What is Taurine?
Taurine, also called 2-aminoethanesulphonicacid, is the most abundant sulfur-containing amino acid in humans. High concentrations of taurine are found in certain parts of the body, such as the heart and retina, but it is also present in the brain, kidneys, intestine, liver, and skeletal muscle. Healthy adults can synthesize taurine from naturally-occurring components like cysteine and methionine in the presence of vitamin B6. It can also be obtained through diet, as taurine is also present in meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy products.
For individuals who consume a balanced diet and for those without any dietary restrictions, it is estimated that food intake can provide up to 400 mg of taurine per day. And even though there is no established recommended daily allowance for taurine, that amount is still far from 3,000 mg – the amount of taurine considered safe and optimal for daily function. Without a standard to quantify how much taurine is considered too little or too much, there is no data available as to how many people are taurine deficient. But taurine deficiency is a very real thing.
Reasons for Taurine Deficiency
- Vegetarian diet
- Diseases of the heart, liver, kidney
- Candida infection
- Vitamin A, zinc, and/or B6 deficiency
- Low levels of cysteine and methionine
- Too much intake of foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Symptoms of Taurine Deficiency
Lack of taurine for normal body function may mess up cardiovascular function and is linked to other conditions like migraines, epilepsy, and stroke. It may also cause irregularities in the immune system and abnormal brain, kidney, and retina development. That is why it is crucial that infants, especially those born prematurely, are nourished by breast milk (very rich in taurine) or given milk formulas with additional taurine.
In adults, taurine deficiency may manifest through various symptoms like hypertension, vision problems, cognitive and mental problems, weight gain, and malaise.
7 Benefits of Taurine
Taurine is undoubtedly a great help for overall health. So much so that it has been called the nutritional factor for the longevity of the Japanese in a 2009 study published by the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Scientists have also called taurine a wonder molecule. Here are the top reasons why:
1. Taurine as Antioxidant
Many other taurine benefits are anchored on the fact that this amino acid is involved in various mechanisms that support detoxification. Aside from combatting and reducing toxins, it also can protect organs and tissues from damage caused by oxidative stress.
Because of its antioxidant properties, taurine is further studied to benefit cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, neurologic diseases, and cognitive problems.
2. Taurine Supports Heart Health
There are numerous studies on taurine’s benefits for cardiovascular health. Overall, it is believed to prevent atherosclerosis and hypertension, reduce blood pressure and improve the serum lipid profile of those with high cholesterol. Taurine deficiency has also been observed in most symptomatic patients with congestive heart failure (CHF).
In an experiment that studied human subjects given oral taurine supplementation (6g daily) for four weeks, it was observed that taurine strengthened the force of the heartbeat and reduced mortality. Another study reported that taurine could lower left ventricular end-diastolic pressure in patients with heart failure. In a study involving hypertensive rats, it was also noted that taurine prevented stroke.
All of these studies and more have led to further research on the benefits of taurine in cardiovascular diseases.
3. Taurine May Help Those Who are Overweight
This particular benefit of taurine is also closely associated with its ability to support heart health. Numerous studies have been conducted to illustrate taurine’s beneficial effects on serum lipids (fats). One experiment done with human subjects who are overweight or obese showed that taurine supplementation is beneficial for lipid metabolism. Another study that focused on monosodium glutamate (MSG)-obese rats concluded that taurine has preventive effects against MSG-induced obesity. Supplementation also prevented fat deposition, reducing plasma and lipid levels in the animal subjects.
In a 2006 study by Tsuboyama-Kasaoka et al., taurine supplementation prevented the high fat diet-induced increase in body weight and fat mass in high fat diet-induced obese mice. A similar study on the effects of long-term feeding of taurine concluded that a taurine diet caused a marked reduction of the bodyweight increase in young mice of a hereditary hyperglycemic obese strain
4. Taurine is Good for Brain Health
Taurine is a powerful component in protecting and regenerating brain cells. Studies have proven that taurine plays a vital role in creating new brain cells, the activation of stem cells, and the protection of the brain from damage caused by aging, stress, and toxins.
