Taurine: an essential amino acid

Taurine: an essential amino acid

After glutamine, taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the muscle tissue. It is also a conditionally essential amino acid, indispensable for certain periods of our life, like growth, pregnancy…

What is Taurine?

It is a non-essential amino acid since our body synthesizes it naturally. But we can also obtain it through the diet (animal protein). Unlike other amino acids, it does not bind to protein. In fact, it exists as a free amino acid in most of the tissues from animals.

Actually, many people take supplementation regularly, to the point that researchers refer to it as the miracle molecule. This is due to its benefits for health, such as improving the performance and lowering the risk of suffering diseases.

Where is Taurine available?

It is specially available in the organs of the body where there is electric activity. For instance, the eyes, brain, muscles, heart, platelets, or nervous system.

How is Taurine produced?

  • Naturally: our organism synthesizes it in the pancreas through the oxidation of the amino acid cysteine.
  • Synthetically: due to a high commercial demand.

Those who suffer heart problems or diabetes can also obtain many benefits from taking taurine.

However, many people mistakenly believe that taurine comes from the urine or sperm of bulls. Evidently, this is completely false. In fact, the confusion may be due to the fact that its name comes from the Latin word tauruswhich means bull or ox.

Body Organs

Due to its properties, taurine could be considered a multi-functional nutrient

What are the functions of Taurine?

Functions of Taurine

Taurine is useful for

  • Regulating the fluid balance and the electrolyte balance of the cells.
  • Supporting the formation of bile salts, which play an important role in the digestion.
  • Regulating the function of minerals in the cells, like calcium.
  • Helping with the functioning of the central nervous system and eyes.
  • Regulating the immune system and the antioxidant function

A healthy person will produce a low amount of this amino acid since it is conditionally essential. Therefore, the body will produce enough to perform the previous functions on a daily basis.

However, we may need higher amounts of taurine in certain situations. Then, it becomes an essential nutrient. For example, people with heart or renal failure, as well as premature babies will need an intravenous supply.

A deficiency during growth can cause serious damage, like a alteration of the brain function and a deficient glycemic control.

Dose of Taurine

Those who eat animal products can get between 9 and 400 milligrams a day.

Ovo-lacto-vegetarians obtain 17 milligrams approximately. On the contrary, those who follow a vegan diet cannot obtain taurine from food.

Even though it is available in some vegetable products, it will not meet the requirements of our body.

What is the best source of Taurine?

Knowing how important this amino acid is for our health, some have proposed using taurine to enrich child products. This is due to the fact that cow milk has lower concentrations than breast milk.

One of the best sources of taurine is breast milk during the first months of our lives.

Taurine in breast milk

Breast milk has a high percentage of taurine and other essential nutrients. Therefore, it is extremely important to feed it to newborns as much as possible.

Healthy adults can synthesize taurine from sulfur amino acids, like cysteine and methionine. As we mentioned, this means that it is a semi-essential nutrient. However, newborns and people who suffer specific diseases may need supplementation in order to meet their requirements.

Foods that contain Taurine

  • Eggs and Dairy products, like Cheese, Milk, and/or Yogurt. They tend to provide from 2 to 8mg per 100ml.
  • Meat, like Turkey, Chicken, and/or Beef. Usually, they provide between 11 and 306mg per 100g.
  • Fish and Seafood, like Mackerel, Salmon, Oysters, and/or Crab. From 11 to 827mg per 100g.
  • Breast milk and/or products for children. Between 4 and 7mg per 100ml.

A healthy person will meet the taurine requirements with a balanced diet.

Vegan sources of Taurine

Vegan people need to eat foods that will provide them with complete proteins. In other words, they have to avoid limiting amino acids to make sure that the organism can synthesize taurine.

Some of the sources are: soy, quinoa, legumes, hemp, buckwheat, or amaranth.

Sources of taurine

Taurine is specially abundant in meat and seafood. In this sense, vegans and/or vegetarians should be aware of this factor.

