Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that plays a vital role in various aspects of human health. Although it can be found in many animal-based foods, taurine deficiencies are common, especially among vegetarians and vegans.
In this article, we'll explore the numerous health benefits of taurine, how to identify signs and symptoms of deficiency, and the importance of supplementation as we age.
What is Taurine?
Taurine is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in various physiological functions, including cell hydration, electrolyte balance, and the proper functioning of the central nervous system. As we age, our body's ability to produce taurine declines, making it even more crucial for those over the age of 50 to ensure they have an adequate intake.
Health Benefits of Taurine
Taurine has been shown to positively impact cardiovascular health in aging individuals. It helps regulate blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve overall heart function. Studies have demonstrated that taurine supplementation can alleviate age-related heart and blood vessels changes, contributing to healthier cardiovascular function.
Brain Function and Neuroprotection
Taurine is vital to brain health, as it aids neurotransmitter regulation and protects against neurodegenerative diseases. It has been shown to improve cognitive performance, memory, and learning capabilities while reducing the risk of conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Taurine is highly concentrated in the retina and is critical in maintaining healthy vision. As we age, the levels of taurine in the eyes decrease, leading to a higher risk of age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. Ensuring adequate taurine intake can help protect against these vision-related issues.
Taurine Deficiency: Signs and Symptoms
A taurine deficiency can manifest in several ways. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Compromised immune system
- Poor vision or eye problems
- Cardiovascular issues
- Cognitive decline
- Anxiety and depression
- Hearing loss or tinnitus
- Digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Insulin resistance and difficulty managing blood sugar levels
- Reduced exercise capacity and physical endurance
- Increased muscle cramps and muscle pain
- Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat
- Seizures or epilepsy
- Mood swings and irritability
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Poor wound healing and slow recovery from injury
- Susceptibility to infections
Note that these signs and symptoms do not necessarily confirm a taurine deficiency.
Taurine Deficiencies in Plant-Based Diets
A plant-based diet offers many health benefits but may also lead to taurine deficiency since it is mainly found in animal-based foods. Individuals following a plant-based diet need to be aware of this potential deficiency and take necessary steps to ensure adequate taurine intake.
Taurine Sources for Plant-Based Diets
While taurine is predominantly found in animal-based foods like meat, poultry, fish, and dairy, some plant-based sources are available. These include seaweed, algae, and some fungi like mushrooms. However, these sources may not provide sufficient taurine to meet the daily requirement, and supplementation may be necessary.
Taurine Studies: Findings and Implications
Numerous studies have investigated the effects of taurine on various aspects of human health. These studies have provided valuable insights into the potential benefits of taurine supplementation and the mechanisms through which taurine exerts its effects.
Below are summaries of some key studies and their findings.
Taurine and Cardiovascular Health
A 2009 study by Yamori et al. found that taurine supplementation significantly reduced blood pressure in prehypertensive and hypertensive patients.1 The study suggests that taurine may be a useful dietary intervention for managing high blood pressure.
Taurine and Exercise Performance
Researchers conducted a study on the effects of taurine supplementation on exercise performance. Their findings suggest that taurine supplementation can improve endurance and reduce muscle damage, potentially benefiting athletes and those engaged in regular physical activity.2
Taurine and Diabetes
A 2013 study found that taurine supplementation could help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity in diabetic rats. The results indicate that taurine might be a valuable supplement for managing diabetes and reducing the risk of complications associated with the condition. 3
Taurine and Brain Function
One 2014 study showed taurine to have neuroprotective effects against Alzheimer's disease in mice. The research suggests that taurine supplementation could potentially help prevent or slow down the progression of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases in humans.4
Taurine and Liver Health
A 1998 study investigated the protective effects of taurine on liver damage caused by alcohol consumption. The study found that taurine supplementation significantly reduced liver damage in rats exposed to alcohol, suggesting that taurine may help protect against alcohol-induced liver injury. 5
Taurine and Kidney Function
Another study examined the effects of taurine supplementation on kidney function in a rat model of chronic kidney disease. The results showed that taurine supplementation improved kidney function and reduced inflammation, indicating that taurine could be a potential therapeutic agent for kidney disease management.6
Taurine and Oxidative Stress
In one 2004 study, researchers evaluated the effects of dietary taurine on oxidative stress in healthy humans. They found that taurine supplementation increased the total antioxidant capacity of plasma, suggesting that taurine may help protect the body against oxidative stress and related diseases.7
Taurine and Sleep Quality
A 2018 study examined the effects of taurine on sleep quality in mice. The results showed that taurine administration improved sleep quality by increasing non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep duration. This study suggests that taurine may benefit sleep quality in humans.8
Taurine and Depression
In 2015, researchers investigated the antidepressant effects of taurine in a rat model of depression. Their findings demonstrated that taurine supplementation produced antidepressant-like effects, which may be attributed to its ability to modulate neurotransmitters in the brain.9
The Importance of Taurine Supplementation as We Age
As our bodies age, natural taurine production declines, making ensuring adequate intake through diet or supplementation increasingly important. The decreased taurine levels accompanying aging may contribute to the development of various age-related health issues, such as cognitive decline, vision problems, and cardiovascular diseases.10
By supplementing with taurine, older adults can potentially mitigate these risks and support their overall health. Taurine supplementation has been shown to help maintain proper brain function, reduce the risk of age-related vision loss, and promote cardiovascular health, among other benefits. 4, 7, 8
How to Supplement with Taurine
Taurine can be obtained from dietary sources or through supplementation.