Studies are exploring the possibility of the amino acid being a neurotransmitter because it is crucial in balancing neurotransmitters like GABA. It has also been studied as a possible remedy for depression, anxiety, stress, brain fog, and other psychiatric disorders. Studies conducted among human and animal subjects further proved that chronic taurine supplementation effectively mitigates age-related memory loss and cognitive dysfunction.
5. Taurine Improves the Competency of the Immune System
There is considerable evidence of taurine’s effectiveness in improving adaptive and acquired immunity. These immune effects are exhibited through various mechanisms like taurine’s antibacterial effect, its ability to down-regulate inflammation, and its capability to inhibit tumor cell proliferation. These make taurine a very potent and possible part of adjunctive therapy for different infections.
6. Taurine May Boost Overall Physical Performance
Taurine’s ability to boost physical performance is the reason why it is most commonly found in energy drinks. Not because it perks people up; caffeine and sugar do that. On the contrary, taurine lowers cortisol levels helps us relax and even sleep better. Experiments on athletes have been conducted to show how taurine boosts athletic performance. In a 2003 study by Japanese researchers, human subjects given taurine supplements before their workout improved their endurance significantly. Taurine is also considered a performance enhancer because it increases reaction time, improves recovery rate, and lengthens the time before exhaustion sets in during strenuous exercises.
7. Taurine and the Bile for Digestion and Metabolism
The most popular metabolic action of taurine is bile acid conjugation. As the liver produces the bile, bile acid binds with taurine or glycine to make bile salts. Glycine and taurine bile acid derivatives possess different properties, although they help in the digestive process. Taurine-conjugated bile acids are more water-soluble and less toxic. Therefore, it is the more preferred route of bile acid conjugation, especially in younger individuals. Taurine conjugation, hence makes the bile less toxic.
Functions of Taurine for Digestion and Metabolism Include:
- Conjugation of bile acids to more water-soluble, less toxic bile acids
- Assisting the passage of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium ions
- Increasing activity in brown fat, inducing thermogenesis to help waste calories and increase fat loss
- Reduction of triglycerides in the liver and elevation of the positive free fatty acids
- Protection against cholestasis (bile stagnation) caused by bile thickening.
Increased taurine conjugates should help emulsify lipids, decrease cholesterol in the bile, and increase bile acid pool size.
Worries About Taurine Addressed
Along with the positive feedback we have received about our new and improved bile salts, we have spoken with a few people concerned about taurine side effects. Here are some concerns:
1. Energy Drinks Increased ER Visits
Some health articles have noted that ER visits have significantly increased due to energy drinks in recent years. However, according to the European Food Safety Authority, taurine is not to be blamed for this trend. In fact, even if you consume multiple cans per day, you might still not exceed the 3000 mg mark. Many of these ER visits are caused by caffeine, sugar, or other medications that react to the concoction of the specific energy drink. Therefore, it is important to read your labels and be wary of taking energy drinks that may contain harmful ingredients.
2. Taurine Comes From Bull Semen
Don’t laugh because this is a valid concern from many. Just as some are concerned about the unethical extraction of bile salts from bears, many are also worried that the same is happening to bulls. There is a certain truth to the idea that taurine is from bulls since it was isolated from bull bile in 1827. However, scientists have found ways to synthesize taurine in a lab since then. We can assure you no animals are harmed in our bile salts-improving process.
3. Effects of Sulfur on the Body
Taurine is one of the many sulfur-containing amino acids in the body, together with methionine, cysteine, homocysteine, etc. And though it may sound weird, because we know sulfur as the yellow element with a sharp pungent smell, sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in our body. So don’t worry, it is not a harmful mineral in ideal amounts.
4. Taurine for Diabetics
If you have diabetes, you have to be extremely careful about anything you do and ingest. Concerns about taurine on diabetics should therefore be taken seriously. Considering the number of studies about taurine’s effect on insulin resistance and diabetes, it seems that the amino acid is a double-edged sword. Some experiments have shown taurine’s effectiveness against diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, and complications. Related conditions include retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, atherosclerosis, and cardiomyopathy.
It should be noted, however, that taurine accumulation in the pancreas can suppress insulin secretion in animal subjects. This reaction may negatively affect the regulation of the serum level of glucose. While 3000 mg of taurine is considered safe, consult your doctor before using it.
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