What is Taurine? – A Complete Guide

What is taurine? This is a question asked by thousands of people every day, and the lack of reliable information can make it challenging to comprehensively answer it.

After trying many dietary supplements that promise magical results, I was disappointed over and over again. It seems that there is no one product that meets the advertised benefits. Like many people, I have to deal with a slow metabolism, which means I gain weight very fast and have trouble losing it.

During my journey to find a solution to this problem, I came across this lesser-known substance – taurine. Of course, and like many of our readers, I asked myself: what is taurine?

In this article, we will answer this question and much more while deciphering the scientific data that explains the health benefits of taurine.



What is Taurine?

Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid. Your cells use amino acids for a variety of purposes, including building new proteins and repairing tissue damage.

You can also find taurine in foods, such as fish and meat, as well as some synthetic products (e.g., energy drinks).

Over the past few years, the popularity of taurine supplementation increased due to the endless benefits offered by this substance. One of its most popular health benefits is boosting metabolism, which helps people lose weight more efficiently without compromising their muscle mass.

Additionally, protecting the brain, heart, and immune system from oxidative stress and inflammatory processes also contributed to the popularity of taurine.

With that said, you should speak with your doctor before taking this supplement to prevent any potential side effects or interactions.


Benefits of Taurine

Taurine helps with several physiological functions, including:[efn_note]Schuller-Levis, G. B., & Park, E. (2003). Taurine: new implications for an old amino acid. FEMS microbiology letters, 226(2), 195–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-1097(03)00611-6          [/efn_note]

  • Ensuring the proper hydration and electrolyte balance inside your cells
  • Forming bile salts, which mediate the digestion of fats
  • Regulating the metabolism of minerals (e.g., calcium)
  • Protecting the central nervous system and the eyes
  • Optimizing the function of the immune system
  • Neutralizing the harmful effects of oxidative stress

Note that taurine is an essential amino acid, which means that your cells are only able to produce minimal amounts of this element.[efn_note]Ripps, H., & Shen, W. (2012). taurine: a “very essential” amino acid. Molecular vision, 18, 2673.[/efn_note]

Therefore, including taurine-rich foods in your diet is essential to optimizing your health and ensuring the proper function of your organs. In rare cases, taurine becomes indispensable for the patient. Such scenarios include heart failure, kidney insufficiency, and premature infants.[efn_note]Lourenço, R., & Camilo, M. E. (2002). Taurine: a conditionally essential amino acid in humans? An overview in health and disease. Nutricion hospitalaria, 17(6), 262–270.[/efn_note]

According to research, taurine deficiency leads to devastating complications, especially during fetal development.[efn_note]Aerts, L., & Van Assche, F. A. (2002). Taurine and taurine-deficiency in the perinatal period. Journal of perinatal medicine, 30(4), 281–286. https://doi.org/10.1515/JPM.2002.040[/efn_note] Some of these complications include impaired development of the brain, poor blood sugar regulation, and heart disease.

Now, that we are familiar with the basics, let us dig deeper into the health benefits of taurine:

Diabetes

Consuming taurine in appropriate amounts may help your pancreas control blood sugar. Additionally, it might be able to help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

In one study, researchers supplemented diabetic rats with taurine without modifying their diet or exercise routines. After a while, they noticed that the rats had lower blood sugar levels relative to baseline.[efn_note]Kim, K. S., Kim, J. Y., Lee, B. G., You, J. S., Chang, K. J., Chung, H., … & Jeong, I. K. (2012). Taurine ameliorates hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia by reducing insulin resistance and leptin level in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima fatty (OLETF) rats with long-term diabetes. Experimental & molecular medicine, 44(11), 665-673.[/efn_note]

When your blood sugar levels are high during fasting, the risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses sharply increases.

Taurine seems to also improve cellular sensitivity to insulin. In other words, this amino acid will sensibilize the receptors of your cells to the action of insulin.

Finally, scientists found that diabetic individuals tend to have lower levels of taurine, which is another sign that indicates the role of this amino acid in diabetes pathogenesis.

With all of that said, more research is necessary before drawing any final conclusions.


what is taurine

Heart Health

Taurine can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to studies, researchers found a link between high levels of taurine and a lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular event. They also noted lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.[efn_note]Murakami S. (2014). Taurine and atherosclerosis. Amino acids, 46(1), 73–80. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-012-1432-6[/efn_note]

The primary mechanism that allows taurine to control your blood pressure is by decreasing the resistance of the blood vessel walls. Taurine may also limit the nerve impulses responsible for raising your blood pressure.

In one study, researchers recruited diabetic individuals and gave them taurine supplements for 2 weeks. By the end of the study, arterial stiffness dropped significantly, which made it easier for the heart to pump blood.

Another study included overweight people who received 3 grams of taurine per day for 7 weeks. The results showed substantial weight loss and better control over numerous cardiovascular risk factors.

Finally, taurine may also dampen inflammation inside your blood vessels, which prevents the deposition of LDL (i.e., bad cholesterol) – the primary process responsible for heart attacks.