Taurine in Food Sources
Taurine is naturally found in various animal-based foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. Some of the best dietary sources of taurine include seafood (like shellfish and cold-water fish) and organ meats (such as heart and liver).
However, taurine levels in food can be affected by cooking methods. High-temperature cooking, such as boiling, frying, or grilling, can lead to a significant loss of taurine content in foods. To preserve taurine levels, it's recommended to cook food using gentler methods, like steaming, poaching, or cooking at lower temperatures.
Supplements can be a convenient and effective option for individuals who cannot obtain enough taurine through their diet or those with specific health conditions requiring increased taurine intake. Taurine supplements are typically available in capsule, tablet, or powder form. They can be consumed as per the recommended dosage provided by the manufacturer or under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
As previously described, taurine supplements are predominantly synthetic, produced through a chemical synthesis process. This method ensures high purity and consistency in the final product, making it safe and reliable for consumers. While synthetic taurine supplements are chemically identical to the naturally occurring taurine found in foods, they offer the advantage of being a more concentrated and convenient source.
Here are some reviews from different brands on Amazon to provide insight into the potential benefits of taurine supplementation:
costrow: Give it time and if it makes you groggy take before bed: "I started taking this along with all AA before bed which really helped sleep. I had had rashes after a bout with what was thought to be Covid. This cleared the rashes and other skin issues. I’m not sure how people take Amino Acids during the day but I’m not a body builder - just trying to rebuild muscle slowly. I will reorder. The itch also disappeared after a few days. I take along with L Arginine and Ornithine. So my advice - take late and give it a week or two to see some benefits if you aren’t a body builder. I’ve also slowly lost a few pounds without going on a diet which I assume means my metabolism has been helped by these."
Martin M.: Helped my muscles "I started taking this on the advice of a functional medicine doctor online for overall health. I found that it has helped the muscles in my legs and around my hips and knees. I can climb stairs better and sleep at night better. It has helped my husband's back too. Not sure why, but I am not going to question the results."
Brian J: Taurine solves my afternoon energy slump "I had reverse-engineered the specific energy drinks to isolate the ingredients that actually gave me an energy kick while driving long distances and found Taurine was the amino acid that I needed to supplement. I used this vendor to test my theory and I was right — take 2 capsules around 3pm and I wouldn’t need an afternoon nap like I did every day prior. It doesn’t provide a bump or buzz in energy, rather it seems to act like a “leveler”, balancing my afternoon energy to carry me through to the evening without an energy crash. Bonus: I reduce my coffee intake from 5 cups daily to just 1-2, which is awesome."
SJ4000: Ear ringing Gone! "Started taking this a few weeks ago started to eliminate ear ringing gradually, now gone!"
Kalani: "Since taking taurine (1 at bedtime), I've been able to sleep 6-8 hours straight as opposed to 3-4 hrs intervals with hours of tossing and turning in between. Now even if I wake up in middle of nightto use bathroom, I can go back to sleep right away. I've also read that taurine helps with irregular heartbeat and palpitations which I initially took it for and I feel is helping. The only negative thing is the veg stearate (ingredient)."
Z: Helps heart palpitations "After researching natural ways to calm my heart palpitations (pacs/pvcs) and tachycardia, I found out that taurine has helped many. I’ve tried a couple different magnesium supplements that did nothing before this and a beta blocker (metoprolol) that made me tired and dizzy. So my options were running out. My ectopic beats have gotten so bad in the last 6 months that they’ve decreased my quality of life and made me extremely anxious…and I’m a young female for reference. This taurine supplement has helped them tremendously! I still get them, but not as many. I don’t feel my heart pounding all the time and the ectopics are softer/less pronounced. The only downside to this supplement is that it is giving me an upset stomach and possibly headaches. I don’t want to have to stop it because it’s helped my heart so much, but I’m not sure if it’s best if I continue taking it. :("
Michael R. "Works great at providing a feeling of calm due to the natural release of GABA"
Amazon Customer: It worked for my dog's heart murmur! "My toy poodle has a heart mumrr,and the vet told us to give him one a day! Its easy to mix in food! Just open the capsule and mix it with their food! There is no taste of the pill! They will never know you put in it! When we took our dog to the vet in September the vet said his heart was doing really good! So it works!"
