When most people think about taurine, they probably think about the contents of their energy drink. Indeed, many energy drinks do contain this particular ingredient. However, there is a lot more to the story than that. In this article, we will take a look at taurine in greater detail. As this substance has been the subject of recent debate, we will attempt to determine if taurine is a safe and effective supplement.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid. If you don’t know what that means, you need to read up on amino acids in general. Amino acids are special proteins that form the building blocks of many other proteins. These substances are particularly important for muscle synthesis. Some amino acids can be manufactured by the body using other substances, and taurine is one of these. It is non-essential because you can get it from food, and it is conditionally essential because certain people might need a little extra.
Where Do You Find Taurine?
As we already mentioned, taurine can be found within the human body. It is particularly abundant in the brain, retinas, heart, and blood cells. Thus, it is not surprising that human breast milk is also high in taurine.
In many cases, infants that are not breastfed suffer from a taurine deficiency. This is because human milk contains more taurine than cow milk. The study cited above found that taurine levels were about the same for the breast milk of women from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They noted a lower level of taurine in rural women, but this could be due to poor nutrition.
Taurine is very abundant in meat and other animal foods. You can find it in beef, chicken, pork, and most other meats. However, it is most abundant in fish. It has been found that fish will be healthier and live longer when given food containing taurine as an ingredient. This fact gives you an idea of why fish is one of the most taurine-rich foods around.
However, there are non-meat sources of taurine as well. For instance, dairy products and eggs both contain high levels. There are even some plants that contain small amounts of taurine. This stuff is so abundant in nature that it boggles the mind.
We should probably take a moment to examine a common myth about taurine. Some people have claimed that this substance is sourced from bull semen. Although this claim has all the earmarks of an urban legend, we decided to investigate anyway. Apart from rumors on less-than-reliable sites, we did not find any evidence to support this claim. However, we might have found the origin of the idea.
Taurine was first isolated from ox bile by a German scientist named Friedrich Tiedemann. Although Taurine is found in the body of a bull (including the testicles, we can presume), there is no reason to believe that anyone is processing bull semen as a source of taurine. Most industrial taurine is produced in a laboratory using processes like this one.
Benefits Of Taurine
Some people have called taurine a “wonder molecule” because of its huge variety of uses and benefits. In some areas, research on taurine is lacking. Science has known about it for a long time, but there wasn’t much interest in this chemical until recently. However, taurine has already been approved for the treatment of congestive heart failure.
To understand the benefits of taurine, we need to discuss its functions within the human body. Under natural circumstances, this substance is used by the body to regulate the pressure and electrolytic balance of your cells. Because taurine affects the electrolytic balance of your cells, it has the potential to affect the entire body.
Taurine helps the body to regulate the nutrients that enter and exit each cell. It also helps to control the water levels of each cell. As if that were not important enough, taurine also helps the body to flush out cellular waste. Thus, there is a reason to believe that taurine contributes to the health of all the body’s cells.
Health Of The Brain And Eyes
We already mentioned that taurine is very abundant in the brain tissue and retinas of the human body. As such, you might have already guessed that taurine contributes to the health of those organs. For a little bit of evidence, check out this study. This one was conducted on rats and was intended to show the effect of taurine depletion on visual accuracy. Researchers found that all groups of rats showed a loss of vision (to some degree) when their bodies were depleted of taurine. Thus, it is possible that age-related vision problems can be treated with taurine.
When it comes to the effects of taurine upon the brain, the evidence is a little less conclusive. Based on our research, it appears that scientists are still not entirely sure how taurine behaves in the brain, or how the brain utilizes this resource. However, they do know that the brain contains high levels of taurine. Because of this, it is logical to assume that it can benefit from supplementation in the same way that the eyes do.
Treatment Of Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is probably the only serious medical condition that is being treated with taurine at present. As such, we find this to be one of the most well-proven of taurine’s many benefits. Let’s start with this study from Japan.
Several groups of patients who had been suffering from congestive heart failure were given taurine supplements over four weeks. One group, however, was given a placebo instead of the taurine. By the end of the test, researchers found that the symptoms of the placebo group had worsened, while the symptoms of the taurine groups were either improved or unchanged. Thus, the researchers concluded that this medicine was safe and effective for the treatment of congestive heart failure.
