What is taurine?
Taurine, which is sometimes referred to as L-taurine, is a nonessential amino acid that contains trace amounts of sulfur. Our bodies produce some taurine on their own, but we can also get this nutrient naturally in foods in our diet. It’s mostly in meat and dairy products, including poultry, red meat, and fish.
Benefits of taurine
1. Improves heart function
Taurine is often used as a treatment for those who have experienced moderate to severe heart failure, and is sometimes used as part of treatment after a heart attack. One study suggests that in addition to acting as treatment after cardiovascular disease has progressed, taurine may also help prevent heart problems.
2. May treat depression
Taurine can impact the central nervous system in positive ways, and taurine can have an antidepressant effect. According to one study, long-term usage of taurine supplements changed depression-related signals in the hippocampus of rats.
3. Lowers cholesterol
Taking taurine regularly can help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, improving overall health. Researchers in a 2008 study had individuals take 2 grams of taurine three times per day. After four months, they saw lower levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides than in the control group. More recent studies have shown how taurine works to reduce cholesterol at a cellular level. This can have additional health benefits, like a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. Improves blood flow
Taurine can cause an increased opening of blood vessels, which can make it easier for oxygen to be delivered to your muscles. This may help with both cardiovascular diseases and with improving athletic performance. A 2000 study performed on rats found that it can increase the secretion of nitric oxide, which then dilates the blood vessels.
5. Helps treat hepatitis
Hepatitis can cause liver damage, and taurine may help to treat it. One study suggests that taurine is able to help reduce liver injury that’s caused by hepatitis. Another study found that taurine had the capability to prevent damage to the liver. Researchers discovered that an increase in taurine resulted in participants having fewer of the markers that indicated liver damage.
6. May help epileptic conditions
In a 2003 study on mice, researchers found that taurine is capable of treating seizure-associated brain damage. It also decreased the duration and onset of some seizures. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects in humans. You should consult your doctor before taking taurine for seizures, especially if you take psychoactive medications.
7. May aid diabetes treatment
While more research is needed to confirm this health benefit, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that taurine was able to improve insulin sensitivity in rats with type 2 diabetes. In this study, rats who were given taurine had less abdominal fat, were less resistant to insulin, and had less incidence of hypoglycemia than the control rats.
Forms and doses
Taurine can be obtained through food or through supplements. Supplements are available in liquid, capsule, and powder form.
For general health improvement, take the supplements by following the instructions on the bottle or as advised by your doctor. If you’re taking taurine for congestive heart failure, you can take up to 3 grams, twice a day. For hepatitis, take up to 4 grams, three times daily.
Risks and complications
In moderation, taurine supplements are considered generally safe for most people. There are no known common side effects for the average person. Taking too much taurine may cause stomach problems like peptic ulcers or diarrhea.
Because taurine hasn’t been studied on pregnant women, don’t take the supplement if you’re pregnant, breast feeding, or trying to become pregnant, unless you’ve talked to your doctor first.
The only known interaction of taurine supplements is with lithium supplements. When the two are combined, taking taurine can interfere with how the body rids itself of lithium, which can result in serious side effects.
Evidence suggests that taurine may help treat a number of different health conditions and improve athletic performance. You might find you benefit from its strong antioxidant properties. If you’re unsure of whether or not taurine could improve your health, you should ask your doctor if taurine is right for you, what form you should take, and how much.