Diet and Nutrition

What Is Taurine? Health Benefits of Taurine

What Is Taurine? Health Benefits of Taurine

Key Takeaways

  • Taurine is regarded as a conditional amino acid, which means that it is naturally produced in the body.
  • Meat, eggs, milk, and fish are known to be rich in taurine. 
  • Getting the right amount of taurine for the body’s functioning can keep you healthy.

What is taurine?

Taurine is regarded as a conditional amino acid, which means that it is naturally produced in the body. Meat and fish are rich sources of taurine. Taurine is different from essential amino acids because they are usually sourced from outside food rather than produced in the body.

Taurine is said to provide relief and control to anxiety, which is beneficial to stress management. It decreases cortisol levels and can help induce sleep, which is good for people with insomnia. Taurine is also known to prevent diabetes and produces energy in the body.

People with the following health conditions can benefit from taurine:

  • Cardiac problems
  • Inflammation
  • Neurological problems
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney problems
  • Cancer
  • People who are at risk for stroke

Numerous energy drinks also contain taurine. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) generally considers taurine as safe. However, it is not recommended to get taurine from these drinks since they also have other unhealthy ingredients, which you would want to avoid.

Even though you can get taurine from energy drinks and other supplements, it is better to get it from healthy whole foods as much as possible. 

How does taurine work?

Studies reveal that taurine is one of the important nutrients required for the proper functioning of the heart's left ventricle, which is one of the heart's chambers. This, in turn, helps in treating congestive heart failure.

Apart from a smooth heart functioning, taurine also helps normalize a person's blood pressure. It does so by calming down the sympathetic nervous system, which tends to be quite active in people who have hypertension or high blood pressure.

The body produces taurine from metabolizing vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), cysteine, and methionine.

Uses or benefits of taurine

Various medical conditions can be treated with taurine such as hypertension (high blood pressure), autism, ADHD, hepatitis and other liver diseases, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, eye problems, and fibrosis. Apart from these medical conditions, taurine is also used to improve the brain's performance. It also acts as an antioxidant, which protects the cells from damage. Other taurine benefits include:

Stress management

In today’s fast-paced life, we all seem to be surrounded by daily stress and tension. However, taurine can help soothe or calm down the nervous system by producing the neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).

Taurine helps by raising the GABA levels, which help manage anxiety, making sure that our thoughts do not go out of control. When our body has low levels of taurine, the nervous system gets over-responsive whenever we encounter any kind of stress. An over-excited nervous system tends to raise cortisol levels with an increasing amount of fat in the body. Thus, taurine can help people lose weight by improving body composition.

Helps in weight loss or controls obesity

The fat in the body metabolizes with the help of taurine, which is essential in the production of energy in the body and maintaining a lean physique. The process of fat burning starts with the nutrient called carnitine. This nutrient is mainly responsible for transporting fats into the cells, which are later used as energy in the body. Hence, an increase in carnitine supports the fat burning process. However, the body would also need enough taurine for this process to continue. Taurine plays an important role during the initial stage of metabolism while carnitine works on transporting fat into the cells.

Taurine also helps fight obesity. Studies have shown that if a person consumes 3 grams of taurine per day for seven weeks, a reduction in body weight is observed.

Provides retinal protection

Taurine is needed to have healthy eyes. Adequate levels of taurine can prevent any age-related vision problems. High amounts of taurine are found in the retina. However, as we age, taurine levels in the retina decreases leading to taurine deficiency. People suffer from vision problems if they are taurine deficient. Even researchers claim that taurine is very important to maintain the optimal functioning of the retina.

Increases testosterone levels

Taurine also helps in raising testosterone levels. In raising the levels of testosterone, it does not raise the estradiol concentration, which is one of the estrogenic hormones. For an optimal testosterone production, a person should have at least 3-5 grams of taurine per day. 

Testosterone is mostly beneficial for men since it can help them achieve lean muscles and enables them to maintain their weight. Lower levels of testosterone are linked to poor health, increased risk of diabetes, and a slow metabolism.

Taurine is also considered as an important nutrient for maintaining the healthy reproductive system of both men and women. Taurine alone would not be able to work adequately as required. Thus, it would also need carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc for a healthy body composition.

