Taurine

Background

Taurine, also known as 2-aminoethane sulphonic acid or L-Taurine, is an organic acid containing sulfur in it. Though human body is able to produce taurine, it’s not in sufficient quantities. So, taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid for humans. It is found in foods, in the highest amounts in meats, and is a heart and blood healthy agent that can confer a wide variety of health benefits. Taurine acts as a lipid/membrane stabilizer in the body and can help various anti-oxidant defense systems. Taurine might be an appropriate candidate for use as a nutritional supplement to protect against oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases or atherosclerosis. Supplementing taurine can protect the body and promote longevity.[1][2]
Taurine plays a crucial role in the development and protection of cells within mammals. Different scientific studies emphasize on the cytoprotective properties of taurine which included antioxidation, antiapoptosis, membrane stabilization, osmoregulation, and neurotransmission. Studies found the beneficial effectiveness of taurine against type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus.[3]

Benefits

Taurine is an amino acid found in many foods and often added to energy drinks. It is important in several of the body’s metabolic processes and believed to have antioxidant properties. Naturally taurine is found in meat, fish, dairy products and human milk, and the dietary supplement is associated with nootropic and neuroprotective actions and can improve memory and has anxiolytic effects. Some studies suggest that taurine supplementation might improve athletic performance. In one study, supplementing taurine showed improvement in the exercise capacity in people who have experienced congestive heart failure. Some other studies show that taurine combined with caffeine can improve mental performance.[4]
Actually, taurine has many therapeutic benefits and the most common health benefits of taurine include:

  • Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties [5]
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease [6]
  • Promotes cognitive function [7]
  • May improve blood sugar control and have benefits against diabetes [8]
  • May improve athletic performance [9]
  • Reduces metabolic syndrome [10]
  • May help people fight cancer [11]
  • Lowers hypertension and improves vascular function [12]
  • Improves blood flow [13]
  • Anecdotal reports show that taurine increases focus and energy
  • Improves the spatial learning and memory ability [14]
  • Reduces anxiety [15]
  • Reduces stress and depression [16]
  • Helps people who have neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases [17]
  • Helps with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [18]
  • Improves anti-aging and longevity [19]
  • Improves sperm quality [20]
  • Enhances the sexual response and mating ability [21]

Taurine comes with a surprisingly wide range of health benefits. It may help improve various other functions in the body, such as eyesight and hearing in certain people. Increased concentrations of taurine are believed to optimize eyesight and eye health. It can reduce seizures and help in conditions such as epilepsy and regulate muscle contractions. It seems to be related to brain’s GABA receptors, which play a key role in controlling and calming the central nervous system. Taurine can help protect liver cells against free radicals and toxin damage, can improve mental performance, help with high cholesterol, psychosis and alcohol withdrawal.

How it works

Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the brain and spinal cord, leukocytes, heart and muscle cells, the retina, and indeed almost every tissue throughout the body. Because it is one of the few amino acids not used in protein synthesis, taurine is often referred to as a “nonessential” amino acid, or more generously as a “conditionally essential” amino acid.[22]
Taurine is present in the brain, where it appears to be involved in many functions from conception onward. It plays a role in neurotransmission, although the brain does not appear to have a specific taurine receptor. Studies of synthesis and distribution show that taurine is present in the brain of the early embryo and is differentially distributed. During the embryonic and early postnatal life, taurine appears to act as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter/modulator in the brain, having much higher concentrations than GABA in most areas. During the postnatal period, GABA gains dominance along with glycine as central inhibitory transmitters. Because de novo synthesis of taurine is relatively low in the brain, exogenous taurine is needed for appropriate development and adult functions of the brain. For instance, perinatal taurine depletion alters learning, memory, and neural control of blood pressure in adult life, whereas taurine supplementation prevents or improves some neurological disorders.[23]

Considerations

Taurine is generally safe for adults and children when taken in appropriate amounts. It has been used safely in adults in studies for about one year and in children for up to 4 months, without any side effects. However, there is one report of brain damage in a body-builder who took about 14 grams of taurine in combination with insulin and anabolic steroids. But it is not known whether this was due to the taurine or the other drugs taken.[24]
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, avoid taking taurine supplement. There may be some concern while taking too much taurine, because it might make bipolar disorder worse. Consult your physician or healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

Recommendations

There is no specific standard dosage for taurine supplement. However, different doses have been used for different issues, such as,

  • For CHF, 2- 6 g of taurine per day, in a single dose or divided,
  • For steatorrhea, 30 mg/kg taurine doses per day over 4 months,
  • For acute hepatitis, 3 – 4 g taurine doses have been used for 6 weeks,

A maximum daily dose of taurine can be up to 3 g though higher doses have also been used without causing any adverse effects. Consult your healthcare provider for an appropriate dose for you.

Sources