Causes of a deficiency in the production of Taurine

  • Amino acid deficiency: Cysteine and Methionine; vitaminsA and B6; Mineral: Zinc
  • Necessary enzymes deficiency, like cysteinsulfinic decarboxylase
  • Loss of taurine in the organism, due to an infection by candida and/or anaerobic bacteria; foods that have been enriched with sodium glutamate

Symptoms of a taurine deficiency

  • Nervous system: neuromuscular problems.
  • Cardiovascular system: cardiomyopathy.
  • Ocular system: macular degeneration and retina disorders.
  • Digestive system: disorders in the digestion of fat and kidney stones.

Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is a disorder that deteriorates our sight

Properties of Taurine

Some of its main properties are:

Improving the absorption of micronutrients

Taurine helps with the absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins, since it is a component of bile acids. Moreover, it is abundant in the platelets, central nervous system and the heart.

Cell hydration

This amino acid is similar to creatine. In fact, it increases the size of muscle cells so that they can retain more water and increase their volume. Moreover, it also helps to stimulate the protein synthesis which improves the hypertrophy.

Taurine molecular structure

Technically, it is not an amino acid since it lacks a carboxyl group, unlike other amino acids. However, the scientific and medical literature classify it as an amino acid.

Cognitive support

Taurine also enhances the focus apart from improving the cognitive and physical state due to its effects on the neuromuscular system. In fact, it helps to lower the blood glucose level, regulates the blood pressure, improves the resistance, and shortens the muscle recovery.

Immune system

Taurine has immunomodulating or immunosuppressive properties. Consequently, it stimulates the immune system function, the production of anti-bodies and deals with all kinds of bacteria.

Benefits of Taurine

For the cardiovascular function

It is the most important and abundant amino acid in the heart. In fact, one of its main tasks is to support the cardiovascular health. It does so by improving the blood flow and the oxygen supply to the heart cells. Therefore, it increases the effectiveness of the contractions of the heart muscle and regulates the heartbeat.

Cardiovascular health

There are more and more studies about taurine and its ability to protect from a possible heart attack.

Actually, the studies have shown how taking taurine for a short time can improve the bodily functions. Moreover, it can also lower the cardiovascular risk that can occur after physical exercise and problems related to heart failure. Nevertheless, we still need more studies, although it could be promising for those who suffer a heart disease.

Taurine helps to lower a high blood pressure by reducing the blood flow in the walls of the blood vessels. In addition, it reduces the nervous impulses in the brain, which are responsible for increasing the blood flow.

Study

A study tested how taurine supplementation for two weeks reduced the arterial hardening in type I diabetes. In other words, it improves the heartbeat and the blood flow throughout the whole body.

There was another study conducted on a group of people with overweight. They took 3g of taurine daily and they managed to lose weight in seven weeks apart from lowering the risk of heart disease.

Moreover, they found out that taking taurine supplements reduces the inflammation and arterial hardening. Consequently, we could say that it considerably lowers the risk of suffering a heart disease.

For the metabolic syndrome

There are some people who have more chances of suffering from metabolic syndrome. For instance, those who suffer heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, renal diseases or cancer. Moreover, there are other related health problems such as obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and low HDL levels.

Actually, there was a report published by the Food & Function journal that assessed the ability of taurine to deal with the metabolic syndrome. After analyzing the reaction on both humans and animals, they concluded that “taurine is effect against the metabolic syndrome. Therefore, it is beneficial for the following aspects: lowering the triglycerides; preventing obesity; improving the insulin resistance; regulating the glucose metabolism; lowering the cholesterol to prevent hypercholesterolemia; lowering the blood pressure.”

Cigarette on the floor

For smokers

A study conducted on smokers with diabetes, assessed how a daily dose of 1500mg of taurine for two weeks regulated the blood pressure. In fact, it reversed the early endothelial abnormalities (Endothelium = internal lining of the blood vessels).

