Taurine Powers Your Overall Wellbeing

Taurine Powers Your Overall Wellbeing


Taurine Powers Your Overall Wellbeing

Estimated Read Time: 10 minutes

Article Summary

Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid that is vital to your health in many subtle ways.  It is an important nutrient for your heart, nerve, brain, muscular, and even eye health. Taurine also helps your mitochondria, the power generating "substations" in all of your cells, to function. Because of how it affects glucose utilization, Taurine also plays an important role in your metabolism and can even help fire up your weight loss efforts.

Taurine Might Be Your "Hidden" Hero!

It isn't the most well-known amino acid, but taurine powers your overall wellbeing in surprising ways.  You may have noticed labels listing taurine in energy drinks and supplements combinations touting that they contain "clinical taurine levels," but generally, most people are unaware of the remarkable benefits that taurine has to offer.

Taurine is an abundant amino acid in the human body, especially in tissues such as the heart, brain, and muscles. It plays a crucial role in several biological processes. Numerous clinical studies highlight taurine's significant effects on a healthy and balanced body, while others provide insights into the impacts of taurine deficiencies. 

One of taurine's key roles is its involvement in maintaining proper cardiovascular function. Research has demonstrated that taurine supplementation may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improve heart health. A study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure found that taurine supplementation in patients with congestive heart failure improved exercise capacity, reduced heart rate, and enhanced their overall cardiac function. We know that keeping our heart muscle fit is important, but for patients with fragile heart health, improved taurine levels may offer a way to safely build back their heart function.

Taurine levels also contribute to brain health and cognitive function. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and contributes to ongoing brain development and daily brain function. A study published in the journal Amino Acids reported that taurine supplementation improved cognitive performance, including memory and learning abilities, in healthy young adults. Other studies have suggested that taurine may also play a role in neurological disorders such as epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Beyond the cardiovascular and neurological systems, taurine is also an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. These added ways that taurine supports our health may also be a potential tool in combating oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and supporting a healthy immune system. Research published in the Journal of Biomedical Science even suggests that taurine supplementation is important to liver health because it can offer protection against liver damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation.

Taurine is also essential to various physiological processes in our bodies, including muscle development and metabolism regulation. It supports muscle growth and recovery, which has made it a popular ingredient in the sports nutrition world. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine documented that taurine supplementation improved exercise performance and reduced muscle damage markers in athletes.

What is Taurine?

Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid that plays various important roles in the body. It was first discovered in the 19th century by German chemists Friedrich Tiedemann and Leopold Gmelin, who isolated it from the bile of oxen; hence, its name derived from the Latin word Taurus, meaning bull.

Taurine is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that under normal circumstances, the body can synthesize it from other amino acids, such as cysteine and methionine. However, certain conditions or stages of life, such as premature infants or individuals with certain genetic disorders, may require external sources of taurine through diet or supplementation.

One of the major functions of taurine is its involvement in the maintenance of cell membrane stability and function. Various levels of taurine are found in tissues throughout the body, such as the brain, heart, retina, and skeletal muscles. It is involved in processes related to antioxidant activity, osmoregulation (making sure that body fluids do not become too diluted or concentrated), modulation of neurotransmission, and membrane stabilization.

Taurine has been in the spotlight quite a bit lately because research has shown that its antioxidant properties protect cells from oxidative stress-induced damage. More and more, research is validating how damaging stress is to our bodies. A study conducted by Schaffer et al. in 2010 suggested that taurine supplementation could improve cellular function, neutralize free radical damage, and protect our cells from various diseases...possibly even for people with heart failure, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

Populations who have diets that include high levels of taurine have been shown to live longer.

Taurine role in regulating all of our body fluids, called osmotic balance, and maintaining cellular hydration is also crucial to our overall health. In a 2016 study by Sun et al., scientists found that taurine supplementation improved kidney function and lessened renal damage in hypertensive rats. Researchers are now working to find out if this amino acid might one day help manage human renal health.

