Taurine is a type of amino acid found in many foods and often added to energy drinks.
It is also very safe and has no known side effects when taken in reasonable doses.
This article explains everything you need to know about taurine.
Unlike most other amino acids, it is not used to build proteins. Rather, it is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid.
Your body can produce taurine, and it is also found in some foods. However, certain individuals — such as those with specific illnesses like heart disease or diabetes — may benefit from taking a supplement (2, 3, 7, 8, 9).
Despite common belief, this amino acid is not extracted from bull urine or bull semen. The name is derived from the Latin word taurus, which means ox or bull — so that may be the source of the confusion.
Summary Taurine is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid. It serves various important functions in your body.
Although some processed vegetarian foods contain added taurine, it is unlikely that these will offer sufficient quantities to optimize your levels (10).
Taurine is also often added to soda and energy drinks — which may provide 600–1,000 mg in a single 8-ounce (237-ml) serving.
Because the form of taurine used in supplements and energy drinks is usually made synthetically — not derived from animals — it is suitable for vegans.
Summary The main dietary sources of taurine are animal foods, such as meat, fish and dairy. Smaller amounts occur in some plant foods. It is also added to many energy drinks.
Taurine, found in several organs, has widespread benefits.
- Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance in your cells
- Forming bile salts, which play an important role in digestion
- Regulating minerals such as calcium within your cells
- Supporting the general function of your central nervous system and eyes
- Regulating immune system health and antioxidant function
Since it's a conditionally essential amino acid, a healthy individual can produce the minimal amount required for these essential daily functions.
However, higher amounts may be required in rare cases, making taurine essential for some people — such as those with heart or kidney failure, as well as premature infants that have been fed intravenously (17).
When a deficiency occurs during fetal development, serious symptoms like impaired brain function and poor blood sugar control have been observed (18).
Summary Taurine plays many important roles in your body. Although extremely rare, deficiency is linked to several serious health issues.
Taurine may improve blood sugar control and combat diabetes.
Interestingly, people with diabetes tend to have lower levels of taurine — another indicator that it may play a role in this disease (24).
That said, more research is needed in this area.
Summary Taurine may benefit people with diabetes, potentially lowering blood sugar levels and improving various risk factors for heart disease. However, further studies are needed before any claims can be made.
Taurine may help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Research shows a link between higher taurine levels and significantly lower rates of death from heart disease, as well as reduced cholesterol and blood pressure (8).
Taurine may help reduce high blood pressure by decreasing the resistance to blood flow in your blood vessel walls. It may also minimize nerve impulses in your brain that increase blood pressure (25, 26, 27).
In a two-week study in people with diabetes, taurine supplements significantly reduced artery stiffness — potentially making it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body (28).
In another study in overweight people, 3 grams of taurine per day for seven weeks reduced body weight and improved several heart disease risk factors (29).
Summary Taurine may reduce your risk of heart disease by improving several key risk factors, such as cholesterol and blood pressure.
Taurine may also have benefits for athletic performance.
In animal studies, taurine caused muscles to work harder and for longer and increased the muscles' ability to contract and produce force. In mice, it reduced fatigue and muscle damage during a workout (30, 31, 32, 33).
What’s more, it increases fat burning during exercise (36).
Human studies indicate that trained athletes who supplement with taurine experience improved exercise performance. Cyclists and runners have been able to cover longer distances with less fatigue (4, 34).
Another study supports this amino acid’s role in reducing muscle damage. Participants placed on a muscle-damaging weightlifting routine experienced fewer markers of damage and less muscle soreness (37, 38).
In addition to these performance benefits, taurine may aid weight loss by increasing your body’s use of fat for fuel. In cyclists, supplementing with 1.66 grams of taurine increased fat burning by 16% (36).
Summary Taurine plays several important roles in your muscles and may aid various aspects of exercise performance by reducing fatigue, increasing fat burning and decreasing muscle damage.
Taurine has a surprisingly wide range of potential health benefits.
In one human study, 12% of participants supplementing with taurine completely eliminated ringing in their ears, which is associated with hearing loss (41).
Taurine is also present in large quantities in your eyes, with research showing that eye problems may occur when these levels start to decline. Increased concentrations are believed to optimize eyesight and eye health (42, 43, 44).
Finally, it can protect liver cells against free radical and toxin damage. In one study, 2 grams of taurine taken three times per day reduced markers of liver damage while decreasing oxidative stress (48, 49).
However, more research is needed on most of these benefits.
Summary Taurine has a wide range of potential health benefits, from reduced seizures to improved eyesight.
According to the best available evidence, taurine has no negative side effects when used in the recommended amounts (11).
While there have been no direct issues from taurine supplements, athlete deaths in Europe have been linked to energy drinks containing taurine and caffeine. This has led several countries to ban or limit the sale of taurine (50).
However, these deaths may have been caused by the large doses of caffeine or some other substances the athletes were taking.
Summary When consumed in reasonable amounts by a healthy individual, taurine does not have any known side effects.
The most common dosages of taurine are 500–2,000 mg per day.
However, the upper limit for toxicity is much higher — even doses above 2,000 mg seem to be well tolerated.
Research on the safety of taurine suggests that up to 3,000 mg per day for an entire lifetime is still safe (53).
The easiest and most cost-effective method to achieve this is through powder or tablet supplements, which can cost as little as $6 for 50 doses.
Summary Supplementing with 500–3,000 mg of taurine per day is known to be effective, cheap and safe.
Some researchers call taurine a "wonder molecule" because few supplements provide as many potential health and performance benefits.
Whether you want to improve your health or optimize your sports performance, taurine can be a very cost-effective and safe addition to your supplement regimen.
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