Maintaining adequate levels of taurine

Taurine is said to be derived from the amino acid cysteine. This amino acid is known to calm down the nervous system by acting like a neurotransmitter. Getting the right amount of taurine for the body’s functioning can keep you healthy. If you are low in taurine, you can take supplements or eat more foods that contain taurine. Those who engage in a lot of physical activities such as athletes also suffer from taurine deficiency since they are more involved with fat burning and recovery. 

Meat, eggs, milk, and fish are known to be rich in taurine. People with a vegan diet tend to be deficient of this nutrient. 

Treats and prevents diabetes

Taurine is a well-known supplement to improve insulin sensitivity. Taurine has an “anorexigenic” effect on the hypothalamus gland. This effect minimizes the feeling of being hungry, thus improving metabolism and energy production.

Taurine also acts as an antioxidant, which helps in lowering inflammation in the hypothalamus area. More insulin can be produced by the pancreas if the hypothalamus is inflamed, which can then result in higher levels of insulin and weight gain.

Another known fact is that taurine concentrations are much lower in patients with diabetes compared to healthy individuals. Low taurine levels may lead to obesity. Studies show that taurine levels are sufficiently restored if people take 1.5 grams of taurine on a daily basis. Taurine can also help prevent the onset of diabetes.

Promotes good sleep

Taurine along with magnesium have shown to promote good sleeping patterns, especially those who were suffering from insomnia or less sleep. It has also been observed that people who do not have adequate levels of taurine or those who have taurine deficiency are at a greater risk of developing depression. Taurine reduces anxiety and stress hormones by raising the GABA levels.

Promotes better brain function

Taurine is especially beneficial for older people. It can delay their cognitive decline, which is known to come through aging. It also helps in better memory retention and enhances learning.

Minimizes the risk of heart disease

Taurine has powerful effects on the heart and blood vessels. Those with a good amount of taurine in the body tend to suffer less from coronary heart disease. Moreover, they tend to have a normal body mass index (BMI), their blood pressure remains normal as well as have lower levels of total cholesterol.

Taurine supplements can also be taken to minimize nerve impulses, which are also known to shoot up a person's blood pressure.

Prevention of liver diseases

Taurine is known when it comes to treating one of the most common causes of liver disease called as the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). When too much fat gets accumulated and deposited in the liver, NAFLD happens. Gradually, if the condition is not treated in a timely manner, then it can lead to a loss of liver function or liver cirrhosis. Taurine is considered as an integral part of the liver because it acts as a protective mechanism.

Side effects of taurine

Researchers believe that there are no known side effects if a person has more than 3,000 milligrams of taurine in a day. There are a few countries that banned energy drinks mostly taken by athletes since it has been linked with deaths.

Generally, taurine is safe for both adults and children, but the dosage should be first consulted with the doctor before its consumption.

Sources of taurine

Taurine is not a constituent of protein--it is free existing in the intracellular fluids. There are a number of foods that contain taurine. They are:

1) Fish - Fish contains high levels of taurine. Mackerel contains around 10 grams of taurine whereas the Alaskan salmon fillet has 4.40 grams. A whole capelin contains 6.17 grams of taurine.

2) Meat - Taurine is also richly found in animal meat. Birds, insects, as well as large animals, contain taurine. Beef contains around 197 mg, beef liver has 2.35 grams, and chicken liver contains 6.76 grams of taurine.

3) Sea algae and plants - Vegans usually have the issue of supplementing taurine via its natural source since vegetables do not contain taurine. However, sea algae contain taurine.

4) Human breast milk - It is said that infants who do not breastfeed have low levels of taurine. Hence, they need to be supplemented by formula milk with taurine. Human breast milk contains a great amount of taurine. After delivery, around the first 4-5 days of an infant's life, breast milk contains a good amount of taurine and colostrum, which are very beneficial for the baby.

Gradually, as time passes by, taurine levels start to decline in the breast milk. By the end of 30 days post-delivery, there is hardly 40 percent of the peak levels. Since taurine is important for the development of the brain and eyes in small babies, baby food manufacturers have added it as a part of formula milk or food.

Dosage of taurine

The recommended dosage of taurine would depend on person-to-person and also varies with its source. The dosage would range from 500 mg to 3,000 mg depending on the medical condition of the individual. A few studies reveal that taurine levels should be less than 3,000 mg per day for a healthy functioning of the body.

More research is needed to confirm the general safety of taurine on pregnant women and women who breastfeed. Thus, it is better to avoid taurine supplements or energy drinks while pregnant or breastfeeding.