Research also shows that taurine supplementation may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, improving lipid profiles, and preventing arterial stiffness. For instance, research in the journal Hypertension found that taurine supplementation significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.

Other studies focus on how taurine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, helping to down-regulate neuronal excitability and modulate the nervous system. Taurine also modulates various ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors, regulating the passage of ions across cell membranes.  Studies have also pointed to taurine deficiency as a contributing factor to neurological disorders such as epilepsy and neurodevelopmental abnormalities.

On the athletic field, elite athletes use taurine to improve their performance, improve muscle function, and reduce muscle damage. Multiple studies show taurine supplementation can improve exercise performance, delay fatigue, and enhance muscle contractility. A clinical study by Zhang et al. in 2014 demonstrated that taurine supplementation improved muscle function and reduced muscle damage in young athletes, emphasizing its role in sports nutrition.

While taurine is naturally present in various animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, and dairy products. If you're a vegetarian or following a vegan diet, you may require additional taurine supplementation.

Why taurine is so important to your health

Taurine helps your mitochondria, often called the powerhouses of our cells. Optimal mitochondrial function is imperative for generating the energy required for everything our bodies do. These little power substations in all of our cells (except fat cells) are called organelles. They are found in our heart, brain, muscles, and any other vital organs that rely heavily on efficient energy utilization. 

For example, the heart, that tireless worker that beats without rest, demands an uninterrupted supply of energy to fuel its continuous contraction. With poor mitochondrial function, the heart becomes weak...and so do we.

Similarly, the brain, being the control center of our entire body, requires a constant supply of energy production to support its neural activities. Mitochondria in the brain possess unique characteristics that enable them to meet this high metabolic demand.

Our muscles, both skeletal and smooth, generate force and enable movement. As energy is a fundamental requirement for muscle contraction, it is no surprise that mitochondria play a significant role in these tissues.

We are now learning that mitochondrial dysfunction is not limited to these specific organs or conditions; it can affect various other tissues and contribute to numerous diseases, including metabolic disorders, metabolic syndrome, decreased immune function, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging.

Researchers have also uncovered what has been dubbed mitochondrial diseases. After years of studying animal models and delving into well-designed human studies, a solid body of research points to mitochondrial disease as the underlying cause of a variety of health challenges. 

When mitochondria cannot convert food and oxygen into energy, it causes injury to our cells, organs, and systems and can even cause our cells to die prematurely. As this process ripples out through the body, organ systems begin to fail and even stop functioning. The parts of your body that need the most energy—heart, brain, and muscles—are most affected by mitochondrial dysfunction.

Mitochondrial dysfunction can manifest as fatigue, weakness, metabolic strokes, seizures, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, developmental or cognitive disabilities, diabetes mellitus, impairment of hearing, vision, growth, liver, gastrointestinal, or kidney function, and more. These symptoms can present at any age from infancy up until late adulthood.  If you have 3 or more malfunctioning organ systems, it is a red flag for mitochondrial disease.

Taurine, plays several important roles in mitochondrial health.

1. It acts like a cushion inside mitochondria, keeping the environment just right for important chemical reactions.

2. It helps mitochondria make the proteins they need to function properly.

3. Taurine works as a protector, shielding mitochondria from harmful substances that could damage them.

4. It helps control the amount of calcium in cells, which is important for mitochondria to work well.

5. Taurine prevents mitochondria from accidentally triggering cell death.

6. It supports the process that mitochondria use to make energy, helping them work more efficiently.

7. Taurine is actually part of the structure of mitochondria, helping to keep them healthy overall.

Mitochondria are prolific organelles in every cell that create energy in the form of ATP.

Scientists have found that giving people extra taurine can help with various health problems related to poorly functioning mitochondria. In simple terms, taurine is like a helper and protector for the tiny energy factories in our cells, keeping them running smoothly and efficiently.

Taurine and Cardiovascular Health

If you're concerned about your heart health, taurine has important health benefits you will want to know about with regard to your cardiovascular health. 

First, maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is crucial for overall cardiovascular health. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other complications. One study published in the European Journal of Nutrition examined the impact of taurine supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. The researchers found that taurine supplementation resulted in significant reductions in blood pressure levels, thus reducing the risk of hypertension. So, first and foremost, taurine may play a role in improving cardiovascular health by regulating blood pressure.

Another study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology explored the effects of taurine on cardiac function. The researchers discovered that taurine supplementation improved cardiac function in rats with heart failure, suggesting its potential for human health as a protection against cardiovascular diseases. Taurine was shown to enhance the heart muscle's ability to contract and pump blood, improving its efficiency and overall function.

You won't want to miss out on taurine's antioxidant properties too. When it comes to cardiovascular health, taurine is effective against oxidative stress, which is caused by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. We now know that oxidative stress plays a significant role in cardiovascular diseases. Another study published in the journal Nutrients showed that taurine supplementation led to a reduction in oxidative stress markers that can protect against cardiovascular damage.

Taurine has been shown to have several lipid-modulating effects that help keep the entire circulatory system healthy. A review published in Experimental Clinical Cardiology highlighted that taurine supplementation can increase levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol while lowering levels of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This can be a support or preventative therapy for those with atherosclerosis and who have suffered from cardiovascular events.

Taurine is great for muscle strength, reducing muscle soreness, and speeding exercise recovery

Taurine and Muscular Health

I'm sure you've seen an explosion of energy drinks not just at your local vitamin shop, but also in your grocery store.  Most of them contain taurine and proudly proclaim it on their labels and logos.  In some cases, their claims are warranted.  Research into the effects of taurine on athletic performance has provided promising results. One study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition explored the impact of taurine supplementation on endurance exercise capacity in trained cyclists. The study found that participants who received taurine supplementation for one week showed an improvement in their time to exhaustion compared to the control group (Rutherford et al., 2010.)

Another study, published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, focused on the effects of taurine supplementation on muscle strength and power. This meta analysis found taurine supplementation significantly improved maximal muscle strength. This showed that taurine can help athletes with their anaerobic performance. (Kurtz, et al. 2021)

Again, taurine's antioxidant properties are the "secret sauce," reducing oxidative stress and protecting cells from damage induced by intense exercise. Just as taurine helps the heart muscle contract efficiently and effectively, it also enhances muscle contractility and calcium regulation throughout the body to improve exercise capacity and physical performance (Wen et al., 2019).

Effects on exercise performance

Exercise performance refers to your ability to engage in physical activity and achieve your desired level of fitness or athletic goals. This encompasses aspects such as speed, endurance, strength, and power. Even if you aren't a professional or elite athlete, understanding taurine's effects on exercise on performance is key if you're looking to improve your fitness levels -- at any age!

Regular physical activity has been associated with improved mood, reduced stress levels, and enhanced mental well-being. A study by Stults-Kolehmainen et al. (2014) found that exercise significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, ultimately improving psychological well-being and motivation for exercise, which can lead to improved performance. And of course, all of these benefits from exercise help to improve your overall wellbeing. Taurine's ability to improve muscle capacity but reduce muscle soreness may be just the supplemental help you need to stick with your exercise program. 

Taurine for Your Brain

Taurine supplements have been studied in cognitive health for their neuroprotective properties and ability to support various cognitive functions. Let's look at some of the associations between taurine and brain health.

Several studies have demonstrated that taurine supplementation may play a significant role in protecting the brain against age-related cognitive decline. One study published in Scientific Reports found that oral taurine supplementation improved learning and memory performance in elderly mice by enhancing synaptic plasticity, the process associated with learning and memory formation (Kim et al., 2014). Another study demonstrated that taurine supplementation protected against age-related cognitive impairment by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brains of aged rats. Animal studies offer the first insights into the potential for human health from oral taurine supplementation.

