Taurine is a semi-essential amino acid also called 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid. Although scientists have known about it for more than two centuries, its health benefits have only recently become clear.
Taurine supplements are nontoxic, inexpensive, and freely available. Read on to learn why taurine’s bad reputation is unearned.
What is Taurine?
Taurine is present in almost any tissue in the body and concentrated in key areas such as the heart, brain, and retina of the eye.
Taurine plays various important roles in the body including regulation of water status in our cells, preventing oxidation in the body, and supporting calcium signaling in key organs. Through calcium regulation properties, it helps to improve the function of cardiac, nervous and musculoskeletal tissue.
Humans are able to produce taurine, but not in sufficient quantities under all conditions. Therefore, taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid for humans, and nutritionists recommend getting some from diet. Some people who can easily become taurine deficient include premature and newborn infants and chronic liver, heart, and kidney disease patients [3, 4].
Taurine is an osmolyte. This means it controls water entry and exit in cells and stops them from changing the cell too much in size. It interacts with fats in cell membranes and stabilizes them, preventing structural changes to the cell [5, 6].
Despite the impressive range of positive effects taurine has on the body, its exact mechanisms of action still remain largely unknown .
How the Body Makes Taurine
Other cells in our bodies are able to take up taurine from the blood thanks to the special taurine transporter (TauT) molecule that is found on cell membranes .
Taurine is an essential nutrient for newborn children as they are yet not able to synthesize or retain taurine within their bodies. Breast milk contains the full taurine requirement for infants, as does modern-day baby formula [11, 13].
How the Body Removes Taurine
When taurine is needed, taurine transporter molecules in the kidneys resorb and conserve taurine in the body .
Individuals with compromised kidney function or faulty taurine transporters may not be able to retain sufficient amounts of taurine .
While taurine is semi-essential and undeniably beneficial, it cannot and should not be used to replace any therapies or strategies your doctor recommends. If you believe that you may be deficient in taurine, talk to your doctor to determine whether supplementation is right for you.
1) Cardiovascular Health
Heart and blood vessel cells contain the taurine transporter, suggesting that taurine is important for heart function .
The risk of chronic heart disease is lower in individuals with a high urinary output of taurine .
In a study of 22 healthy middle-aged women, 3g daily taurine supplementation for 4 weeks lowered homocysteine levels. Since homocysteine is correlated with heart disease, taurine may help prevent heart attacks or high cholesterol .
Studies show taurine may have a roll in preventing abnormal heartbeat (AFib) though supporting the ion transport system of calcium and sodium channels necessary for the electrical activity of the heart .
Taurine supplementation is effective in treating the hardening and narrowing of blood arteries in animals .
Though the evidence is not large-scale yet, there is a growing number of studies linking taurine to lower blood pressure. Some studies show low taurine levels are associated with increased blood pressure .
Oral taurine supplementation is potentially a very safe and convenient regimen for the control of high blood pressure in the presence of an overactive sympathetic nervous system.
Consumption of 3 g taurine daily for 2 months in hypertension patients reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure .
Taurine supplementation can enhance bile secretion and activity, and improve the breakdown of cholesterol by the body .
It is also essential for the formation of bile salts, and as such, plays an important role in fat and cholesterol absorption and breakdown .
Iron Deficiency Anemia
In a single study of 51 young women with iron deficiency anemia, taurine and iron supplementation helped restore the markers of iron sufficiency better than iron supplements alone .
2) Liver Health
It is very likely that taurine plays an important role in liver health, but the clinical significance is still unknown. The most promising correlation is that taurine may lower the pressure in the main vein leading into the liver, the portal vein. Because of this it may help those with liver cirrhosis. Here are some studies that are promising linking taurine and liver function.
Dietary taurine supplementation with doses greater than 500 mg daily for 3 months reduced liver injury in 24 chronic hepatitis patients .
The availability of taurine in the body is low in various forms of liver cirrhosis. In 35 liver cirrhosis patients, daily taurine supplementation increased taurine levels and also reduced painful muscle cramps that are associated with cirrhosis .
Taurine supplementation also prevented alcoholic fatty liver disease in animals by decreasing alcohol-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. It also increased the production of proteins associated with the fat breakdown in the liver .
Additional research will be required to determine whether taurine supplementation should be incorporated into therapies for liver cirrhosis, alcoholic fatty liver disease, or other liver conditions.
Other Potential Benefits
The benefits discussed above are relatively well-established, but they may not be the whole story when it comes to taurine and health. Recent research has implicated taurine in many essential functions and potential benefits, which we’ll discuss here.
As always, take cell and animal studies with a large grain of salt, and talk to your doctor before adding a new supplement to your daily health regimen.
Tissues exposed to oxidative damage have been found in the laboratory to have particularly high concentrations of taurine .