For the brain function

It modulates the neurotransmitters in the brain and helps to stabilize the cell membranes. Moreover, it is beneficial for the bladder, eyes, blood vessels, and it has antioxidant and detoxifying properties.

It helps with the mobilization and transport of minerals, like potassium, sodium, and calcium in and out of the cell.

Taurine for the brain function

For the visual system

Taurine plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of the morphology and functions of the retina. Above all, it is due to its high concentration in our visual system (specially in the retina). Taurine regulates the flow of calcium ions to provide protection.

For tinnitus

Taurine is very important for our hearing. In fact, the studies have found out that taurine can revert the biochemical processes of hearing loss. Other studies have proven how taurine can eliminate the ringing in the ears caused by tinnitus almost completely.

Most of the damage to our hearing does not actually occur in its corresponding area, rather, it damages the nerve cells. These are the cells that transform the sound waves in electric energy that is processed by our brain. They are called cilia and they depend on the calcium ion flow. Actually, taurine helps to reestablish and control the calcium ion flow in our hearing cells.

Headphones

It improves the audition of animals that have taken drugs, like the gentamicin antibiotic which damages our hearing. In addition, it can relieve the ringing in the ears caused by chronic tinnitus in an 17% of the cases.

A study on animals used a dose between 700mg and 3.2g of taurine supplementation for several weeks. In the end, they managed to eliminate the tinnitus almost completely. Moreover, a pilot study conducted on people provided inspiring results: a 12% of the participants had a positive response to the taurine supplementation.

For the female hormone system

Women who undergo an estrogen replacement therapy, who take the contraceptive pill, or suffer from an estrogen excess (a condition that is commonly called estrogen dominance) could need an extra supply of taurine.

The estradiol female hormone reduces the formation of taurine in the liver.

Benefits of taurine for women

It also regulates excessive liquid retention during the menstrual period (PMS).

To cope with stress

The body has complex mechanisms that help to counter the harmful effects of stress. It does this from a systemic focus and from specific organs, known as NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response.

Its main effect will be to regulate said stress that can be dangerous for our life, in terms of health and survival (which is the way our body perceives it).

To relax

Taurine can produce a calming effect in order to relax the organism after experiencing a situation of this kind. Particularly, it can reduce the release of adrenaline.

If we do not deal with stress very well, if it has lasted for a long time, it will cause a maladjustment of the NEM complex.

Tired man at work

Against Parkinson

The studies suggest that taurine can help to regenerate the brain cells. The tests that have been performed on Parkinson patients showed that they have low taurine levels.

In fact, taurine has the ability to increase the growth of brain cells by stimulating the stem cells and prolonging the lifespan of neurons. Moreover, it appears that the hippocampus can produce new brain cells if we eat food rich in taurine or supplementation.

Taurine works really well with glycine in order to stimulate the brain

Against the free radicals

Taurine is an antioxidant. This means that it can help to fight against the free radicals an any substance that triggers oxidative stress. The researchers have examined people who suffer chronic periodontal disease in order to see if taurine can support their healing.

According to the data, taurine can considerably improve the antioxidant levels by increasing lipid peroxidation products (TBARS) and antioxidant enzymes. Therefore, it can help to improve the healing processes.

Woman at the dentist

Other benefits of taurine for health

Taurine has multiple benefits for our health. In fact, it improves several bodily functions, such as the ability to see and listen of people who suffer specific pathologies.

In one of the studies conducted on humans, they noticed how a 12% of the subjects who took dietary taurine supplement did no longer listen a ringing in their ear, which is related with hearing loss.

Moreover, taurine also plays an important role in the regulation of muscle contractions. Therefore, it helps to reduce the convulsions and to treat diseases such as epilepsy.

This is due to the fact that taurine has the ability to bind to brain GABA receptors. These elements play a key role in controlling the central nervous system.

Moreover, it also protects the hepatic cells against the free radicals and oxidative damage. A study showed how taking two grams of taurine three times a day reduced the hepatic damage and oxidative stress.