All of the aforementioned studies strongly link to taurine significantly lowering the risk of heart disease.


Exercise Performance

Perhaps the most notable effect of taking taurine supplements resides within its performance-boosting properties.

In several animal studies, taurine supplementation improved the tonicity and endurance of muscles.  For instance, mice who received taurine experienced reduced fatigue and post-exertion damage.[efn_note]Goodman, C. A., Horvath, D., Stathis, C., Mori, T., Croft, K., Murphy, R. M., & Hayes, A. (2009). Taurine supplementation increases skeletal muscle force production and protects muscle function during and after high-frequency in vitro stimulation. Journal of Applied Physiology, 107(1), 144-154.[/efn_note]

In human studies, taurine aided in the removal of waste products that cause fatigue and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The role of taurine in neutralizing free radicals also contributes to protecting myocytes (i.e., muscle cells) from inflicting damage.[efn_note]Dawson Jr, R., Biasetti, M., Messina, S., & Dominy, J. (2002). The cytoprotective role of taurine in exercise-induced muscle injury. Amino acids, 22(4), 309-324.[/efn_note]

Additionally, researchers found that taurine promotes lipolysis (i.e., fat burning) during exercise.

For professional athletes, taurine supplements seem to improve physical performance. For instance, cyclists and runners managed to cover longer distances after taking the supplements. The athletes also reported less fatigue.

To test the ability of taurine at reducing post-exertional muscle damage, researchers measured the levels of specific markers that indicate myocyte death. The final analysis showed that these athletes had significantly lower levels of these markers compared to people who did not receive taurine supplements.

Furthermore, taurine optimizes the process of using fat as a source of fuel, which lowers your body fat percentage. In one study, cyclists who received 1.66 grams of taurine had a 16% increase in the fat-burning process.



Metabolism

Boosting your metabolism is vital to promote weight loss and muscle growth.

Taurine showed impressive results in relation to boosting metabolism and lowering the levels of cholesterol and saturated fatty acids. It also helps with digestion and the production of bile salts.[efn_note]Bowen, R. (2001). Secretion of bile and the role of bile acids in digestion. Online.(last accessed: 2007 October 4). www. arbl. cvmbs. colostate. edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/liver/bile. HTML.[/efn_note]


Memory

Taurine may protect the brain from damage. In a review posted by the journal of Brain Defects, researchers found that taking taurine supplements promotes long-term memory.

According to the review, the levels of taurine in the central nervous system decrease with age, which may contribute to age-related cognitive deterioration.[efn_note]Curran, C. P., & Marczinski, C. A. (2017). Taurine, caffeine, and energy drinks: Reviewing the risks to the adolescent brain. Birth defects research, 109(20), 1640-1648.[/efn_note] Taurine supplementation may help to maintain these levels across the lifespan. Some researchers believe that it is worth it to study the effects of taurine on the prevention of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

In one animal study, authors inspected the effects of taurine on mice with Alzheimer’s disease. The subjects received taurine supplements for 6 weeks while another group received a placebo.[efn_note]Kim, H. Y., Kim, H. V., Yoon, J. H., Kang, B. R., Cho, S. M., Lee, S., … & Kim, Y. (2014). Taurine in drinking water recovers learning and memory in the adult APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientific reports, 4(1), 1-7.[/efn_note]

After analyzing the results of the study, the mice that received taurine displayed improved symptoms, especially when it comes to learning and memory. The placebo group had no change in their Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

Before recommending taurine supplements for this purpose, we need to conduct more clinical studies on human subjects.


Neurological Conditions

In one review published in the journal of Brain Defects, researchers found a connection between low levels of taurine and several neurological conditions, including epilepsy and autism. The findings were more notable in people who underwent brain injury.[efn_note]Curran, C. P., & Marczinski, C. A. (2017). Taurine, caffeine, and energy drinks: Reviewing the risks to the adolescent brain. Birth defects research, 109(20), 1640-1648.[/efn_note]

In other animal studies, taurine helped rodents with neurotoxicity and neurological impairment.

However, the evidence to support this effect in humans is still lacking, which is why we need more research.


Other Health Benefits

After covering the major health benefits of taking taurine supplements, let us see some general positive effects on the body:

Eyesight and hearing

Taurine improves several functions in the body, including visual and hearing perception. In fact, one study found that 12% of participants who received taurine supplementation eliminated ringing in their ears. Note that tinnitus (i.e., ringing in the ear) is associated with hearing loss.

Taurine is present in large quantities in the eyes. According to a 2014 review, taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the retina. This amino acid could play a role in protecting the eye from retinal degeneration.[efn_note]Froger, N., Moutsimilli, L., Cadetti, L., Jammoul, F., Wang, Q. P., Fan, Y., … & Picaud, S. (2014). Taurine: the comeback of a neutraceutical in the prevention of retinal degenerations. Progress in retinal and eye research, 41, 44-63.[/efn_note]

Researchers found a link between declining levels of taurine and eye problems, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Conversely, high concentrations of taurine optimize eyesight and prevent many disorders.

