Taurine is a semi essential amino acid found throughout the body, it is found mostly in areas like the brain, eyes, heart and muscles.
Taurine differs from other amino acids as it is not used to build proteins but is still classed as a semi essential amino acid (1,2). Our bodies produce small amounts of taurine and it is found in many foods, it is best known as an additive in energy drinks.
Many people consume taurine supplements as it has been shown to have several health benefits like lowered risk of heart disease (3).
There is also preliminary research that shows a link between taurine and improved sports performance (5). Which will explain the use in energy drinks, the improvements were not vast but improvements none the less…
Taurine has proved to be a very safe supplement with no known side effects when taken reasonably.
Due to the name ‘taurine’ there is a common belief that it is an extract of bull urine or semen! However this is not the case. The name is derived from the Latin word for Bull – Taurus, likely causing the confusion.
Sources of Taurine
The best natural sources of taurine are;
Vegetarians and vegans would benefit from supplements the most as there is very little naturally occurring in plant based foods.(8)
The good news for vegetarians and vegans is that most taurine supplements are totally synthetic – meaning they are not made from animal products.
While energy drinks are a prolific source of taurine, up 1,000 mg in an 8-ounce serving, it is not recommended to supplement your diet with high sugar, high caffeine beverages (9,10). Not to mention the artificial flavors, preservatives etc that are commonly found in energy drinks.
Role of Taurine in the Body
Taurine is widespread and found in many tissues in the body. Its main functions include:
- Preserving hydration and proper electrolyte balance in the body’s cells (11, 12).
- Helping with digestion by forming bile salts (13).
- Supporting healthy balances of minerals like calcium within cells.
- Helps in maintaining general functions of your central nervous system and the eyes.
- Serving as an antioxidant and helping to regulate immune system health (14,15).
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid which means a healthy person will produce the minimum volumes required for those essential functions. This means that higher doses or supplements become essential for certain individuals for example those with kidney or heart failure, or premature infants that have been fed intravenously for a long periods of time (16).
This is particularly important for children as when deficiency occurs during development, serious outcomes like impaired brain function or poor blood sugar control have been observed in studies (17).
Taurine and Diabetes
This amino acid may improve blood sugar control in the body and so could have benefits for those with diabetes. Fasting blood sugar levels are critical for health, and high levels are a major factor in type 2 diabetes as well as other serious chronic diseases (18,19).
Studies have seen a trend where taurine levels were lower in diabetics than in healthy individuals. This could indicate that taurine may play a role with diabetes (20).
Research suggests that an increased intake of taurine could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and therefore lowering instances of insulin resistance insulin resistance (21).
Taurine and Heart Health
Taurine may help reduce the risk of heart or cardiovascular diseases by improving significant risk factors like blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A link was found between higher than average taurine levels and significantly lower instances of fatal heart disease, coupled with a reduction in cholesterol levels and blood pressure (22).
Taurine helps to reduce high blood pressure by minimizing nerve impulses in the brain that cause blood pressure to rise. It also helps to relax blood vessel walls, decreasing resistance to blood flow (23,24,25).
This study focused on two weeks of taurine supplements in those with type 1 diabetes and the result was reduced arterial stiffness. This means it is easier for the heart to pump blood around the body, reducing stress on the organ.
Another study focused on a group of overweight people who were given 3 grams of taurine daily for 7 weeks. At the end of the study they had reduced body weight and improved heart disease risk factors.
Lastly, supplementation of taurine has been found to reduce inflammation as well as arterial thickening. These factors are key players in fatal heart disease so removing them can drastically reduce the risks of heart disease and attacks (23,24,25).
Taurine and Other Health Benefits
As taurine is found throughout the body, it has a wide range of health benefits.
Taurine is found in larger quantities in the eyes and research has found links between low taurine levels and eye problems while increased concentrations of this amino acid are believed to optimize eye health (26,27,28)
In this study, 12% of the participants taking a taurine supplement eliminated the symptom of constant ringing in their ears, which is associated with hearing loss.
Taurine also appears to bind the brains GABA receptors which play important parts in controlling the central nervous system. (29)
Studies have shown that taurine plays a role in regulating muscle contractions. Research in mice has found that it can reduce the occurrence and severity seizures. Potentially taurine could help treat diseases such as epilepsy.
Taurine works as an anti oxidant so it can work to protect liver cells against free radicals and toxin damage. This study focused on liver damage and gave rats 2 grams of taurine 3 times per day. It saw reduced indicators of liver damage and decreases in oxidative stress (30).
Taurine and Exercise Performance
Research suggests that taurine may also have benefits for athletic performance.
- Studies in animals found taurine can cause muscles to work harder and for a longer period of time (31). There are also studies that show an increase in the force of muscle contracts (32).
- This small study using eleven men between 18-20 years old showed that taurine supplements may protect muscles from cell damage and oxidative stress from exercise. (33).
- This study explored the effect of taurine on endurance performance and metabolism. While there was no difference in the time trials between the control and active study group, there was ‘a small but significant increase in fat’ burning during cycling in humans (34).
- In human studies, trained middle distance athletes who supplemented with high doses of taurine experienced improved performance. Both cyclists and runners were able to move for longer distances with less reported fatigue.
- This study reports a reduction in muscle damage. Individuals were placed on a weight lifting routine to damage muscles in a controlled environment. The results suggested that taurine supplements are an important factor in decreasing both muscle damage and oxidative stresses.
Taurine dosage and supplements
The most common additional supplement dosages range from 500–2,000 mg per day. Toxicity levels for taurine are extremely high. Reported doses of over 2000mg have been well tolerated.
In fact some research into the safety of taurine supplements suggests that consuming up to 3,000 mg per day for an entire average life span is still safe (35).
So while some studies use higher dosages for short periods, it is recommended that up to 3,000 mg per day is the best way to maximize the benefits while ensuring you stay within a safe dosage range (36).
While you can both produce trace amounts in your body and consume taurine naturally from meat, fish and dairy.
The average person cannot consume enough taurine to the levels of the doses used in the studies discussed above. Supplementation is required to do that.
This is compounding if you are a vegetarian or vegan or have other health concerns. The easiest way to increase your intake is to consume specialty powders or tablet supplementation.
It is also a very inexpensive supplement and is often added to multi-vitamins or protein mixtures that you may already be taking.
Taurine is proven to be beneficial for health as well as extremely safe to supplement with.
Taurine is inexpensive. You can easily spend less than $10 for a two month supply of high doses of this amino acid.
It has wide reaching benefits supporting almost all bodily functions from heart health, improved eye sight and hearing, supporting digestion and blood pressure, as well as improving the performance and recovery for athletes.
Taurine still requires studies featuring larger and more diverse groups of people. The preliminary results are promising in mice, rats and humans but the human trials are limited.