However, most of these benefits still require further research

Taurine and Diabetes

This amino acid helps to regulate the blood sugar and it has benefits for those who suffer diabetes

The studies conducted on rats with diabetes showed how taurine supplements could lower the blood sugar levels on an empty stomach in the long term. In fact, it was not necessary to change the diet or do physical exercise.

The sugar levels on an empty stomach are quite important. This is because high levels are a key factor in type 2 diabetes and many other chronic diseases.

Some studies suggest that a higher intake of taurine could prevent type 2 diabetes by lowering the blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.

Surprisingly, the taurine levels of people with diabetes tend to be lower than those of healthy people. Therefore, we can conclude that it could play a decisive role in this disease.

Taurine and athletes

This substance supports the sport performance. In fact, the studies about taurine have found out that it can:

taurine-physical-performance

Taurine has a series of benefits for athletes

  • Make the muscles work harder for longer.
  • Increase the ability of the muscles to contract and to produce more strength
  • Counter the waste products that cause fatigue, also known as muscle pain.
  • Protect the muscles against cell damage and oxidative stress.
  • Enhance the fat burning processes during the workout
There were studies conducted on athletes who took taurine dietary supplements while doing physical exercise. The result was that they have a better physical performance. In fact, cyclists and runners could go longer distances with less fatigue.

Another study backs up the role of taurine when it comes to reducing muscle pain. In this case, the participants did weightlifting and taurine helped them relieve the damage and pain.

Cyclist holding a flag

Better sport performance

The clinical studies state that taurine improves the sport performance. In fact, a study was conducted by the Sports Science and Health Research Group from the University of Stirling in Scotland. They analyzed the performance of medium distance runners before and after taking taurine supplementation.

The result was that a 90% of runners improved their marks in terms of seconds. However, a few seconds can make a difference for these athletes, specially to beat a record.

These runners took 1000 milligrams of taurine two hours before the race. The supplement did not affect the respiratory pathways, the heartbeat or blood lactate levels. In the end, the result was clearly a superior performance. They proved that taurine enhances the performance during the race with a 99.3% of possibilities.

However, other studies provided different results. A study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. It was conducted on fifteen runners who had to run on a treadmill for 15 minutes. The participants drank a wide range of energy drinks with caffeine and taurine. In the end, the researchers concluded that:

“The results do not show benefits for the performance in the conditions of this study. But there seems to be a considerably increase of the systolic blood pressure”

Supplement during cutting phase

Taurine can also help us lose weight, enhancing the fat burning processes. In the case of cyclists, taking 1.66 grams of taurine increase the fat burning processes in a 16%.

A bowl of taurine powder

Supplements and Dose of Taurine

The recommended dose supplementation is between 500-2000mg a day.

However, its toxicity limit is much higher than that. In fact, even doses over 2000mg are well tolerated. The clinical studies that want to assess the dose used between 400 and 6000mg a day.

Nevertheless, we still need more studies in order to confirm said toxicity threshold. Moreover, we need to take into account that the body eliminates the taurine excess through the kidneys. Consequently, it could potentially damage them, specially those who suffer renal failure. Then, it is necessary to consult your doctor previously.

The simplest and most affordable method to obtain the amount of taurine that the body needs is with supplementation. You can use any format, either powder, tablets or capsules.

Is Taurine safe?

The clinical studies about its safety have suggested that even taking up to 3000mg a day throughout our lives is still safe.

Some studies use a higher dose for shorter periods of time. But 3000mg a day is enough to obtain all the benefits of taurine within a safe dose.

Taurine in energy drinks

It is an ingredient that tends to be used in energy drinks. In fact, they can contain between 600 and 1000mg in just 235ml.

However, it is not advisable to use these type of energy drinks because they also contain other harmful ingredients.

Taurine chemical structure

Side effects of Taurine

According to the research available, it does not have side effects as long as we take the recommended dose.