Like other antioxidants, taurine, directly and indirectly, eliminates harmful oxidants to minimize tissue damage .
Through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, taurine helps protect our bodies from unnecessary cell death and tissue damage .
White blood cells produce oxidants such as hypochlorous acid (HOCL) and hypobromous acid (HOBr) to destroy invading microorganisms and fight infections. However, these oxidants can also harm the body’s cells .
Taurine can scavenge these oxidants to form the much less toxic ‘taurine chloramine’ (TauCl) and ‘taurine bromamine’ (TauBr) .
TauCl and TauBr are able to reduce the generation of oxidants by white blood cells 
Taurine also increases the production and activity of other antioxidants found in the body .
Taurine’s antioxidant activity may be able to protect the lungs from damage caused by exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke .
Hamsters fed taurine are able to resist lung damage caused by air pollutant exposure .
In sheep, the taurine derivative taurolidine (which turns into taurine in the body) prevents lung damage caused by bacterial toxins .
The antioxidant action of taurine produces taurine chloramine (TauCl) and bromamine (TauBr), which also have anti-inflammatory properties .
Taurine supplementation enhances the formation of TauCl and TauBr in the body and may be effective against inflammatory conditions .
Taurine is very effective in treating acute inflammation (which is caused by infection, irritants, damaged cells, or cancer). However, its role in the progression of inflammatory diseases (such as arthritis) is not as clear .
Diminished TauCl generation in the body may worsen inflammation-related joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis .
The gene for the taurine transporter (TauT) has also been linked to the inflammatory response .
TauCl promotes cell death via apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Because dead cells are immediately consumed by white blood cells and not left to release toxins (as damaged cells can), inflammation can be reduced .
TauCl can also turn on genes that reduce inflammation .
Antioxidants, such as taurine, are low in diabetic individuals. This increases the risk of oxidative damage .
Diabetic complications such as heart, kidney, and nerve damage can be attributed to high oxidative damage resulting from low taurine levels .
In a study of 39 type 1 diabetic patients, oral supplementation with 500 mg taurine three times a day for 3 months restored taurine levels in the blood. Taurine supplementation also prevented blood cells from clotting together, decreasing heart attack risk .
One and a half grams of taurine daily for two weeks improved early heart abnormalities in a study (DB-RCT) of nine type 1 diabetic patients .
6) Muscle & Exercise Performance
Taurine is essential for the normal functioning of muscles .
Muscle function is severely impaired in mice that lack the taurine transporter .
Taurine supplementation improved physical endurance in rats .
The mechanisms of action of taurine in muscles may include alteration of protein production and will probably vary from species to species .
7) Fighting Infections
Some researchers believe that, in the acidic environment of inflammation, taurine’s products (TauCl and TauBr) could have significant antimicrobial activity, but this has not yet been confirmed in animal or human models .
Because of this property, both TauCl and TauBr are under investigation as potential treatments for infections such as chronic sinusitis, otitis media (swimmers ear), acne vulgaris, and gum diseases [7, 73].
TauCl and TauBr rapidly break down in our bodies and are only effective if used topically, not supplemented. However, taurine supplementation may increase the production of these compounds in our bodies .
According to an animal study looking at the white blood cell level of mice with lung cancer, taurine’s role as an antioxidant is also important for the protection of cells in our immune system after chemotherapy .
Taurine and its derivatives have potential to disrupt biofilms and possibly help the body fight off infection, but more research is needed.
8) Cancer Research
Taurolidine also blocked the growth of colorectal cancer in rats .
Chemotherapy Nausea & Toxicity
Cancer patients have depleted taurine levels. Surgery and chemotherapy decrease taurine levels even further and may compound taurine decreases in cancer patients. Some researchers therefore believe that taurine supplementation may be greatly beneficial to cancer patients .
In a study of 40 chemotherapy patients, taurine supplementation decreased the incidence of nausea and vomiting after treatment .
Much more research is required to determine the true role of taurine in cancer therapy.
9) Kidney Function
Multiple animal studies have found that taurine appears to protect the kidneys from oxidative damage and interrupted blood supply. Taurine’s potential role in any kind of kidney disease in humans is unknown .
Taurine protects cells of the retina from damage caused by oxidants and bright light .
Low taurine levels are associated with cataract formation in humans .
In cats, taurine deprivation causes vision loss .
In rats, the antiepileptic drug vigabatrin depletes taurine from the retina. As a result, prolonged use of this drug can result in irreversible loss of vision .
Taurine is required for correct functioning of the eye, but it’s unclear to what extent taurine supplementation could prevent vision loss or diseases of the eye.
Taurine may have a role in reducing body weight in overweight and obese patients, possibly due to its role in bile synthesis and fat absorption and breakdown .
