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What Is Taurine? Everything You Should Know Before Using!

In the past, there was a popular myth that taurine, an ingredient in Red Bull energy drink, was extracted from bull sperm. This myth circulated for a while, and it led to many people opting for other energizing drinks. It was not until later that people found that the claim was an absolute lie. Taurine is a popular ingredient in many pre-workout and energy supplements. You can also find it in various foods, and even your body can produce it. The article below takes you through what taurine is, its benefits and side effects, and how you should consume taurine supplements.

What Is Taurine?

Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that occurs naturally. It is especially concentrated in your eyes, brain, muscles, and heart. Even though amino acids are the organic compounds commonly referred to as protein building blocks, taurine does not perform this job in your body. Instead, it is considered an amino acid that is conditionally essential. That means it only becomes necessary during specific times like when you are stressed or unwell.

Also, be assured that, despite the popular belief about taurine being extracted from bull urine or semen, this is not the case. Instead, it was first isolated from the bile of an ox in 1827. In Latin, an ox is referred to as Bos Taurus. That is where the name of the amino acid originated from.

Taurine can also be found in some of the food you eat, and even your body can produce it naturally. Therefore, a healthy adult is highly unlikely to lack taurine in the body. However, because infants or newborns are unable to make taurine as good as adults, they get their source from either breast milk or through infant formulas with taurine supplementation.

Source Of Taurine

Taurine is mainly found in animal proteins such as seafood, meat, and dairy. Plants do not have any significant amount of taurine. Here are some of the foods you can get taurine.

Liver

It is advisable to eat liver a couple of times a week. Not just because it is a great source of vitamin B12, but because it also has plenty of taurine. Other organ meats like the heart, kidneys, and brain also contain a good amount of taurine.

Shellfish

Clams, oysters, and shrimp are also good sources of taurine. These foods contain selenium, an important antioxidant that is good for your thyroid gland.

Eggs

Eggs are also a good source of taurine. And you also do not have to worry about cholesterol. Current evidence shows that dietary cholesterol has only a small effect on blood lipids, which means there is no risk of heart disease.

Dairy

Milk, cheese, and yogurt contain high levels of taurine. And if you do not like dairy products or are lactose intolerant, you can try organic plain Greek yogurt for breakfast.

Beef Jerky

Most people often assume that beef jerky has many preservatives. However, it is a healthy snack containing protein and taurine to help you get through the day without feeling sluggish. If you do not eat red meat often, beef jerky is a great way to get your taurine and daily iron requirement.

Salmon

Apart from being a source of omega 3 fatty acids that promote brain health, salmon also contains taurine.

Lamb

Lamb is also a great source of taurine, and it is leaner compared to other meats. Therefore, if you are looking for a healthier option or want to avoid saturated fats from beef or pork, try lamb meat.

If you are on a vegetarian diet, your source of taurine is eggs. But vegans (these are people that stay away from any source of animal protein) tend to consume less taurine, meaning their taurine levels are lower than people who eat animal proteins. Still, taurine deficiency is highly unlikely. This is because the body has a natural ability to make taurine in the liver.

Besides food sources, one can also get taurine from a few energy drinks. In an 8-ounce or 237 mL serving, you can get about 750 mg of taurine.

For reference purposes, an average American diet will give approximately 123–178 mg of taurine in a day. A lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which is a diet including eggs and dairy products, will give only about 17 mg of taurine in a day.

The form of taurine you will find in energy drinks and supplements is synthetic. It is not derived from animals. That means it is okay for people on a vegan or vegetarian diet to consume it.

Function Of Taurine In Your Body

Taurine occurs naturally in several body organs, and it has several benefits. The major functions of this compound in your body include

  • Forming bile salts that are needed in the breaking down of fats, aiding in digestion, the absorption of vitamins, and eliminating toxins.
  • Maintain water and electrolyte balance in the cells
  • Supporting the overall function of the eyes and the central nervous system
  • Regulating certain minerals within your cells, such as calcium
  • Regulating antioxidant function and immune system health

Since taurine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid, the body of a healthy adult will be able to produce the right amount required to perform these important functions.

