What Is Taurine?

Taurine, also known as 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is a conditional amino sulfonic acid. Unlike essential amino acids, taurine can be manufactured by the human body, and it is also found in animal-based food products. Patients who cannot make enough taurine often need to take taurine supplements, and many athletes also use these supplements. For example, taurine is often added to infant formula since newborns cannot produce sufficient taurine, and patients fed through feeding tubes typically use products fortified with taurine. In addition, this amino acid is often added to energy drinks. The most recent studies suggest taking between 1.5 to six grams of taurine each day over three months is considered safe. Patients who have underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes should check with their physician before using taurine supplements.

The information provided below explains the function of taurine, where to get it, and the potential side effects and benefits associated with this nutrient.

Role In The Body

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Taurine is concentrated primarily in the heart, brain, retina, and platelets, and it is also found in the large intestine, where it is a major component of bile. In terms of its role in the body, taurine helps in the formation of bile salts, which break fats down into fatty acids, allowing the digestive system to absorb them. In addition, taurine helps regulate the movement of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium as they travel in and out of cells. This mechanism helps the body maintain the proper balance of electrolytes, and it also aids in the prevention of dehydration. In the eyes, taurine is believed to support and improve the health of a patient’s rods and cones, both of which are important visual receptors. The nutrient also helps with the regulation of the immune system, and it acts as a neurotransmitter.

Get details on common sources of taurine next.

Sources Of Taurine

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Dietary sources of taurine are found exclusively in meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. Salmon is one of the most popular sources of taurine for those who eat fish, and beef, lamb, and other types of red meat are also rich in this nutrient. Generally, darker meat and poultry contain more taurine than lighter meat. For example, dark meat chicken has more taurine than white meat chicken. Organ meats, including chicken hearts, contain particularly high concentrations of dietary taurine. A 100-gram serving of seafood contains an average of eleven to 827 milligrams of taurine, and the same portion of meat or poultry contains between eleven to 306 milligrams of taurine. Dairy products typically have two to eight milligrams of taurine in a hundred-milliliter serving. Although vegetarians and vegans might not consume any of these foods, a 2017 study showed most adults who follow a plant-based diet already produce enough taurine on their own, and supplementation was not recommended for these individuals. Rather, the use of supplements is only recommended for patients who have low levels of this nutrient. Taurine is often added to energy drinks.

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How It Works

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Taurine is manufactured by the body through the synthesis of vitamin C, cysteine, and methionine. In mammals, the synthesis of taurine takes place in the pancreas through a pathway known as the cysteine sulfinic pathway. It can also be manufactured by the body through the transsulfuration pathway. This conditional amino acid crosses the body’s blood-brain barrier, and it assists in membrane stabilization and inhibitory neurotransmission. Within cells, taurine functions as a diuretic, preventing excess sodium from entering the cell and keeping magnesium and potassium inside of the cell. The nutrient’s ability to regulate the body’s use of calcium and potassium has made it a popular supplement for patients who have epilepsy, and it is also being studied for potential use as an osmotic agent in peritoneal dialysis.

Learn about the reported health benefits of taurine next.

Reported Health Benefits

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Taurine has numerous reported health benefits, and some of the most powerful effects of this substance have been observed in cardiovascular health. Research suggests patients who have higher levels of taurine tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than other individuals, and they also have lower death rates from cardiovascular causes. Studies on diabetes patients demonstrated taking a taurine supplement for fourteen days significantly reduced the stiffness of the arteries, a major risk factor for heart disease. Taurine is believed to minimize the nerve impulses that trigger elevations in blood pressure, and it decreases resistance in the blood vessel walls.

Additional research conducted on overweight patients concluded taking three grams of taurine each day for seven weeks led to reductions in body weight and improvements in markers of heart health. In the area of liver health, supplementation with six grams of taurine daily has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and liver damage. By binding to GABA receptors in the brain, taurine can help calm the nervous system, and the nutrient’s role in the regulation of muscle contractions could reduce the number of seizures epilepsy patients may experience. Scientists who specialize in ear health believe the supplement could help treat tinnitus. In fact, one study demonstrated twelve percent of participants who used a taurine supplement were able to eliminate their tinnitus symptoms. Research into these and other potential health benefits of taurine is ongoing.

Get familiar with the potential side effects of taurine now.

Potential Side Effects

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When used by healthy patients in the recommended dosages, taurine does not seem to be associated with any potential side effects. However, patients should avoid getting their taurine from energy drinks, as these drinks contain very high levels of both caffeine and sugar, and some patients have died after consuming the beverages. Additionally, it may not be safe for patients with kidney disease to use taurine supplements, and these individuals should check with their healthcare team before using any dietary supplements. Patients taking lithium should speak with their doctor before taking taurine. If lithium and taurine are taken together, the taurine could increase the amount of lithium the body retains, which could increase the risk of serious side effects from the medication. Patients who want to take both lithium and taurine may need to have their lithium dose reduced to avoid this interaction.