Taurine is a semi-essential organic compound. 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 understand why you should consider taurine supplementation and not believe in its bad reputation.
What is Taurine?
Mammals have taurine in almost every tissue, but the heart, brain, retina, blood platelets and glands contain particularly high amounts [R].
Taurine controls multiple important biological processes in the body. In this respect, taurine might be more easily compared to sodium or calcium ions rather than a drug that targets a specific receptor in our bodies [R, R].
Humans are able to produce taurine, but not in sufficient quantities. Therefore, taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid for humans. Some conditions where patients can be taurine deficient include premature babies, newborn infants, and chronic liver, heart, and kidney disease patients [R, R].
Taurine also 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 [R, R].
Despite the impressive range of positive effects taurine has on the body, its exact mechanisms of action still remain largely unknown [R].
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 [R].
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 [R, R].
How the Body Removes Taurine
Taurine transporter molecules in the kidneys use energy to resorb and conserve taurine in the body [R].
Individuals with compromised kidney function or faulty taurine transporters may not be able to retain sufficient amounts of taurine [R].
Mice unable to produce the taurine transporter and conserve taurine have dramatic decreases of taurine levels in organs, reduced fertility, and loss of vision [R].
Health Benefits of Taurine
1) Taurine is an Antioxidant
Tissues exposed to oxidative damage have particularly high concentrations of taurine [R].
Like other antioxidants, taurine, directly and indirectly, eliminates harmful oxidants to minimize tissue damage [R].
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 [R].
Taurine can scavenge these oxidants to form the much less toxic ‘taurine chloramine’ (TauCl) and ‘taurine bromamine’ (TauBr) [R].
TauCl and TauBr are able to reduce the generation of oxidants by white blood cells [R]
Taurine also increases the production and activity of other antioxidants found in the body [R].
2) Taurine May Reduce Inflammation
Taurine supplementation enhances the formation of TauCl and TauBr in the body and may be effective in treating inflammatory conditions [R].
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 [R].
The gene for the taurine transporter (TauT) has also been linked to the inflammatory response [R].
TauCl promotes cell death via ‘apoptosis’. Apoptosis is when cells undergo programmed cell death. Because dead cells are immediately consumed by white blood cells and not left to release toxins, inflammation can be greatly reduced [R].
TauCl can also turn on genes that reduce inflammation [R].
3) Taurine Might Help Fight Infections
Taurine’s antimicrobial effects in the body stem from taurine chloramine (TauCl) and taurine bromamine (TauBr) formation [R].
TauCl and TauBr rapidly break down in our bodies and is only effective if used topically, not supplemented. However, taurine supplementation can increase the production of these compounds in our bodies [R].
Taurolidine, another derivative of taurine, is commonly used in Europe and the USA to assist in the treatment of various infections [R].
The white blood cells (neutrophils) of rats supplemented with taurine have an increased ability to destroy invading bacteria [R].
4) Taurine May Help Fight Cancer
Cancer patients have depleted taurine levels. Surgery and chemotherapy decrease taurine levels even further and may compound taurine decreases in cancer patients. Therefore, taurine supplementation may be greatly beneficial to cancer patients [R].
5) Taurine May Help Treat Diabetes
Antioxidants, such as taurine, are low in diabetic individuals. This increases the risk of oxidative damage [R].
Diabetic complications such as heart, kidney, and nerve damage can be attributed to high oxidative damage resulting from low taurine levels [R].
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 [R].
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 patient [R].
6) Taurine Protects the Heart
Heart and blood vessels cells contain the taurine transporter, suggesting that taurine is important for heart function [R].
The risk of chronic heart disease is lower in individuals with a high urinary output of taurine [R].
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 [R].
Taurine can also prevent abnormal heartbeat (AFib) [R].
Taurine supplementation is effective in treating the hardening and narrowing of blood arteries in animals [R].
Although further research needs to be performed, the positive effects of taurine on the heart are thought to be because of taurine [R]:
- Improves fat profile
- Helps control calcium ion uptake and thus cell excitation
- Acts as an antioxidant
- Prevents the contraction of blood vessels
7) Taurine Prevents Hypertension
8) Taurine Might Help Prevent High Cholesterol
Taurine supplementation can enhance bile secretion and activity, and improve the breakdown of cholesterol by the body [R].
It is also essential for the formation of bile salts, and as such, plays an important role in fat and cholesterol absorption and breakdown [R].
9) Taurine Helps Protect the Liver
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 [R].