In a study of 30 obese college students, 3 g of taurine daily for a week was able to significantly improve fat profiles and reduce weight. It also improved markers of fat breakdown in people of a healthy weight .
Much more research will be required to determine taurine’s role in preventing and treating obesity.
12) Bone Health
Although bone cells contain taurine, scientists are unsure of taurine’s function in bone. However, they do think that it helps with bone formation and balance (homeostasis) .
In rats, dietary taurine and arginine supplementation helped to increase bone mineral density. This helps improve bone health and protects them from fractures .
No human studies are available in this area, so much more research is required.
13) Skin Health
Topically applied taurine also prevented dry and scaly skin by reducing inflammation and toxicity in human skin cells .
Only cell and animal studies have been conducted so far; human trials will be required to determine whether taurine can improve wound healing or benefit the skin in other ways.
14) Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that affects many organs in the body such as the lungs, kidneys, pancreas, and intestines. One of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis is fatty stools .
Taurine supplementation can help manage fat absorption in cystic fibrosis patients .
In a small study of 19 children with cystic fibrosis, daily taurine supplementation for 6 months had a positive effect. Taurine was able to significantly improve fat reabsorption in these individuals .
Taurine levels are lower in individuals suffering from epilepsy .
In nine patients with intractable epilepsy, the seizures disappeared in five patients when they received 1.5 – 7.5 g of oral taurine daily for two weeks .
However, on average, only about one-third of patients have shown significant alleviation of seizures .
Unfortunately, high doses of taurine in certain instances have the potential to cause seizures. It can cause amino acid levels to become unbalanced and have negative effects instead. Talk to your doctor before supplementing with taurine if you are at risk of seizures .
Dietary taurine supplementation eliminated tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) in rats. Higher amounts (4 mg/mL vs 1 mg/mL) and frequencies of taurine supplementation yielded better results .
The GABA like calming action of taurine in the brain auditory circuits may be responsible for this improvement, but much more research is needed .
17) Alcohol Withdrawal
In a study of 22 patients, daily dietary supplementation with 1g of taurine reduced the numbers of psychotic episodes in individuals undergoing alcohol withdrawal .
Taurine supplementation in rats undergoing alcohol withdrawal was able to completely reverse alcoholic fatty liver disease .
Some of the benefits of taurine during alcohol withdrawal may stem from its inhibitory action in the brain and nervous system .
Most of the studies in this area have been on animals, and more research is required to confirm this benefit.
Taurine is one of the most abundant free amino acids in the male reproductive system and can be synthesized by male reproductive organs .
Dietary taurine supplementation increased the motion and survival of sperm in rats .
Taurine may act as an antioxidant in the testicles and improve sperm quality, especially in aged animals .
The protective effects of taurine on sperm cells may also result from its role in controlling cell volume .
Taurine is found in high concentrations in the female reproductive system as well .
It can protect gametes and growing embryos in the womb from oxidative damage .
The role of taurine supplementation in fertility is currently unknown. Future research will determine whether it could improve fertility or otherwise aid in reproduction.
In rats, taurine supplementation protected against oxidative stress that was caused by hyperthyroidism .
There is not nearly enough research to determine whether taurine supplementation is beneficial in hyperthyroidism. More and larger human studies are required.
There is mounting evidence that increased consumption of taurine-rich seafood by Japanese people contributes to their longevity by reducing the risk of heart disease. However, additional research is required to confirm causation [110, 111].
Taurine and Mental Health
Recent research has implicated taurine in myriad mental health problems from anxiety to autism. While there is not nearly enough evidence to say that taurine supplementation could benefit people with any of these conditions, the existing evidence is intriguing and worthy of further exploration.
Always talk to your doctor before trying a new supplement, and never use supplements to replace medical recommendations or prescriptions.
In a study of 121 young adults with psychosis, taurine supplementation alongside conventional antipsychotic medication produced fewer pathological symptoms than medication alone .
Taurine pretreatment in rats also helped prevent depression and anxiety symptoms after stress exposure .
In rats, taurine’s antidepressant activity could be due to its ability to :
- Prevent hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction
- Promotion nerve cell formation, survival, growth in the hippocampus
- Prevent the decreases of 5-hydroxytryptamine, dopamine, and noradrenaline
- Stop the increase of glutamate and corticosterone
24) Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is associated with over-excitation of neurons due to the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Taurine has the ability to block some of these excitatory signals in the brain and treat Alzheimer’s .
Taurine achieves this by its GABA-like action in calming the nervous system .
In human cells, taurine reduced the neurotoxicity of glutamate .
In mice with the animal model of Alzheimer’s, drinking taurine (from their water) helped recover memory and learning .
Due to the aging process, the brain becomes less efficient at producing and responding to GABA (a neurotransmitter) .
Since taurine functions similarly to GABA in the brain, taurine supplementation may reverse some of these effects .
