Taurine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of proteins. Found in the nervous system and muscles, taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body. It is thought to help regulate heartbeat, maintain cell membranes, and affect the release of neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells) in the brain.
There is no dietary requirement for taurine, since the body can make it out of vitamin B6 and the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Deficiencies occasionally occur in vegetarians, whose diets may not provide the building blocks for making taurine.
People with diabetes have lower-than-average blood levels of taurine, but whether this means they should take extra taurine is unclear.
Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and fish are good sources of taurine. Legumes and nuts don't contain taurine, but they do contain methionine and cysteine.
Taurine, often referred to as an amino acid, is not part of the human body’s structural proteins. Instead, taurine remains free in the tissues and bloodstream. In fact, taurine is one of the most abundant free amino-acid-like compounds found in the heart, the skeletal muscles and the nervous system.
Preliminary evidence suggests that taurine might be helpful in congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood, which leads to fluid accumulating in the legs and lungs.1 Warning: Keep in mind that CHF is too serious for self-treatment. If you're interested in trying taurine or any other supplement for CHF, you should first consult your doctor. There is also some evidence that taurine may be helpful for acute viral hepatitis.2
Taurine has additionally been proposed as a treatment for numerous other conditions, including alcoholism, cataracts, diabetes, epilepsy, gallbladder disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and stroke, but the evidence for these uses is weak and, in some cases, contradictory.3-7 Taurine is also sometimes combined in an "amino acid cocktail" with other amino acids for treatment of attention deficit disorder, but there is no evidence as yet that it works for this purpose.
At times of extreme physical exertion, the body no longer produces the required amounts of taurine, which results in a relative deficiency. Taurine acts as a metabolic transmitter and is also known to have a detoxifying effect.
Taurine also plays an important role in the brain. Some researchers believe that taurine can be a beneficial dietary supplement for people who suffer from bipolar disorder (manic depression).
Taurine and heart disease
In Japan, taurine is used to treat ischemic heart disease as well as certain heart arrhythmias. People who suffer from congestive heart failure are reported to have benefited from taurine therapy - in the amount of 3 to 5 grams per day - and taurine may also be helpful in the treatment of both hypertension and high cholesterol.
Several studies (primarily by one research group) suggest that taurine may be useful for congestive heart failure. For example, in one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 58 people with CHF took either placebo or 2 g of taurine 3 times daily for 4 weeks.8 Then the groups were switched. During taurine treatment, the study participants showed highly significant improvement in breathlessness, heart palpitations, fluid buildup, and heart x-ray, as well as standard scales of heart failure severity. Animal research as well as small blinded or open studies in humans have also found positive effects.9-13 Interestingly, one very small study compared taurine with another supplement commonly used for congestive heart failure, coenzyme Q10. The results suggest that taurine is more effective.
Taurine and type 1 diabetes
Studies have demonstrated that taurine acts as a potent antioxidant and improves drug-induced type 1 diabetes mellitus in laboratory rats, by combating the destructive effect oxygen free radicals have on the pancreas. Moreover, the second mechanism by which taurine improves insulin resistance is through an increase in the excretion of cholesterol via conversion to bile acid.
Because type 1 diabetes is so devastating if not treated properly, taurine in the amount of 500 mg 1 to 3 times a day is generally a good idea in these cases.
Studies have shown that even in infants, taurine insufficiency results in reduced bile acid secretion, reduced fat absorption and reduce liver function, all of which can be reversed by supplementing the diet with taurine.
These studies also support the theory that taurine is essential for proper development and growth. Consequently, taurine has been added to most commercially-available infant formulas.
Taurine and hepatitis
In a double-blind, randomized study, acute hepatitis patients were given taurine in the amount of 4 grams 3 times a day after meals. The participants in the taurine study experienced significant decreases in bilirubin, and total bile acids.
One double-blind study suggests that taurine supplements might be useful for acute viral hepatitis. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 63 people with hepatitis were given either 12 g of taurine daily or placebo.15 (The report does not state what type of viral hepatitis they had.) According to blood tests, the taurine group experienced significant improvements in liver function as compared to the placebo group.
Acute hepatitis can also develop into a long-lasting or permanent condition known as chronic hepatitis. One small double-blind study suggests that taurine does not help chronic hepatitis. For this purpose, the herb milk thistle may be better.
Taurine and alcoholism
Taurine has been shown to be useful in treating people with alcohol dependency. In people undergoing alcohol withdrawal, taurine given at 1 gram 3 times per day for 7 days resulted in significantly fewer psychotic episodes when compared to people who were taking a placebo.
Yet another study involving over 3,000 alcohol dependent people with who were given taurine at similar doses showed that taurine is more effective than placebo at preventing alcohol relapse. The effectiveness of this taurine supplement appeared to be dependent on the dose given.
A typical therapeutic dosage of taurine is 2 g 3 times daily.
As an amino acid found in food, taurine is thought to be quite safe. There is strong evidence that taurine is safe at levels up to 3 g per day, although higher dosages have been tested without apparent adverse effects.17 However, maximum safe dosages of taurine supplements for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined.
As with any supplement taken in multigram doses, it is important to purchase a reputable product, because a contaminant present even in small percentages could add up to a real problem.
Disclaimer: This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regime, it is advisible to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.