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 [R].
10) Taurine May Protects the Kidneys
Multiple animal studies have confirmed that taurine is able to protect the kidneys from oxidative damage and interrupted blood supply [R].
- Protects kidney cells from oxidative damage [R]
- Helps prevent cellular stress due to changes in cell volume [R]
11) Taurine Protects the Eyes
Taurine protects cells of the retina from damage caused by oxidants and bright light [R].
Low taurine levels are associated with cataract formation in humans [R].
In cats, taurine deprivation causes vision loss [R].
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 [R].
12) Taurine May Protect the Lungs
Taurine’s antioxidant activity is able to protect the lungs from damage caused by exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke [R].
Hamsters fed taurine are able to resist lung damage caused by air pollutant exposure [R].
In sheep, the taurine derivative taurolidine (which turns into taurine in the body) prevents lung damage caused by bacterial toxins [R].
13) Taurine Helps Fight Obesity
Taurine is effective in reducing body weight, possibly due to its role in bile synthesis and fat absorption and breakdown [R].
In a study (DB-RCT) of 30 obese college students, 3 g or taurine daily for a week was able to significantly improve fat profiles and reduce weight. It also improved fat breakdown in healthy people [R].
14) Taurine Increases Exercise Performance
Taurine is essential for the normal functioning of muscles [R].
Muscle function is severely impaired in mice that lack the taurine transporter [R].
Taurine supplementation improved physical endurance in rats [R].
The mechanisms of action of taurine in muscles may include alteration of protein production and will probably vary from species to species [R].
15) Taurine Treats Muscle Disorders
Dietary taurine supplementation reduces the clinical effects of myotonia, a condition that results in prolonged muscle contraction. It stabilizes cells and prevents overexcitement [R].
In a single-blinded RCT of 9 myotonia patients, 100 – 150 mg/kg/day of taurine supplementation for 6 months led to significant improvement in clinical symptoms [R].
Muscle aging and disuse can reduce taurine levels in muscles. Taurine supplementation might help in these instances [R].
16) Taurine May Help Improve 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) [R].
17) Taurine May Protect Skin
Taurine can also potentially prevent dry skin caused by detergents. It prevented dry and scaly skin by reducing inflammation and toxicity in human skin cells [R].
18) Taurine Helps Treat 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 [R].
Taurine supplementation can help manage fat absorption in cystic fibrosis patients [R].
In a study (SB-RCT) of 19 children with cystic fibrosis, daily taurine supplementation for 6 months had a positive effect. Taurine was able to significantly improve fat re-absorption in these individuals [R].
19) Taurine Might Protect Against Stroke
Taurine supplementation may help restore taurine levels in the brain during and after stroke, and protect neurons in the brain from further damage [R].
Taurine has a protective effect on brain-cells due to its cell protective functions. It prevents excessive excitation by controlling the entry of ions (like Na+ and Ca2+) [R].
20) Taurine May Help Treat Epilepsy
Taurine levels are lower in individuals suffering from epilepsy [R].
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 [R].
However, on average, only about one-third of patients have shown significant alleviation of seizures [R].
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 [R].
21) Taurine May Reduce Anxiety
Taurine supplementation had anti-anxiety effects in rats and is suggested for the clinical treatment of anxiety [R].
22) Taurine May Help Alleviate Depression
In rats, taurine helped alleviate depression by changing the activity of the hippocampus in the brain [R].
Taurine pretreatment in rats also helped prevent depression and anxiety symptoms after stress exposure [R].
In rats, taurine’s antidepressive activity could be due to its ability to [R]:
- 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
23) Taurine Helps Treat Alzheimer’s
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 [R].
Taurine achieves this by its GABA-like action in calming the nervous system [R].
In human cells, taurine reduced the neurotoxicity of glutamate [R].
In mice with the animal model of Alzheimer’s, drinking taurine (from their water) helped recover memory and learning [R].
24) Taurine May Improve Learning
Due to the aging process, the brain becomes less efficient at producing and responding to GABA (a neurotransmitter) [R].
Since taurine functions similarly to GABA in the brain, taurine supplementation may reverse some of these effects [R].
Taurine supplementation in aged mice showed a significant improvement in memory formation and retention [R].
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 [R].
The cell protective effects of taurine could also contribute to the improvement of cognitive functions observed after chronic supplementation with taurine [R].
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 [R].