Apart from its impact on age-related cognitive decline, taurine has also shown promise in improving cognitive function in individuals with certain neurological disorders. A clinical trial conducted by Xu et al. (2014) and published in the journal Neuroscience  investigated the effects of taurine supplementation on individuals with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The results indicated that taurine supplementation and increases in plasma taurine levels significantly improved cognitive performance, particularly in terms of attention and memory, in individuals with mTBI.

Furthermore, taurine's neuroprotective characteristics may support neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. A review article by Che, et al. discussed the potential of taurine intake as a therapeutic strategy for Parkinson's disease, citing the action of taurine to protect against dopaminergic neuron degeneration and improve dopamine-dependent functions.

Taurine holds promising potential as a dietary supplement and a therapeutic agent for brain health and cognitive function.

Taurine keeps eye cellular membranes supple to protect eyesight and prevent cataracts

Taurine and Eye Health

Taurine plays a significant role in promoting and preserving your eye health.  Don't worry, most people have no idea either. Clinical studies show taurine has potential benefits in managing diabetic retinopathy, reducing oxidative stress, preventing cataracts, and preserving eyesight for those with certain retinal degenerative conditions. Incorporating taurine-rich foods or taking a taurine supplement can help you maintain your healthy eyes and potentially reduce the risk of developing eye disorders.

One study about diabetic retinopathy, a common complication of diabetes that can lead to progressive vision loss, found that taurine supplementation effectively reduced the severity of retinal lesions and improved visual function in patients with diabetic retinopathy. These results suggest that taurine has a protective effect on the retina and may be a potential support therapy for managing this vision-threatening condition.

Furthermore, taurine's antioxidant functions are crucial for protecting the eyes against oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress plays a significant role in the development and progression of various eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A study conducted by group of researchers suggests that taurine's antioxidant properties could potentially prevent or slow down the progression of cataracts. Sevin et al., 2021)

Additionally, taurine, a sulfur-containing amino acid, regulates the balance of electrolytes in the eyes, particularly potassium and calcium ions. These ions are essential for maintaining the functions of the retinal cells and visual pathways. Taurine's ability to regulate electrolytes and modulate the cellular health of our eyes is vital to preserving eyesight, eye tissues, and visual function—especially for those with retinal diseases.

Taurine, Nerve Health, and Optimal Nervous System Function

Our nervous system plays a vital role in coordinating and transmitting signals throughout the body. From controlling our ability to move, think, and feel, to regulating a wide range of bodily functions, maintaining nerve health is crucial for overall well-being. Taurine is vital to optimum nerve health from the protection of the nerves themselves, how they regenerate, and how they talk to each other.

A 2017 study found that taurine's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help shield nerve cells from oxidative stress-induced damage and reduce neuroinflammation. By neutralizing harmful free radicals and reducing inflammation, taurine helps protect delicate nerve cells from degeneration and dysfunction.

Nerve cells send messages across the brain and body by transmitting electrical signals to each other using neurotransmitters. Taurine modulates the activity of several key neurotransmitters. With proper concentrations of taurine, our bodies can improve nerve communication and coordination. Proper taurine levels also help with inhibitory neurotransmitters, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps regulate anxiety, stress, and sleep patterns. Additionally, taurine enhances the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for learning, memory, and muscular control.

Part of our neural communication system is our peripheral nerves, these are the pathways that transmit sensory and motor signals between the central nervous system and the periphery of our bodies, all the way out to our fingers and toes. Taurine has shown promising results in promoting the regeneration of damaged peripheral nerves, whether from age-related slow-downs or degenerative diseases.

Researchers have found that taurine administered in combination with other neuroprotective compounds significantly accelerated nerve regeneration and functional recovery in rats with peripheral nerve injury. This finding suggests that taurine supplementation may have the potential to support nerve regeneration in human patients with peripheral nerve damage or disorders.

Age-related nerve degeneration is one of those "back of the mind" worries we all have; it can lead to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders. But taurine and its neuroprotective effects against age-related nerve degeneration have been shown to improve cognitive performance and reduce oxidative stress markers in elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment. So taurine may hold promise as a preventive or therapeutic support against age-related nerve pathologies.  That's good news since in national polls, people fear dementia and related cognitive decline more than death itself.

