Taurine: Your Guide to the Beneficial Amino Acid

Krista H January 3, 2019

The Japanese have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Although many variables play a role, researchers suggest that there is a potential link between the longevity of Japanese people and their high nutritional intake of taurine.

Promoting a wide range of health benefits, including improved electrolyte balance, positive cardiovascular health, as well as liver health, this amino acid is now gaining the attention it deserves. Found in nearly every tissue in your body, taurine supports various biological processes.

Whether you are interested in the beneficial effects of taurine or are concerned that you may not get enough, this is the guide for you.

Taurine

What Is Taurine?

You may recognize the word taurine from energy drinks. However, this amino acid is naturally found in commonly consumed animal-derived foods, including fish, meat, and dairy products. Supporting various metabolic processes, this is why vegetarians and vegans need to be particularly mindful of a possible taurine deficiency.

Acting as a required building block of protein, taurine is found in particularly high amounts in your brain, heart, blood cells (particularly your platelets), and retina. In turn, this sulfur-containing amino acid plays a vital role in cognition, eye health, metabolism, and heart health. This is also why deficiency symptoms surface in the form of hypertension, anxiety, weight gain, and impaired vision.

While taurine is a “conditional amino acid” — meaning it can be made by the body, some individuals cannot make enough. As mentioned, certain diets can play a role, as well as a long list of diseases. Whether you suffer from kidney disease or cancer, supplementation is something that should be discussed with your physician.

The same is true among the elderly, as aging bodies often cannot produce optimal amounts. Overall, humans are made of approximately 0.1 percent taurine by weight. However, as stated above, numerous factors can reduce levels, which is why taurine supplementation is so widely researched.

Overall, taurine plays a direct role in:

  • Helping your body maintain electrolyte balance and proper hydration within your cells
  • Supporting the function of your eyes and central nervous system
  • Improving immune health
  • Regulating key minerals in your cells, including calcium
  • Digestion, as it helps form bile salts

Taurine

5 Key Benefits Associated with Taurine

Today, some people take taurine supplements in order to improve the symptoms of liver disease, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, and even epilepsy. However, healthy individuals also often take taurine based on its ability to potentially reduce damage associated with oxidation.

Offering many uses, here are five key benefits to keep in mind when considering taurine supplementation.

1. Prevents obesity

When there is an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure, weight gain typically results. Researchers have shown that obesity is a state of low-grade chronic inflammation, causing a range of problematic health complications.

When studied in animals and humans, taurine has been shown to have a positive effect on obesity. This is likely due to increased stimulation (supporting energy expenditure) and lipid metabolism, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects.

As stated in this review, recent studies have found that taurine supplementation reduces inflammation in adipose tissue — which is where fats cell accumulate.

2. Promotes optimal glucose control

The effectiveness of taurine administration against type 2 diabetes is well-documented. This is because taurine concentrations are naturally lower among diabetics than they are in healthy individuals. Helping to combat insulin resistance and its complications, including arterial stiffness, taurine supplementation can improve glucose control and protect against the vascular pathology associated with diabetes.

In this study, published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, the researchers showed that taurine depletion can lead to a deterioration in energy production. They also found that a high-fat diet caused a decrease in blood and adipose taurine levels, affecting multiple mechanisms of glucose metabolism.

Tip: Researchers have found that taurine works well with magnesium, particularly when treating diabetes. Not only has this combination been shown to prevent the progression of cardiovascular disease, but it may also prolong lifespan. This combination may also improve sleep quality.

3. Combats risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease

Having a profound effect on your blood vessels and heart, increasing your intake of taurine could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. As reported in this review, published in Experimental and Clinical Cardiology, although taurine can be synthesized, your diet is the major source.

Reverting back to the research conducted on Japanese people, specifically the Okinawans, this population has a low risk of arteriosclerosis — which is the thickening and hardening of arteries. Consuming a nutrient-dense diet, including a large intake of squid and octopus, both of which are rich in taurine, the Okinawans also exhibit much lower rates of hypertension and high cholesterol.

Researchers have even claimed that taurine is the “nutritional factor for the longevity of the Japanese,” as stated in this study.

4. May Improve Athletic Performance and Recovery

There are a number of claims associated with taurine and athletic performance. For example, it’s believed that taurine supplementation may enhance the capacity of exercise based on its cellular protective properties.

While the available findings are mixed, new research suggests that taurine supplementation taken after exercise may help improve your rate of muscle recovery. By removing waste products that cause fatigue and muscle burn, taurine may aid various aspects of exercise performance.

This is likely based on the antioxidant and cytoprotective properties of taurine, in addition to its relationship with skeletal muscle. Similarly, taurine is believed to decrease oxidative stress markers and in turn, prevent muscle damage following endurance exercise. It may also have a positive effect on anaerobic lactic metabolism.

5. Reducing Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that stress accounts for approximately 75 percent of all visits to primary care physicians. From complaints of headaches to back pain, heart problems to stomach ulcers, while under prolonged stress, your immune system pays the price.

Since taurine plays a role in neurotransmitter regulation, particularly GABA, it has been shown to promote a calming effect, reducing feelings of anxiety. In this animal study, researchers concluded that taurine likely produces anxiolytic-like effects, acting as an anti-anxiety agent in the central nervous system.

Taurine

How Can I Get More Taurine?

Since the main sources of taurine are animal-derived foods, you may be wondering if you get enough taurine daily?

According to a UCLA study, it was calculated that the typical American omnivore diet yields around 150 mg of taurine daily. In comparison, a vegetarian diet provides just 17 mg daily, and a strict vegan diet provides an average of 0 mg. Although your liver makes approximately 50-125 mg a day, some experts are concerned that this is not enough for those consuming a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Overall, the average daily taurine intake for adult non-vegetarians is estimated between 40 and 400 mg. The highest amounts are found in shellfish, especially mussels, scallops, and clams. In contrast, the lowest levels are found in dairy products. As discussed, plant-based foods provide no taurine.

Most experts agree that is your circulating levels of taurine are low, supplementation is warranted. Although research on taurine continues, dosages between 500 mg and 2,000 mg have shown safety and efficacy — although the upper limit for toxicity is much greater and high doses are typically well-tolerated.

 

In Summary

Taurine is naturally found in your body, playing a crucial role in many aspects of positive health. The majority of taurine synthesis takes place in the liver, supported by vitamin B6, as well as the enzyme cysteine sulfinic acid. However, some people have insufficient levels.

The most common causes of poor taurine levels include following a vegetarian or vegan diet and certain diseases. It’s almost important to note that taurine levels may be negatively impacted if you are deficient in vitamin A, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (the active form of vitamin B6), and zinc. The aging process is another key variable, as production decreases as you get older.

The health benefits of this amino sulfonic acid are far-reaching, and for healthy individuals, taurine supplementation is typically safe. However, not all dietary supplements are created equal, which is why you should invest in a high-quality, reliable source.

If you would like to learn more about supplementation and whether or not it’s right for you, please refer to the following guides:

Krista H
Krista H
Krista majored in psychology and neuroscience, focusing on degenerative conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. As she continued her research, she began to study the complex relationship between lifestyle variables and neurological health, including the impact these variables have on mood disorders and general wellness. She currently specializes in all aspects of neurological and physiological health, especially in relation to nutrition.
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