25) Taurine May Improve Symptoms of ADHD
Taurine, through its anti-inflammatory action, reduced ADHD like behaviors such as hyperactivity in rats [R].
Although it helps reduce anxiety, there is not much evidence in regards to treating ADHD in human children [R].
26) Taurine May Treat Autism
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 [R].
Children with autism have low taurine levels. Taurine supplementation may help elevate levels of taurine [R].
27) Taurine Might Treat Tinnitus
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 [R].
The GABA like calming action of taurine in the brain auditory circuits may be responsible for this improvement [R].
28) Taurine Helps with 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 [R].
Taurine supplementation in rats undergoing alcohol withdrawal was able to completely reverse alcoholic fatty liver disease [R].
Some of the benefits of taurine during alcohol withdrawal may stem from its inhibitory action in the brain and nervous system [R].
29) Taurine is Important for Reproduction
Taurine is one of the most abundant free amino acids in the male reproductive system and can be synthesized by male reproductive organs [R].
Dietary taurine supplementation increased the motion and survival of sperm in rats [R].
Taurine may act as an antioxidant in the testicles and improve sperm quality, especially in aged animals [R].
The protective effects of taurine on sperm cells may also result from its role in controlling cell volume [R].
Taurine is found in high concentrations in the female reproductive system [R].
It can protect gametes and growing embryos in the womb from oxidative damage [R].
30) Taurine May Protects Against Hyperthyroidism
In rats, taurine supplementation protected against oxidative stress that was caused by hyperthyroidism [R].
31) Taurine Promotes Longevity
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. Therefore, it is recommended to obtain a physician’s approval before using taurine to treat a medical condition.
Dietary Sources of Taurine
Humans’ main source of taurine is dietary [R].
Taurine is naturally present in
- Shellfish (oysters, mussels, and clams) [R]
- Other meat and dairy products [R]
- Sea vegetables (such as seaweed) [R]
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 than vegetarian mothers [R].
Conditions that Decrease Taurine Levels
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 [R, R, R, R, R].
Human studies have shown that vitamin B-6 deficiency can lead to taurine deficiency because vitamin B-6 is needed for the synthesis of taurine by the body [R].
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 [R].
A strict vegan and vegetarian diets result in taurine deficiency because they provide little to no dietary taurine [R].
The aging process reduces the body’s ability synthesize taurine [R].
The amino acid beta-alanine may block the action of the taurine transporter in the body and lead to low levels of taurine [R].
The antiepileptic drug vigabatrin also depletes taurine from the retina [R].
Who Should Consider 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 [R].
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 [R].
Relatively high amounts of taurine are safe for consumption because any excess can be harmlessly passed through urine [R].
Taurine may act as a diuretic [R].
Most of the studies have focussed 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 [R].
At low taurine: caffeine ratios (found in red bull) taurine heightens the sleep suppressing effects of caffeine (in fruit flies). At higher ratios, taurine has the opposite effect and negates the effects of caffeine [R, R].
A combined high dose of taurine and alcohol is lethal in mice [R].
Synergism with Carnitine
Taurine and L-carnitine can work together to benefit heart health. In rat muscle cells, L-carnitine and taurine stopped the multiplication (proliferation) and hardening of muscle cells. This can prevent the hardening of blood vessels and stop plaque from accumulating, thus preventing heart disease or atherosclerosis [R].
Additionally, taurine and taurine-containing energy drinks should not be mixed with alcohol [R].
It is important to use high-quality taurine supplements, as the large doses mean that any contaminant can build up to large amounts within the body.
Why Taurine Enriched Energy Drinks are Still Bad for You
The presence of taurine in energy drinks may decrease the uncomfortable side effects of caffeine, such as heart palpitation, jitteriness, and anxiety. Therefore taurine may increase the threshold for detecting a caffeine overdose [R, R, R].
The high caffeine and sugar content of energy drinks containing taurine also nullify any potential health benefits [R].
In rats, taurine supplementation changed protein and gene expression (production). However, scientists are unsure of the relationship between taurine and those genes.
Taurine increased the expression of [R]:
Taurine decreased the expression of [R]:
- “I’ve been taking three 500mg capsules regularly for two months now and seen a decrease in my overall general anxiety and mood swings.”
- “Helped relieve my depression.”
- “Good for your liver, heart and more.”
- “I read that Taurine helps to control blood sugar and have noticed a difference in my numbers since I have taken Taurine.”
- “I felt extremely weak and faint because of them, it definitely not for people with low blood pressure like me.”