However, if you are under stress or unwell, your body may require a significant amount of taurine. This is a common case among people with kidney or heart failure, and in premature babies fed intravenously. This group of individuals will have to get taurine from other sources, and that is food or supplements.

Taurine deficiency in animal models has been found to cause muscle weakening, chronic liver disease, eye damage, and an increased risk of diabetes.

In humans, taurine deficiency is very rare. As such, there is very little study done on the effects of taurine deficiency in humans. Still, low levels of taurine in the body are associated with the conditions mentioned.

Causes Of Taurine Deficiency

Certain conditions can slow down the body’s ability to produce taurine naturally. They include:

  • Deficiency of certain amino acids and vitamins such as cysteine, methionine, vitamin A and zinc.
  • Some fungal or bacterial infections, such as Candida, can also interfere with taurine production in the body.

Benefits Of Taurine

Because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, its role in producing energy, and its abundance in the human body, scientists have studied taurine for its potential ability to manage various health conditions and enhance exercise performance. Here are some of the benefits of taurine.

May Improve Heart Health

Taking taurine supplements can help regulate your blood pressure, boost heart function and reduce blood fat in an individual with cardiovascular conditions like heart failure. It has also been found that high levels of taurine might protect you against heart diseases.

Research suggests there is a link between high levels of taurine and lower blood pressure levels, reduced cholesterol, and significantly lower death rates from heart disease.

In one study, a group of patients with heart failure were given 500 mg of taurine thrice every day for 14 days. They experienced a reduction in total cholesterol levels, C-reactive protein (an inflammatory biomarker), and triglycerides before and after workout sessions compared to the people that were given a placebo.

In another 12-week study, individuals with high-normal blood pressure were tested. Every day, they were given about 1.6 grams of taurine, which helped reduce both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by 7.2 mmHg and 4.7 mmHg, respectively. There was no significant change in people given a placebo.

Taurine can help lower high blood pressure by reducing the resistance of blood flow through your blood vessel walls and by boosting the efficiency of the heart and skeletal muscle contraction.

May Fight Diabetes

Taurine’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can increase insulin sensitivity, hence lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes or boosting blood sugar management in individuals with the condition.

A study done on diabetes patients found that their concentration of taurine is about 25% lower than those without the condition. This suggests that taurine may contribute to diabetes management.

At the moment, there are limited studies on how taurine supplementation affects diabetes patients and whether it can help manage the condition. However, a study done in 2018 shows that taking taurine supplements is a good option to improve blood sugar. The same study also suggests that taurine can have some protective effects against complications related to diabetes, such as kidney damage, nerve damage, and heart disease. Diabetes patients often have low taurine levels, which increases the chances of oxidative damage. Taking taurine supplements can reduce that risk.

Still, it is not yet known whether low levels of taurine result in diabetes or are caused by diabetes. Scientists are still researching the matter.

Can Boost Exercise Performance

Because taurine delays muscle fatigue and boosts muscle contraction, it can enhance athletic performance. In addition, during exercising, taurine can increase fat burning, hence fueling your performance.

A review of approximately 19 studies evaluating how taurine affects athletic performance noted the following benefits:

  • Increased time before one gets fatigued
  • Reduced muscle damage
  • An increase in oxygen uptake by the body
  • Increased strength and power
  • Improved recovery time

The authors of the review suggest that to achieve these benefits, one needs to take 1 to 3 grams of taurine 1 to 3 hours before a workout session, within a period of 6 to 21 days. However, the authors were also quick to note the effects of taurine on exercise performance are often minor and inconsistent. Because of this, more research has to be done on the issue.

Eyesight

Because taurine has antioxidant effects, it can protect the retina cells from oxidative stress, which is usually associated with retinal degenerative diseases. In a study done on 62 patients, the combination of taurine, Vitamin E, and diltiazem helped prevent loss of vision by protecting the eyes against oxidative damage. Even though taurine is needed for the proper functioning of the eyes, it is still not clear to what extent supplementing it with taurine can hinder vision loss or other eye diseases.

Can Help Manage Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis usually affects several organs in the body, such as the kidneys, lungs, intestine, and pancreas. One of the symptoms of this genetic condition is fatty stools. Supplementation with taurine can help manage the absorption of fats in cystic fibrosis patients.