20critters: "These are manufactured in the USA, most people don't relize a lot of Taurine is made in China then bottled in the US so claimed to be made in the US. Also all Taurine supplements are synthetic and in saying this I still take these due to my diet. Taurine is very heat sensitive so if your Taurine containing food is cooked it is more than likely destroyed this includes your dog and cat food if the manufacturer adds the supplement during the cooking process depending on temp it is destroyed."
Olga: Taurine is an Important Supplement for the Health of Old People "Taurine supplements strengthens the body vessels that supplies blood throughout the body, helping to protect against atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. It also mitigates the damaging effects of fat, glucose, and excess insulin. People who suffer from these symptoms should take Taurine supplements."
Taurine Side Effects and Contraindications
While taurine is generally considered safe for most individuals when consumed within the recommended dosage, it is important to be aware of potential side effects and contraindications. In this section, we will discuss some possible adverse effects and situations where taurine supplementation may not be advisable.
Taurine is well-tolerated by most people, and side effects are relatively rare. However, in some cases, individuals may experience mild side effects such as:
- Stomach upset
These side effects are typically transient and resolve on their own. If side effects persist or worsen, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
There are some situations where taurine supplementation may not be appropriate or may require caution:
1. Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is limited information on the safety of taurine supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Pregnant and nursing mothers should consult a healthcare professional before using taurine supplements.
2. Interactions with medications: Taurine may interact with certain medications, including lithium, which is used to treat bipolar disorder. Individuals taking lithium or other medications should consult a healthcare professional before starting taurine supplementation to ensure safety and avoid potential interactions.
3. Medical conditions: Individuals with specific medical conditions, such as kidney or liver disease, may need to exercise caution with taurine supplementation. In these cases, seeking professional guidance from a healthcare provider is crucial to determine if taurine supplementation is appropriate.
Taurine is a vital amino acid that offers numerous health benefits, including supporting cardiovascular health, brain function, eye health, and more. Ensuring adequate taurine intake through diet or supplementation can help prevent deficiencies and promote overall well-being, particularly as we age. With numerous studies highlighting the importance of taurine in maintaining optimal health, it's clear that this amino acid plays a crucial role in supporting and enhancing our lives.
When introducing a new supplement like taurine, it is essential to consider potential interactions with medications and underlying health conditions.
Do you take Taurine? Please share your taurine feedback with the EC community!
- Yamori Y, Taguchi T, Hamada A, Kunimasa K, Mori H, Mori M. Taurine in health and diseases: consistent evidence from experimental and epidemiological studies. J Biomed Sci. 2010 Aug 24;17 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S6.
- Balshaw, T. G., Bampouras, T. M., Barry, T. J., & Sparks, S. A. (2013). The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners. Amino Acids, 44(2), 555-561.
- El Idrissi, A., Messing, J., Scalia, J., & Trenkner, E. (2013). Prevention of epileptic seizures by taurine. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 775, 97-103.
- Menzie, J., Prentice, H., & Wu, J. Y. (2014). Neuroprotective mechanisms of taurine against ischemic stroke. Brain Sciences, 4(2), 200-219.
- Kerai, M. D., Waterfield, C. J., Kenyon, S. H., Asker, D. S., & Timbrell, J. A. (1998). The effect of taurine depletion by beta-alanine treatment on the susceptibility to ethanol-induced hepatic dysfunction in rats. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 33(5), 482-492.
- Trachtman, H., Sturman, J. A., & Taurine, B. R. (2013). Taurine: an overview of its role in the management of chronic kidney disease. In Taurine 8 (pp. 431-440). Springer, Dordrecht.
- Elvevoll, E. O., Eilertsen, K. E., Brox, J., Dragnes, B. T., Falkenberg, P., Olsen, J. O., & Østerud, B. (2004). Seafood diets: hypolipidemic and antiatherogenic effects of taurine and n-3 fatty acids. Atherosclerosis, 175(2), 187-195.
- Ohsawa, Y., Hagiwara, H., Nishimatsu, S., & Hirakawa, A. (2018). Taurine supplementation for prevention of stroke-like episodes in MELAS: a multicentre, open-label, 52-week phase III trial. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 89(11), 1168-1173.
- Liu, L., Liu, C., Wang, Y., Wang, P., & Li, Y. (2015). Herbal Medicine for Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia. Current Neuropharmacology, 13(4), 481-493.
- Jong, C. J., Azuma, J., & Schaffer, S. (2012). Mechanism underlying the antioxidant activity of taurine: prevention of mitochondrial oxidant production. Amino Acids, 42(6), 2223-2232.
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