Here is a similar study that obtained similar results. In this case, researchers were attempting to determine the effects of taurine on the exercise capacity of heart failure patients. Ordinarily, those afflicted with this condition are unable to engage in strenuous exercise for long periods. However, it researchers found that taurine supplementation allowed these heart patients to exercise longer and work harder without problems. The placebo group did not achieve these results, proving that they were not the result of mental attitudes.
It would take some time to list all the studies related to the effectiveness of taurine for the treatment of heart disease. Although this stuff doesn’t seem able to cure any particular condition, there is sufficient evidence to show that it can help with many heart conditions. This might be related to its known tendency to reduce blood pressure.
Helps To Control Diabetes
Diabetic patients can benefit from a taurine supplement. We have found several studies that seem to show a direct correlation between taurine use and a lower level of insulin resistance. First, we should probably explain what we mean by that.
The root cause of diabetes is a phenomenon called insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that is present in human blood, and it is essential for the regulation of blood sugar. Blood sugar, also called glucose, is one of the body’s best sources of energy. Insulin is the signal which tells your body to release and use that glucose.
Sometimes, the body can build up a resistance to the effects of insulin, leading to dysfunction. The body is no longer able to regulate its insulin levels properly, and the result is a general lack of energy (among other things). Taurine helps to deal with this problem by attacking it at the source.
For instance, let’s take a look at another study performed on rats. A group of diabetic rats was closely monitored for twelve weeks, with only one group being given taurine in their food. At the end of the study, a blood sample was taken from each rat to determine their levels of insulin resistance. They found that the taurine group had shown significant improvement in this area.
It should be mentioned that taurine does not provide us with a cure for diabetes. The study we examined above says that the taurine was not able to reverse the damage that had already been done by the disease. However, the taurine did seem to keep the problem from becoming worse.
On the positive end of things, there is some evidence to show that taurine can help to prevent diabetes if administered from a young age. This study was conducted on mice and showed a definite link between taurine levels and diabetes onset. Although this study is not conclusive, it does fit with all the other evidence we have found.
Potential Problems With Taurine
We have already dealt with the most common worry that people have regarding this substance (the “bull semen” theory). Until someone manages to present some reliable evidence, we would not advise you to put much stock in this myth. However, we should take a closer look at this substance to see if there are any legitimate health or safety concerns about which we should know.
We can start by looking at some toxicity information regarding this substance. This is an excellent source because it cites a number of other studies, all of which are cited for easy reference.
There are several things to unpack from this information. First, we don’t see any indication that taurine is dangerous in any way. In fact, it seems that too little taurine is more dangerous than too much. For infants, a lack of taurine can result in a number of different problems, so that speaks well for its overall safety.
It is estimated that animals get quite a bit of taurine from their diet. However, some products (like energy drinks) contain more taurine than what would typically be consumed. Does this mean that those energy drinks will lead to a taurine overdose? Probably not. We were unable to find a single case in which a person overdosed on taurine. If you want a good idea about safe dosage levels, this study should give you a good idea. These researchers found that 3 grams per day are a safe dosage and that most people can accommodate higher dosages. In fact, the toxicity info that we cited earlier tells us that a person can safely ingest as much as 12 grams per day without any adverse effect. Still, we would advise against going beyond 6 grams per day.
In many cases, supplements come with specific warnings. In most cases, these warnings are as simple as following the recommended dosage, but they still remind us that we need to be careful. However, taurine seems to be a rare example of a supplement that offers many benefits with little to no risk. Even if you never touch a taurine supplement in your life, you will eat large amounts in your food (unless you happen to be a vegan). Some estimates say that the human body is composed of about 0.1% taurine.
It should also be noted that this article only provides a partial list of taurines’ many health benefits. There are so many that we did not have time to discuss them all. As such, we recommend that you do some research on your own to find out more. If we have given you a good start on that project, then we have achieved our goal. We hope that you will make it your goal to follow us on Facebook so that we can teach you more.