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Taurine Overview

Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is found throughout the body, but especially in muscle and nerve tissue. It functions with glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid as a neuroinhibitory transmitter. It is thought to help regulate heartbeat and muscle contractions, water balance, energy levels and levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Taurine is called a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body normally makes all the taurine that it needs but it does require vitamin B6 to convert cysteine or methionine to taurine. However, it may be considered a "conditionally essential" amino acid, which means that under certain conditions, such as physical exertion, disease or injury, the body may not be able to synthesize enough taurine to meet demands.

Taurine is not incorporated into proteins and enzymes but it does play an important role in bile acid metabolism. Taurine works with chenodeoxychloic acid to emulsify dietary lipids in the intestine, promoting digestion. Taurine may increase physical endurance and reaction speed; increase concentration and mental alertness; improve overall feeling of well being; strengthen heart muscle (congestive heart failure); prevent cataracts; reduce blood pressure; enhance water balance and nutrient uptake in muscle cells; aid hydration before/during exercise.

Taurine is the second most abundant amino acid in the muscle amino acid pool and cellular depletion has been linked to developmental defects, retinal damage, immunodeficiency, impaired cellular growth and the development of a cardiomyopathy. Low taurine levels observed in patients following heart attacks and taurine may help treat arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) and high blood pressure. Other avenues of research for taurine are stimulation of immune function, treatment of cataracts, alleviation of mild depression and improvement in male fertility.

Dietary Sources: High protein foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish. Beans and nuts do not contain taurine, but they do contain methionine and cysteine (which can be made into taurine by the body).

Dosage: Doses of up to 6 grams per day have been used in studies of heart function. Smaller doses (500-1500mg/day) have been used in studies of brain function (epilepsy). Typical commercial doses found in energy drinks are generally in the range or 50-100mg. Taurine deficiencies have been documented in vegans (strict vegetarians) and in diabetics and sub-optimal levels have been theorized to occur in people under high levels of emotional or physical stress.

Side Effects: Taurine supplementation has been examined at levels up 6 grams/day with no apparent adverse side effects.


Research Overview

1. Slows development of heart failure
2. Prolongs life expectancy in those with congestive heart failure
3. Prevents alcohol-induced hypertension
4. Improves glucose tolerance
5. Improves insulin utilization
6. Improves endothelial dysfunction
7. Prevents membrane damage
8. Decreases serum cholesterol
9. Lowers serum LDL
10. Taurine is antihypoxic
11. Decreases aortic lesions
12. May help prevent atherosclerosis
13. Controls seizures
14. Effective in treating alcohol induced amnesia
15. May be effective in treating cystic fibrosis fat absorption problems
16. Prevent cataract development
17. Protects against reperfusion injury
18. Reduces the adrenal gland adrenaline output
19. Taurine deficiency may cause psychiatric and neurological disorders

Taurine Abstracts (99)