Taurine supplementation in aged mice showed a significant improvement in memory formation and retention .
Young mice showed no improvement in learning and retention after taurine supplementation. However, taurine induced several biochemical changes in these mice that may promote better aging .
The cell protective effects of taurine could also contribute to the improvement of cognitive functions observed after chronic supplementation with taurine .
Long-term continuous taurine supplementation is likely more effective than short-term dosing since brain levels of taurine were not significantly altered after a single dose .
Taurine, through its anti-inflammatory action, reduced ADHD like behaviors such as hyperactivity in rats .
Although it helps reduce anxiety, there is not much evidence in regards to treating ADHD in human children .
Autism is associated with increased oxidative stress to the brain and nervous system. Taurine has the potential to treat autism due to its antioxidative properties .
Children with autism have low taurine levels. Taurine supplementation may, in theory, help elevate levels of taurine .
There are few clinical studies on taurine’s many health benefits. Therefore, further studies are needed to identify mechanisms and the most effective treatment program for humans.
Scientists also do not clearly understand the effects, drug interactions, and benefits of taurine. Always talk to your doctor before supplementing.
What Foods Are High in Taurine?
Humans’ main source of taurine is dietary, and taurine is naturally present in :
- Shellfish (oysters, mussels, and clams) 
- Other meat and dairy products 
- Sea vegetables (such as seaweed) 
The average daily taurine consumption in Americans are provided as follows:
Human breast milk also contains taurine. The amounts of taurine in breast milk vary depending on the diet of the mother. Omnivorous mothers have been found to contain one and a half times the amount of taurine in their milk as vegetarian mothers .
Conditions that Decrease Taurine Levels
What Decreases the Body’s Ability to Absorb or Synthesize Taurine?
Taurine levels within the body have been known to decrease due to surgical injury, chemotherapy, heroin addiction, Tylenol overdose, and many other numerous disease-causing conditions such as trauma, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, and liver disease [11, 129, 130, 131, 132].
Human studies have shown that vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to taurine deficiency because vitamin B-6 is needed for the synthesis of taurine by the body .
The essential amino acids methionine is also needed for taurine synthesis by the body. Therefore, reduced methionine intake can also lower taurine levels in the body .
A strict vegan and vegetarian diets result in taurine deficiency because they provide little to no dietary taurine .
The aging process reduces the body’s ability to synthesize taurine .
The antiepileptic drug vigabatrin also depletes taurine from the retina .
In rats, taurine supplementation changed protein and gene expression (production). However, scientists are unsure of the relationship between taurine and those genes.
Genes That Increase Taurine
Taurine increased the expression of :
Genes That Decrease Taurine
Taurine decreased the expression of :
Supplementing With Taurine
Who Uses Taurine Supplements?
- Strict vegetarians and vegans
- Athletes looking to improve exercise performance
- Individuals suffering from the disease conditions mentioned above
- Healthy individuals interested in taking supplements that promote longevity
Manufacturers can make taurine synthetically, and there is no need for animal extractions. Therefore, cheap vegan-friendly taurine supplements are widely available for purchase .
Note that there is no “safe and effective” dose of taurine for any particular medical condition because no studies have been performed to find one. However, taurine is abundant in most people’s diets
Up to 3 g of supplemental taurine per day has been found to be safe for adult consumption. There is strong evidence that there are no side effects at doses up to and under this value. Scientists do not recommend a dose greater than 3 g per day .
Relatively high amounts of taurine are considered safe for consumption because any excess can be harmlessly passed through urine .
Side Effects, Interactions, and Precautions
Taurine may act as a diuretic .
Most of the studies have focused on the short-term use of taurine supplements. Therefore, no conclusions can be made regarding the use of taurine supplements for periods greater than 1 year .
A combined high dose of taurine and alcohol is lethal in mice .
Taurine and L-carnitine may work together to benefit heart health. In rat muscle cells, L-carnitine and taurine stopped the multiplication (proliferation) and hardening of muscle cells. This may prevent the hardening of blood vessels and stop plaque from accumulating, thus preventing heart disease or atherosclerosis .
Note that this synergism has only been demonstrated in rats. The human body may not respond in the same way.
Additionally, taurine and taurine-containing energy drinks should not be mixed with alcohol .
It is important to use high-quality taurine supplements to avoid potential contamination with harmful compounds.
What About Taurine-Enriched Energy Drinks?
The presence of taurine in energy drinks may decrease the uncomfortable side effects of caffeine, such as heart palpitation, jitteriness, and anxiety. Taurine is usually only added to these drinks to mask the harmful effects of the product [145, 146, 141].
The high caffeine and sugar content of energy drinks containing taurine also nullify any potential health benefits .
We recommend strongly against consuming these energy drinks.
Where to Get Taurine Supplements
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