The review we linked above suggests that doctors may want to consider taurine supplementation as an adjuvant treatment for these conditions.

Seizures

Since taurine regulates muscle contractions, it may help patients with seizures and epilepsy.

This amino acid seems to bind to the GABA receptors found in the brain, which are collectively responsible for inhibiting your central nervous system. Therefore, it makes sense that taking taurine will lower the threshold of seizures.[efn_note]L’Amoreaux, W. J., Marsillo, A., & El Idrissi, A. (2010). Pharmacological characterization of GABA A receptors in taurine-fed mice. Journal of biomedical science, 17(1), 1-5.[/efn_note]

Liver protection

The final general benefit of taurine is the ability to protect liver cells from the damage of free radicals. In one study, researchers found that giving participants 2 grams of taurine – three times a day – lowers the levels of liver damage markers and neutralizes oxidative stress.[efn_note]Miyazaki, T., Bouscarel, B., Ikegami, T., Honda, A., & Matsuzaki, Y. (2009). The protective effect of taurine against hepatic damage in a model of liver disease and hepatic stellate cells. In Taurine 7 (pp. 293-303). Springer, New York, NY.[/efn_note]

With that said, more research is warranted to confirm these effects on large sample size.



Sources of Taurine

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the main sources of taurine include animal foods, such as fish, meat, and dairy products.

While some processed vegetarian foods may contain some taurine, the added amounts are unlikely to cover your daily needs and replenish your stores.

Manufacturers also add taurine to soda and energy drinks, providing you with 600–1,000 mg in an 8-ounce (237 ml) serving.

We should note that consuming soda and energy drinks to get taurine is unhealthy due to the high levels of other harmful ingredients.

Vegans, in particular, should prioritize the intake of taurine supplements to cover their needs. The good news is that taurine supplements are made synthetically, which makes them suitable for vegans.

Unfortunately, the average diet only provides 40–400 mg of taurine per day, whereas studies found that 400–6,000 mg per day is necessary to yield the health benefits we listed above.

Here are some foods that contain decent levels of taurine:

  • Scallops
    • Shellfish are very rich in taurine, especially scallops. Regardless of how you eat them – raw or cooked –,  100 grams of scallops provide you with 827 milligrams of taurine. Other options include mussels at 655 milligrams and clams at 520 milligrams for the same portion.
  • Tuna
    • Tuna is a fantastic source of taurine.
      • Note that darker meat is generally richer in amino acids relative to white meat. Some varieties contain up to 965 milligrams per 100 grams.
    • You could even try out cod or salmon for its 120 milligrams or 94 milligrams of taurine, respectively.
  • Tilapia
    • Freshwater fish are also loaded in taurine. Tilapia’s dark muscle has about 972 milligrams per 150 grams, while white meat contains less than 120 milligrams.
    • There is also dark meat from carp and catfish, which has more than 700 milligrams for the same serving.
  • Octopus
    • Octopus has about 335 milligrams per 3-ounce portion. Squid has potent levels as well with 219 milligrams for the same serving.
  • Turkey
    • With up to 306 milligrams per 100 grams, turkey contains the highest amount of taurine in any animal meat.
    • With that said, you need to be careful about the type of meat you choose since light meat only contains 30 milligrams of taurine.
  • Chicken
    • Adding chicken to any recipe will not be a bad idea. You will get 170 milligrams of taurine in your meal; however, and just like turkey, try to go for the dark meat to reap more health benefits.
  • Seaweed
    • Since most taurine comes from animals, seaweed remains one of the best sources of this amino acid for individuals who follow a plant-based diet.
      • Nori, for instance, has up to 1,300 milligrams of taurine per 100 grams.
  • Beef
    • Beef is rich in many nutrients and amino acids, including taurine. While the high intake of red meat may precipitate chronic illnesses, you can safely get 2–3 servings per week without impacting your risk.
      • With these servings, you will get additional 40 milligrams of taurine in your meal.

Side Effects

When you take taurine in the recommended amounts, there are no side effects.

However, some European countries limited the sale of taurine due to unrelated events. One of these events is the death of athletes after excess consumption of energy drinks that contain taurine. Researchers attributed these deaths to unusually high levels of caffeine and other substances taken by the athletes.

Before taking taurine supplements, you may want to speak with your doctor, especially if you have concurrent medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, kidney failure).

Dosage

The appropriate dosage of taurine ranges between 400 to 6,000 grams per day. However, some medical conditions may affect the amount of taurine you are allowed to consume.

  • Congestive Heart Failure
    • 2-6 g/day orally twice a day.
  • Acute Hepatitis
    • 4 g orally three times a day.
  • Steatorrhea in Children with Cystic Fibrosis
    • 30 mg/kg day in addition to pancreatic enzyme supplementation.

Take-Away

Taurine is a fantastic amino acid that plays a role in several physiological functions. Including this substance in your diet will undoubtedly provide you with many health benefits.

We hope that this comprehensive guide answered the question of ‘what is taurine?’ and helped you understand the value of this amino acid and how it could impact your health.

For any questions or concerns about the topic, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below or reach out to us here.


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