Taurine is considered one of the most important amino acids. It is often added to energy drinks and offers several health benefits. What makes taurine worth looking at is the large body of supportive research. Many studies label the amino acid as very essential (1). What’s with taurine that has made it so important in one’s diet? This article will explore that.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Taurine? How Does It Work?
- What Are The Benefits Of Taurine?
- What Are The Food Sources Of Taurine?
- What About Taurine Supplements (And Energy Drinks)?
- What Are The Side Effects Of Taurine?
What Is Taurine? How Does It Work?
Taurine is an amino acid found throughout your body. It is crucial in most metabolic processes. And unlike most amino acids, taurine is not used to build proteins. It has an entirely different role to play.
Your body can produce some amount of taurine, which is why it is also called a ‘conditional’ amino acid. You can get some of it naturally through foods. Even taking supplements can help.
Taurine’s main functions happen in the central nervous system. It aids in its development and offers cytoprotection (where chemical compounds protect cells from harmful compounds). Taurine deficiency can lead to cardiomyopathy, renal dysfunction, severe damage to retinal nerves, and even developmental issues (2). Taurine is also significant for cell development and survival, and it is one of the most abundant substances in the ocular tissues.
Taurine also works as an antioxidant, fighting oxidative stress and cellular aging.
All of this only makes us wonder about taurine’s powerful benefits. Let’s see how it can help you live a better life – in detail.
What Are The Benefits Of Taurine?
1. Taurine Can Help Fight Obesity
Taurine has a role to play in fat absorption and breakdown. A study done on 30 college students showed how taurine supplementation reduced triglycerides and the atherogenic index (ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol) significantly (3). The study concluded by stating that taurine could positively affect the metabolism of fats and even cut the risk of heart disease in obese individuals.
Taurine levels in tissues were also found to be depleted during obesity in humans. This might establish a relationship between taurine deficiency and obesity (4).
2. Promotes Heart Health
A Japanese study shows the link between increased taurine intake and reduced risk of heart disease (5).
Taurine also helps lower levels of blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Supplementing this amino acid was also found to reduce arterial thickening, which can cause heart attacks. This way, it also reduces hypertension – a major cause of heart failure.
In yet another study, taurine supplementation had reduced homocysteine levels. As high homocysteine levels are associated with heart disease, taurine can work wonders in this aspect (6).
3. Aids Diabetes Treatment
Long-term taurine supplementation was found to lower blood sugar levels in diabetic rats. And interestingly, this happened without any dietary changes (7).
Treating with taurine also prevented diabetes onset as it had suppressed the impending hyperglycemia (8). And as per reports by the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is characterized by taurine deficiency. This deficiency is also linked to diabetic retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy (9).
4. Fights Stress And Boosts Brain Health
A Chinese study shows how taurine can exhibit anti-depressive effects. It can also contribute to brain development and help improve memory and cognition (10).
Taurine was also found to activate the GABA receptors in the brain – these receptors interact with some key neurotransmitters that promote brain development (11).
5. Promotes Liver health
Studies show that taurine can reverse liver injury caused by excessive alcohol consumption. In tests conducted on rats, those ingested with taurine showed reduced rates of fatty degradation and inflammation (12).
Dietary supplementation of taurine also reduced liver injury in patients with chronic hepatitis (13).
Taurine also protects your liver from oxidative stress and free radical damage. In a study, 2 grams of taurine taken thrice a day had reduced liver damage due to oxidative stress (14).
6. Taurine Enhances Vision
The fact that taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the retina explains a lot. Taurine has powerful antioxidant properties that can help boost retinal health and prevent vision ailments (15).
Taurine depletion has also been associated with damage of the retinal cones and retinal ganglion cells. The amino acid can also prevent cataracts and dry eyes – which makes it an important nutrient for eye health (16).
7. Boosts Exercise Performance
Studies show how taurine enhances exercise performance. The amino acid also helps reduce exercise-induced muscle fatigue (17).
In rats ingested with taurine, the duration of running time to exhaustion had significantly gone up – which means that taurine may help one perform physical activity for longer periods without getting exhausted.
8. Combats Inflammation
The primary role of taurine in the human system is as an antioxidant – which is one reason it helps fight inflammation in the body. Studies also promote the use of taurine in drugs to fight chronic inflammatory diseases (18).
Taurine also aids the treatment of periodontitis, which is the inflammation of tissues around the teeth (19).
That’s about the benefits. As we saw, taurine is not like most of the other amino acids. It has a different purpose. That takes us to the next question – how do you get enough of taurine? What are the food sources?
What Are The Food Sources Of Taurine?
Adults are capable of synthesizing taurine to some extent – with the help of methionine and cysteine, two essential amino acids. Apart from that, we need to look at food sources like:
- Fish – They contain high levels of taurine. These include whole capelin (6.17 grams per 1 kilo), cooked dungeness crab (5.94 grams per 1 kilo), whole mackerel (9.29 grams per 1 kilo), and Alaskan salmon fillets (4.40 grams per 1 kilo).
- Meat – Deboned beef (197 mg per 1 kilo), beef liver (2.35 grams per 1 kilo), lamb (3.67 grams per 1 kilo), and chicken liver (6.67 grams per 1 kilo).
- Sea Algae And Plants – Sea algae contains some taurine, though vegetables grown on land contain none.
Human breast milk also has an excellent supply of taurine, so, for infants, this can be a great source (as their bodies cannot generate taurine yet). Taurine is also being added to baby formula milk and powder, given its importance in growth and development.
What if you are a vegetarian? What if you don’t have access to these limited food sources of taurine? Then, you may want to check out supplements.
What About Taurine Supplements (And Energy Drinks)?
If you are a strict vegetarian or a vegan, you can get your daily dose of taurine through supplements. You can also go for supplements if you are an athlete looking to improve your performance.
But when we say supplements, we don’t necessarily mean energy drinks. Though they contain high amounts of taurine, energy drinks also contain other ingredients (like caffeine and sugar) in undesirably excess quantities. Too much of caffeine can elevate blood pressure, and excess sugar can wreak havoc on your health. So, we recommend you stay away from energy drinks if your sole objective is to meet your daily taurine needs.
You are likely to become deficient in taurine in the following cases:
- You are a strict vegetarian or a vegan.
- You are deficient in methionine or cysteine, which is what the body uses to synthesize taurine.
- You are deficient in vitamin B6, which is also required by the body for taurine synthesis,
- Health conditions like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, liver disease, and epilepsy.
Your taurine dosage should not exceed 3,000 mg per day. Otherwise, complications might arise.
What Are The Side Effects Of Taurine?
- Issues With Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
There is not enough information in this regard. Stay safe and avoid use.
- Might Aggravate Bipolar Disorder
Some sources suggest taurine may aggravate bipolar disorder. People with this condition should avoid its use.
- Interactions With Lithium
If you are taking lithium, talk to your doctor. Taurine can increase the serum lithium levels and may lead to lithium toxicity. Your dosage must be adjusted accordingly.
Whether it is boosting your athletic performance or combating stress, taurine has an array of benefits. But since you don’t get it abundantly from foods, do take a look at the supplements. Make a wise choice. You will be glad you did.
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- “Taurine is a small sulfur amino acid…”. Handbook of Nutrition, Diet and the Eye. ScienceDirect.
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