Last modified on August 29th, 2023
Taurine Health Benefits- What's In This Article?
Many people know that taurine is an ingredient in many popular energy drinks, but it’s much more than that.
Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid; especially high concentrations are found in the brain, eyes, and heart.
Taurine plays a role in many of our bodies’ key metabolic processes, and it’s naturally found in meat, fish, and dairy products and is available as a dietary supplement.
Some studies show that taurine benefits might include improving athletic performance.
There’s also evidence to suggest that taurine can help heart health, including in people with congestive heart failure. Taurine supplementation could help insulin resistance and secretion, have anti-inflammatory effects, improve cardiovascular disease, and enhance endurance exercise performance.
There may also be benefits of taurine supplementation for mental performance.
What is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid that contains sulfur.
Along with high concentrations in the brain, heart, and eyes, there’s also a lot in your muscles.
Amino acids are usually known as protein building blocks, but that’s not what taurine is used for.
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, so you need it when experiencing stress or illness.
Primary sources of taurine are animal protein, including dairy, meat, and seafood. Plant foods don’t have any appreciable taurine levels.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, as a result, you might consume less taurine, but true taurine deficiencies are rare because your body can make it in your liver using other amino acids.
The body processes of taurine include producing bile salts, adjusting calcium amounts inside cells, and stabilizing cell membranes.
Taurine is important for protecting your cells from damage, and in some studies, it’s been found to act as a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are messengers in the central nervous system.
There’s also research showing taurine might play a role in preventing birth abnormalities and brain development.
Some of the conditions that taurine supplementation might help include type 1 and type 2 diabetes, kidney disease from diabetes, and epilepsy.
What Are the Health Benefits of Taurine?
One of the primary benefits of taurine is that it can protect cells from damage. In some studies, it’s been shown to act as a neurotransmitter, and in animal studies, there are signs of severe cell degradation when taurine loses its effects in the retina.
More specific health benefits of taurine include:
- In several studies, taurine has made the body more sensitive to insulin. Taurine might also help with other risk factors for type 1 and 2 diabetes.
- Taurine may help with diabetic nephropathy, a kidney disease associated with diabetes.
- Taurine appears in three brain areas—the hippocampus, cerebellum, and hypothalamus. Taurine may, as a result, affect brain function. Researchers have noticed taurine balance disrupted in people with epilepsy, so it may have anti-epileptic benefits.
- In Japan, taurine is used as a treatment for congestive heart failure.
- Taurine regulates high blood pressure and acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, so it may help prevent coronary heart disease.
- One of the main functions of taurine is to combine cholesterol and bile acids and remove them from the body. In animal studies, when rats take taurine supplements while on a high-cholesterol diet, there are dose-dependent decreases in cholesterol levels. In human studies, taking taurine supplements for three weeks while consuming a high-cholesterol diet led to less significant increases in cholesterol levels compared to people not taking it.
- There’s evidence to suggest taurine can block the effect of angiotensin II signaling in the kidneys. That signaling otherwise causes increases in blood pressure, which is one way that taking a taurine supplement could help regulate blood pressure.
- One reason taurine is often included in energy drinks is because it supports your mitochondrial health, giving you energy and reducing fatigue.
- In animal and human studies, a diet without enough taurine has been associated with poor eye health. It’s thought that taurine protects the photoreceptor of the eye, which is part of the retina that responds to light.
- In animal models, taurine supplementation helps to protect the kidneys.
- If you want to increase your aerobic exercise performance, taurine supplementation can improve your VO2 max and your time-to-exhaustion, which is another reason you’ll frequently see it listed on the ingredients of energy drinks.
- As well as helping with cardio exercise, taurine can improve power and strength training physical performance and promote healthy muscle mass development.
- It supports muscle recovery the day after intense exercise.
- Specific genes are especially taurine-sensitive, so it can help ensure those genes express themselves correctly.
- Taurine supplementation can help protect against oxidative stress.
- Supplementing with taurine can help with the metabolism of fats.