As we all know, supplements do not cause problems directly. However, there have been several deaths in Europe of some athletes who took energy drinks with caffeine and taurine. Due to this, some countries have forbidden or restricted the commercialization of taurine.

Nevertheless, the cause of these deaths is not clear. In fact, it could also be due to high doses of other substances.

Like what happens with most amino acids, those who suffer renal diseases can actually have problems.

Therefore, we can conclude that a healthy person that takes the recommended dose of taurine will not experience negative side effects.

L-Taurine and energy drinks

Cans

Did you know that the number of hospital emergencies due to energy drinks has been doubled in the last few years?

Everyone knows that these drinks also contain caffeine. Some contain taurine, but the high dose of caffeine may be the one to blame this time.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, taking up to 3000mg of taurine daily “does not produce adverse effects”

However, energy drinks still have many other ingredients that are actually harmful. For example, they have a high sugar and caffeine content, as well as color additives, flavor enhancer…

In contrast, taurine supplements have many benefits for our cardiovascular health. Moreover, they have antioxidant effects that stimulate the muscles and, therefore, improve the sport performance.

Taurine also has calming effects that can be useful for those who suffer neurological disorders. If you think about it, energy drinks do not have calming effects precisely. This is due to the fact that the energy from these drinks come from other ingredients

A student drinking an energy drink

Safety of energy drinks

The media has reported more than once that adolescents have died due to a caffeine overdose

In one of these cases, the adolescent took three different drinks in a short period of time. He did not suffer any heart disease, but the energy drink triggered an arrhythmia. When this happens, the heart either beats too fast, very slow or irregularly.

But it was not due to the taurine content. Rather, the authorities mentioned that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine, or five cups of coffee a day, is generally regarded as safe. However, taking 0.95 liters of energy drinks have harmful effects because they alter the blood pressure and functioning of the heart. Currently, there are around 500 energy drinks available in the market. Therefore, we can imagine the number of hospital emergencies caused by an excess of this type of drinks.

To sum up, the answer is no. Energy drinks are not good, either if they have taurine or other ingredients. But this does not mean that we have to refuse taking taurine. In fact, food supplements are safe and they have many benefits for our health.

Frequently asked questions about L-Taurine

How to take taurine?

The recommended dose is between 500-2000mg. You can either take it with the meals or with a pre-workout supplement.

Who can benefit from taking taurine?

  • Those who want to enrich their diet with this amino acid.
  • Anyone who wants to follow a healthy lifestyle
  • Athletes

Is taurine safe?

Its consumption has not reported side effects or toxicity. However, it is advisable to consult a professional before adding it to our diet. This will ensure that we preserve the balance and functioning of our organism.

In the studies, those doses that do not exceed 3g are completely safe.

Man tying his shoelaces

Is taurine an stimulant?

It is not, even though it is sometimes available in energy drinks.

Combine Taurine with…

Electrolytes

This is due to their osmoregulating function. They can provide energy just before a workout under adverse climatic conditions. Or depending on the person in terms of sweat, in order to ensure a proper hydration.

Caffeine

We will obtain both cognitive and physical benefits by combining taurine + caffeine. In fact, it can improve the absorption of taurine.

BCAA’s

They will shorten the muscle recovery, after an intense effort. Therefore, it will help to deal with the DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, so that the athlete will be ready to face the next workout.

Magnesium

It is advisable to combine taurine + magnesium to sleep better. Together, they will help us cope with stress, calm the nervous system and, thus, have a deeper and restful sleep. Moreover, our mood will improve on a daily basis together with our feeling of well-being.

GABA

Taurine is an agonist of GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid). In fact, it stimulates its receptors in order to encourage a state of relaxation and well-being

GABA is the main inhibitory or calming neurotransmitter. It regulates the serotonin levels, which means that it affects the mood.

A girl smiling

The effect is similar to that of GABA. Therefore, it can help to relieve the anxiety, tension, depression and insomnia.

Where can I buy Taurine?

Bibliography

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