Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid.
Taurine is present most tissues in the body, but especially the heart, brain, and retina of the eye. While a taurine-rich diet can protect the body and promote longevity, it has something of a bad reputation because it’s a common ingredient in many sugar-laden energy drinks.
Although your body makes taurine naturally – it is not an essential amino acid – some research has suggested that people on strict plant-based diets may need to take taurine supplements to keep their levels in check.
Taurine is found in most meats, fish and breast milk. Taurine is also commonly added to infant formula because young children often have a difficult time synthesizing taurine. Many dietary supplements also contain it.
Before taking taurine supplements or energy drinks containing taurine, read their labels to ensure that you are not exceeding the recommended daily dose of taurine.
Below we’ll outline ten benefits taurine has for the human body.
Taurine is clearly important for heart health.
In animal studies (for instance here and here), a taurine-deficient diet has been shown to induce heart disease. The risk of chronic heart disease is lower in individuals with a high urinary output of taurine.
In a study of 22 healthy middle-aged women, daily supplementation with 3g of taurine for 4 weeks lowered homocysteine levels. Since homocysteine levels are correlated with heart disease, taurine may help prevent heart attacks or high cholesterol.
Studies show taurine may also have a role in preventing abnormal heartbeat.
There is some evidence linking taurine to lower blood pressure. Studies show low taurine levels are associated with increased blood pressure.
One study showed that consumption of 3 g taurine daily for 2 months in hypertension patients reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Taurine may help ensure proper uptake of iron.
In a study of 51 young women with iron deficiency (anemia), taurine and iron supplementation helped restore the markers of iron sufficiency better than iron supplements alone.
There is good reason to believe that taurine plays an important role in liver health. It appears to do this by lowering incoming blood pressure into the liver.
For instance, one study showed that dietary taurine supplementation with doses greater than 500 mg daily for 3 months reduced liver injury in 24 chronic hepatitis patients.
Liver cirrhosis has been shown to reduce the availability of taurine in the body. In a study of 35 liver cirrhosis patients, daily taurine supplementation increased taurine levels and also reduced painful muscle cramps that are associated with cirrhosis.
Animal studies have show than taurine is effective at preventing various liver conditions, including alcoholic fatty liver disease, and at protecting the liver from heavy metal and oxidised fat damage.
The antioxidant action of taurine produces taurine chloramine (TauCl) and bromamine (TauBr), which also have anti-inflammatory properties, as shown in this study.
Reduced TauCl generation in the body may worsen inflammation-related joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis, and TauCL injections have been shown to improve arthritis symptoms in experimental animal models.
Antioxidants, including taurine, are generally low in diabetic individuals, which increases the risk of oxidative damage. Many diabetic complications are the result of oxidative damage. Diabetes has been shown to lower the body’s ability to absorb taurine.
In a study of 39 type 1 diabetic patients, oral supplementation with 500 mg taurine thrice daily for 3 months restored taurine levels in the blood, and also reduced heart attack risk.
In a study (single-blinded RCT) of 29 elderly individuals suffering from heart failure, 500mg of taurine three times a day for two weeks increased exercise performance.
Taurine protects retinal cells of the retina from damage caused by oxidants and bright light. Low taurine levels are associated with cataract formation in humans. In cats, low taurine levels cause vision loss.
In a study of 62 patients, a combination of taurine, diltiazem, and vitamin E helped prevent vision loss by protecting against oxidative damage.
Taurine appears to have a role in reducing body weight in overweight and obese patients, possibly due to its role in bile synthesis and fat absorption and breakdown (as outlined above).
In a study of 30 obese college students, for instance, 3 g of taurine taken daily for a week significantly improved fat profiles and reduced weight. It improved markers of fat breakdown in people who were a healthy weight too.
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