- In one study, taurine supplements improved symptoms of iron deficiency anemia more than iron alone.
- Taurine may protect the lungs from damage from toxin exposure, like cigarette smoke, likely because of its antioxidant activity. In animal studies, taurine has been found to prevent lung damage from bacterial toxins and air pollution exposure.
- Taurine treats acute inflammation caused by cancer, damaged cells, or infections.
- For people experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, taurine might be helpful. Taurine reduced psychiatric symptoms of people undergoing alcohol withdrawal in one study and another animal study, it entirely reversed the alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- For men, taurine might help with fertility. It’s one of the amino acids most abundantly found in the male reproductive system, and it may help with the survival and motion of sperm and improve sperm quality.
- In animal studies, taurine helped increase cancer survival rates, and in rats, it blocked the growth of colorectal cancer.
Taurine’s Benefits for Heart Health
While we briefly touched on the benefits of taurine for heart health above, it’s a big one to go into and look at in more depth.
Taurine treatment has been shown in a variety of research to have beneficial actions for ischemic heart disease, hypertension, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, and diabetic cardiomyopathy.
Regarding supporting cardiovascular health, taurine may help with systolic left ventricular function in particular.
Taurine for Anxiety
Since it is one of the amino acids, taurine can potentially positively impact mental health, which tends to get overlooked when talking about it.
Taurine can increase glycine and GABA, which can help with anxiety. GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, our brain’s primary calming neurotransmitter. GABA is necessary to feel relaxed and happy.
Low levels of GABA can stem from gluten intolerance, stress, physical exertion, illness or injury, or imbalances in your blood sugar levels.
People who are low in GABA are more likely to use alcohol, food, or certain drugs to relax, but oral taurine supplementation is a healthier, natural way to raise your levels.
Taurine has a structure that’s similar to GABA, and it can bind to the same receptors.
You might wonder why you wouldn’t just supplement with GABA instead of taurine if you want these benefits, and the answer is that you can.
Still, GABA supplements don’t always work for everyone because it’s hard for the molecules to cross the blood-brain barrier. They work for some people, but taurine might have better effects on your brain.
Taurine can also reduce the effects of too much glutamate, improving mood, reducing anxiety, and positively affecting mental health.
Taurine can support overall neurotransmitter balance and promote a healthy stress response.
In depressed patients, taurine levels are often found to be very low.
Taurine for Diabetes
Another area of benefits that comes with taurine supplementation that’s worth talking about in more detail is diabetes.
Taurine may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management in people with diabetes or reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In one study, people with diabetes were found to have 25% lower concentrations of taurine than those without the condition, indicating it could have a role in managing diabetes.
Taurine may help promote liver health and reduce damage from acute and chronic conditions impacting the liver.
Some studies, for example, show taurine can help with fatty liver disease.
In a study of people with chronic hepatitis, taking more than 500 mg daily for three months reduced liver injury.
In animal studies, dietary taurine helped protect rats’ livers from oxidized fat and heavy metal damage.
In people with liver cirrhosis, the availability of taurine appears to be low, and daily supplementation can help reduce some of the side effects of the condition.
Taurine deficiency is associated with renal dysfunction, damage to retinal neurons, cardiomyopathy, and other serious health conditions.
People who may be most at risk for true taurine deficiency include those who require parenteral nutrition and individuals with chronic hepatic, renal, or heart failure.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you’re also at greater risk of a taurine deficiency.
Are Taurine Supplements Safe?
According to the available research, taurine supplements are considered safe.
In one 2019 study, it was suggested that amounts of up to three grams a day are considered safe, but other guidelines have said up to six grams a day may be safe.
How To Supplement with Taurine
The typical dosage for people who want to supplement with taurine is usually 500 to 3000 mg daily.
We’re increasingly learning about the potential positive effects of taurine, a naturally occurring amino acid.
Taurine isn’t just something you find in Red Bull; it may have health benefits that extend to the heart, liver, cellular health, and more.
Taurine effects might also be similar to a neurotransmitter, so supplementing with it could help with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and other mood and mental health disorders.
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