ju LZ. Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis. Saudi J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(1):3-10. doi:10.4103/1319-3767.91742.
Koyama Y, Okamura K, Kimura K, et al. Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid Protects Against Oxidative Stress in a Rat Model of Retinal Degeneration. PLoS One. 2016;11(3):e0152461. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152461.
Wang AL, Lukas TJ, Yuan M, Du N, Tso MO, Neufeld AH. Autophagy and Exosomes in the Aged Retinal Pigment Epithelium: Possible Relevance to Drusen Formation and Age-related Macular Degeneration. PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4160. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004160.
Li D, Hu J, Wang T, et al. Tauroursodeoxycholic acid improves gut barrier function and reduces inflammation in a mouse model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. J Biosci. 2020;45:56. doi:10.1007/s12038-020-00095-y.
Watanabe M, Houten SM, Wang L, et al. Bile acids lower triglyceride levels via a pathway involving FXR, SHP, and SREBP-1c. J Clin Invest. 2004;113(10):1408-1418. doi:10.1172/JCI21025.
Zhu H, Wang Z, Ma C, Tian J, Fu F, Liang X, Zhang X. Tauroursodeoxycholic acid improves motor symptoms in the transgenic mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Mol Med Rep. 2016;14(3):2677-2682. doi:10.3892/mmr.2016.5541.
Kim DH, Lee D, Kim MS, et al. Neuroprotective effects of tauroursodeoxycholic acid against glutamate-induced oxidative stress in mouse hippocampal HT22 cells. Toxicol Res. 2017;33(4):337-344. doi: