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Taurine
Overview

Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is found throughout the body, but especially in muscle and nerve tissue. It functions with glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid as a neuroinhibitory transmitter. It is thought to help regulate heartbeat and muscle contractions, water balance, energy levels and levels of -s in the brain. Taurine is called a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body normally makes all the taurine that it needs but it does require vitamin B6 to convert cysteine or methionine to taurine. However, it may be considered a "conditionally essential" amino acid, which means that under certain conditions, such as physical exertion, disease or injury, the body may not be able to synthesize enough taurine to meet demands.

Taurine is not incorporated into proteins and enzymes but it does play an important role in bile acid metabolism. Taurine works with chenodeoxychloic acid to emulsify dietary lipids in the intestine, promoting digestion. Taurine may increase physical endurance and reaction speed; increase concentration and mental alertness; improve overall feeling of well being; strengthen heart muscle (congestive heart failure); prevent cataracts; reduce blood pressure; enhance water balance and nutrient uptake in muscle cells; aid hydration before/during exercise.

Taurine is the second most abundant amino acid in the muscle amino acid pool and cellular depletion has been linked to developmental defects, retinal damage, immunodeficiency, impaired cellular growth and the development of a cardiomyopathy. Low taurine levels observed in patients following heart attacks and taurine may help treat arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) and high blood pressure. Other avenues of research for taurine are stimulation of immune function, treatment of cataracts, alleviation of mild depression and improvement in male fertility.

What is Taurine?

t
2-aminoethanesulfonic acid
 

Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is an organic acid. It is also a major constituent of bile and can be found in the lower intestine and, in small amounts, in the tissues of many animals, including humans. Taurine is a derivative of the sulfur-containing (sulfhydryl) amino acid cysteine.

How is it Made?
Mammalian taurine synthesis occurs in the pancreas via the cysteine sulfinic acid pathway. In this pathway, the sulfhydryl group of cysteine is first oxidized to cysteine sulfinic acid by the enzyme cysteine dioxygenase. Cysteine sulfinic acid, in turn, is decarboxylated by sulfinoalanine decarboxylase to form hypotaurine. It is unclear whether hypotaurine is then spontaneously or enzymatically oxidized to yield taurine.

Where is it Found?
Taurine is found in all high protein foods such as brewer's yeast, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish. Beans and nuts do not contain taurine, but they do contain methionine and cysteine (which can be made into taurine by the body).

 
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Benefits / Uses
Taurine has found to be extremely beneficial in body functions. Some of these are listed below:


arw Slows development of heart failure


arw Prolongs life expectancy in those with congestive heart failure


arw Prevents alcohol-induced hypertension


arw Improves glucose tolerance


arw Improves insulin utilization


arw Improves endothelial dysfunction


arw Prevents membrane damage
arw Decreases serum cholesterol
arw Lowers serum LDL
arw Taurine is antihypoxic
arw Decreases aortic lesions
arw May help prevent atherosclerosis
arw Controls seizures
arw Effective in treating alcohol induced amnesia
arw May be effective in treating cystic fibrosis fat absorption problems
arw Prevent cataract development
arw Protects against reperfusion injury


arw Reduces the adrenal gland adrenaline output
 

Taurine, often referred to as an amino acid, is not part of the human body’s structural proteins. Instead, taurine remains free in the tissues and bloodstream. In fact, taurine is one of the most abundant free amino-acid-like compounds found in the heart, the skeletal muscles and the nervous system.
At times of extreme physical exertion, the body no longer produces the required amounts of taurine, which results in a relative deficiency. Taurine acts as a metabolic transmitter and is also known to have a detoxifying effect. Taurine deficiency may cause psychiatric and neurological disorders
Taurine also plays an important role in the brain. Some researchers believe hat taurine can be a beneficial dietary supplement for people who suffer from bipolar disorder (manic depression).

Taurine and heart disease
In Japan, taurine is used to treat ischemic heart disease as well as certain heart arrhythmias. People who suffer from congestive heart failure are reported to have benefited from taurine therapy - in the amount of 3 to 5 grams per day - and taurine may also be helpful in the treatment of both hypertension and high cholesterol.

Taurine and type 1 diabetes
Some studies have demonstrated that taurine acts as a potent antioxidant and improves drug-induced type 1 diabetes mellitus in laboratory rats, by combating the destructive effect oxygen free radicals have on the pancreas. Moreover, the second mechanism by which taurine improves insulin resistance is through an increase in the excretion of cholesterol via conversion to bile acid.

Because type 1 diabetes is so devastating if not treated properly, taurine in the amount of 500 mg 1 to 3 times a day is generally a good idea in these cases.
Other studies have shown that even in infants, taurine insufficiency results in reduced bile acid secretion, reduced fat absorption and reduce liver function, all of which can be reversed by supplementing the diet with taurine. These studies also support the theory that taurine is essential for proper development and growth. Consequently, taurine has been added to most commercially-available infant formulas.
Taurine and hepatitis

In a double-blind, randomized study, acute hepatitis patients were given taurine in the amount of 4 grams 3 times a day after meals. The participants in the taurine study experienced significant decreases in bilirubin, and total bile acids.
Taurine and alcoholism

Taurine has been shown to be useful in treating people with alcohol dependency. In people undergoing alcohol withdrawal, taurine given at 1 gram 3 times per day for 7 days resulted in significantly fewer psychotic episodes when compared to people who were taking a placebo.
Yet another study involving over 3,000 alcohol dependent people with who were given taurine at similar doses showed that taurine is more effective than placebo at preventing alcohol relapse. The effectiveness of this taurine supplement appeared to be dependent on the dose given.

Dosage
Doses of up to 6 grams per day have been used in studies of heart function. Smaller doses (500-1500mg/day) have been used in studies of brain function (epilepsy). Typical commercial doses found in energy drinks are generally in the range or 50-100mg. Taurine deficiencies have been documented in vegans (strict vegetarians) and in diabetics and sub-optimal levels have been theorized to occur in people under high levels of emotional or physical stress.

Possible Side-Effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions:
Taurine is often included in energy drinks to give people a boost and to provide health benefits. Studies have shown no significant side-effects with normal amounts. Taurine may, however, interact with different types of medications, so anyone taking prescription drugs should talk with a physician before beginning taurine supplements.

Because taurine may lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, people taking medications to achieve these goals should talk to their doctor before taking taurine supplements. Taurine also may act as a blood thinner, so anyone taking anticoagulants also should speak to a doctor if considering supplements. Physicians also advise people with epilepsy and anyone with bipolar disorder to avoid adding extra taurine to their diets.

Research Studies / References



arw American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71, No. 1, 54-58, January 2000


arw Hayes KC, Stephan ZF, Sturman JA. Growth depression in taurine-depleted infant monkeys. J Nutr1980;110:2058-2064.


arw Matsuyama Y, Morita T, Higuchi M, Tsujii T. The effect of taurine administration on patients with acute hepatitis.


arw Ikeda H. Effects of taurine on alcohol withdrawal. Lancet 1977;2:509.


arw Wilde MI, Wagstaff AJ. Acamprosate. A review of its pharmacology and clinical potential in the management of alcohol dependence after detoxification. Drugs 1997;53:1038-1053.


arw Van Gelder NM, Sherwin AL, Sacks C, Andermann F. Biochemical observations following administration of taurine to patients with epilepsy. Brain Res 1975;94:297-306.