Taurine And Weight Loss

Several studies have investigated the effects of taurine on weight loss with promising results. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted on overweight and obese adults found that those who were given oral taurine supplementation for eight weeks experienced a significant reduction in body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference compared to the placebo group. Another study on obese diabetic rats demonstrated that taurine supplementation led to reduced body weight gain, reduced fat accumulation, and decreased levels of blood glucose and cholesterol; multiple human studies on each of these areas point to taurine's vital role in energy metabolism, glucose metabolism, and improved blood sugar usage.

Taurine is also important for weight loss and for maintaining healthy weight.

Taurine's superpower when it comes to weight loss is its role in regulating metabolism. Taurine improves fat metabolism by increasing the expression of genes involved in fatty acid oxidation and reducing the expression of genes associated with fat synthesis. Taurine also improves insulin sensitivity (especially important for those with metabolic syndrome), and facilitates more efficient glucose utilization while preventing excessive fat storage.

Taurine's role as a neurotransmitter also has weight loss benefits. Taurine helps modulate the brain's reward system and regulates appetite control.  As a result, taurine helps reduce cravings and promotes nerve signals that we feel full. Additionally, taurine's antioxidant properties help combat oxidative stress and inflammation, which both contribute to obesity and its related complications.

If you're looking to lose weight, a healthy/balanced diet, regular exercise, and a little help from taurine may help improve your metabolism, provide you with added appetite control, and help reduce systemic inflammation that makes you feel and look fluffy.

How Much Taurine Should You Take

If you want to get the beneficial effects of taurine and you're concerned you might be low, I always coach my clients to first try to get our nutrients from a healthy diet. The primary sources of taurine in our foods are animal proteins such as meat, seafood, and dairy. Plants do not contain taurine, so if you are vegan or a vegetarian, you'll need an oral taurine supplement; in most cases, these are synthetically created so you're not consuming animal proteins.

The 2019 report most people refer to for how much taurine is safe suggested a daily dose of 3 grams. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recalibrated that limit with its 2012 guidelines saying you can safely take up to 6 grams per day.

While there are no known contraindications to using taurine, it does act as a cytochrome P450 enzyme inhibitor, so it can interfere with the metabolism of antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs, as well as warfarin and statins. If you are taking too much taurine, you might experience nausea, headache, or stomach pain. 

Keep an eye on how much taurine you get from your energy drink consumption (if you use them). You're usually getting around 750 mg per 8-ounce serving, and most energy drinks are larger than 8 ounces.

Typically, most of us get about 178 milligrams of taurine a day from the foods we eat.  If you're a vegetarian who still eats eggs and dairy products, you'll get an average of 17 milligrams per day.

Taurine deficiencies are usually diet-related.  However, you can also see your taurine levels drop due to infection.  Candida fungal infections interfere with your body's ability to produce and synthesize taurine, and chronic candida infections can have dramatic implications for your taurine levels. Low levels of vitamin A, zinc, cysteine, or methionine can also lead to a taurine deficiency.

Taurine - The Often Overlooked Hero For Your Health

We've looked at many of the ways taurine is important to your overall well-being. We looked at how it powers your heart, brain, and muscles and is essential for optimal mitochondrial function - the very engine of your cells. It helps fight oxidative stress and inflammation and even supports healthy blood pressure and weight management. We also delved into how taurine impacts your cardiovascular, muscular, brain, and eye health, to why it's so important for nerve function and even weight loss.  And, there are more studies uncovering taurine's fascinating role in how our bodies work and how it can help us enjoy a long and healthy life.

So whether you're an athlete, a senior citizen looking for cognitive support, or just someone who wants to be healthier, I encourage you to optimize your taurine levels; as you can see the upsides for your health are pretty impressive.  

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About The Author

Lisa Moretti is a certified health coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the largest nutrition school in the world. She was at the top of her cohort in 2015. She's been involved in the natural health and supplement world professionally since 1981.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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