A study was done on 19 kids with this condition. Those that took taurine supplements every day for six months reported positive results. Taurine managed to significantly boost fat reabsorption in these children. Vitamin E deficiencies caused by malnourishment in patients with cystic fibrosis can also be improved by taking taurine supplements.

Support Liver Health

It is possible that taurine plays a significant role in liver health. The compound can help reduce the pressure in the main vein that leads to the liver, hence helping liver cirrhosis patients.

A study was done on 24 patients with chronic hepatitis. Taking doses of 500 mg of taurine every day for 90 days helped lower liver injury. Patients with liver cirrhosis often have low taurine levels. Supplementing with taurine every day not only increases taurine levels in the body but also reduces painful muscle cramps often accompanied by liver cirrhosis.

Obesity

Taurine can also help obese patients by reducing body weight. This is because of the role it plays in bile synthesis and the absorption and breakdown of fat.

A study was done on 30 obese college students who were given 3 g of taurine every day. After one week, there was noticeable weight loss.

Autism

Autism is associated with oxidative stress on the nervous system and the brain. Scientists believe that taurine has the potential to improve autism symptoms because of its antioxidative properties. Since kids with autism have low levels of taurine, in theory, supplementing with taurine can help increase taurine levels in the body.

Ears

Taurine can protect the hair cells inside the ear from damage, which often contributes to hearing loss.

Neuroprotective Effects

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, taurine can help reduce inflammation in the brain, hence combating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease,

While these studies have been promising, the potential benefits of taurine are primarily supported by test-tube or animal studies. More studies still need to be conducted to find out how taurine can benefit humans.

Side Effects And Precaution

Currently, researchers agree that taurine does not have any negative side effects when supplemented correctly. One report in 2019 showed that the highest amount of taurine you can safely take in a day is 3 grams. However, in its 2012 guidelines, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggested that one can safely consume up to 6 grams a day.

A study in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association investigated how safe the taurine in an energy drink is.

Although the taurine levels in these drinks were too insignificant to lead to therapeutic effects, some people reported mild constipation and diarrhea. Still, in the study, the author also points out that caffeine and sugar, which are other ingredients in energy drinks, can lead to such side effects.

Individuals with adrenocortical insufficiency ( a condition where the adrenal glands produce steroids in low amounts) may experience high potassium levels and decreased body temperature if they take taurine.

The common side effects that people have reported from taurine include:

  • Liver pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache

It is also important to note that even though there is no evidence showing that using taurine supplements alongside other medication can result in adverse effects, it can act as a cytochrome P450 enzyme. This means it can interfere with drugs that depend on this enzyme to metabolize, such as antiepileptic drugs, antidepressants, statins, and warfarin.

Therefore, if you are under any medication, talk to your primary physician about whether there are any risks associated with taking that particular drug and taurine at the same time. Also, if you use taurine supplements or energy drinks to enhance performance and choose to increase your intake, read the label carefully. Some of the other ingredients in these products can be harmful when taken in excess. For instance, an energy drink may have too much caffeine or added sugar.

How To Supplement

The most common taurine dosage is about 500–3,000 mg per day. But remember that the European Food Safety Authority states that up to 6000 grams a day is safe, hence suggesting that this product is safe.

Even though some studies may suggest it is okay to take a higher dosage over a short period, it is better to only take 3000 mg a day. This will ensure you maximize the benefits while sticking within a safe bracket.

An easier and more cost-effective way to achieve this is by taking a capsule and powder supplements. Most capsule supplements will only hold about 500 to 1000 mg per serving. One serving of powdered taurine, on the other hand, often holds about 1000 to 2000 mg. Also, most people have said that mixing taurine with water results in a slightly bitter taste. You may want to try different liquids until you find the flavor you like.

Conclusion

Taurine is basically a conditionally essential amino acid. This means you need it more when you are either stressed or ill. Taurine deficiency is rare because this is a compound you can either find in the food you take or your body naturally produces it in the liver.

Taurine supplements have undergone studies and have been found to have a role in managing diabetes and high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. It has shown promise in enhancing sports performance. More human studies need to be done.

Lastly, taurine is a safe product. But remember, it can interact with some types of medicine. Before you start taking it, talk to your healthcare provider for professional advice.

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