Taurine - Indispensable for health

Effect, overdose, dosage, side effects

Taurine is an amino acid that is found throughout the body. It is particularly concentrated in the brain, eyes, heart and muscles.

Many people take taurine as a dietary supplement and some researchers call it a “miracle molecule.” It has been shown that taurine has various health benefits, such as a lower risk of illness and improved sports performance.

Taurine is considered very safe and has no known side effects when taken in appropriate doses. Unlike most other amino acids, it is not used to build proteins in the body. It is classified as a "semi-essential" amino acid.

The body can produce a certain amount of taurine and it's also found in certain foods. However, some people can benefit from taking a nutritional supplement.

People with specific illnesses or diseases, such as heart problems or diabetes, can also benefit from an additional taurine intake.

Contrary to all assumptions, this amino acid is not obtained from bull urine or bull sperm. The name comes from the Latin word Taurus, which means ox or bull, so this could have caused some confusion.

Taurine effect

Taurine is in several organs and has a wide range of effects.

Its direct tasks include:

  • Maintaining a proper fluid balance and electrolyte balance in the cells.
  • Formation of bile salts, which play an important role in digestion.
  • Regulation of minerals in cells such as calcium.
  • Support the general function of the central nervous system and the eyes.
  • Regulation of the immune system and antioxidant function.

As a "semi-essential" amino acid, a healthy person can produce the minimum amount necessary for these essential daily functions.

In rare cases, higher amounts may be required, making taurine an "essential" nutrient for some people. This includes people with a heart or kidney failure or premature babies who are fed intravenously for a long time.

If there is a deficiency during development, severe symptoms such as an impaired brain function and poor blood sugar control have been observed.

Taurine side effects

According to the best available research, taurine has no negative effects when taken in the recommended amounts.

Although there were no direct problems with taurine supplements, deaths of athletes in Europe have been linked to energy drinks containing taurine and caffeine. This has led several countries to ban or restrict the sale of taurine.

However, the deaths could also have been caused by the high doses of caffeine or other substances that the athletes had ingested.

As with most amino acid-based supplements, people with kidney diseases may experience problems.

In conclusion: When taurine is consumed in reasonable amounts by a healthy person, it has no known negative side effects.

Taurine dosage

The most common dosage of taurine as a dietary supplement is between 500 and 2,000 mg per day. However, the maximum toxicity limit is much higher and doses over 2,000 mg seem to be tolerated well. Studies with dietary supplements used 400 to 6,000 mg per day.

However, additional studies are needed to confirm this. Also note that your body discharges excess taurine through the kidneys, which could strain the kidneys, especially for people with a kidney failure; in this case, you should consult your doctor.

Taurine is also often added to sodas and energy drinks, which can contain 600 to 1000 mg in a 235 ml serving. However, due to other harmful ingredients, it is not recommended to drink sodas or energy drinks.

Studies on the safety of taurine have suggested that a lifelong intake of up to 3,000 mg per day is still safe.

Even though some studies may use a higher dose for a short period of time, 3,000 mg per day will help you take full advantage of taurine while remaining in a safe area.

The simplest and cheapest way to achieve this is to take supplements such as taurine powder, taurine tablets or taurine capsules.

Taurine food

Taurine is mainly found in animal products such as meat, fish and dairy products , which means that you will probably get the required amount through a balanced diet. It also occurs in baby foods made from dairy and can be added as a supplement to non-milk-based baby foods.

According to the FDA, healthy adults can synthesize taurine from sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and methionine. This makes taurine a semi-essential nutrient. However, newborns and people in certain stages of the disease may need supplementation in the form of dietary supplements.

For people who eat both plant based and animal products, a daily intake of between 9 and 400 mg of taurine has been estimated. For ovo-lacto vegetarians, daily intakes of around 17 mg are estimated, while vegan diets do not contain any taurine. The FDA says that people with a low taurine intake can preserve taurine. Basically, the excretion of taurine through the urine is low if taurine, as in the case of a vegetarian or vegan diet, is only ingested in small amounts.

Although taurine is present in smaller amounts in some vegetarian foods, it is unlikely that these will provide sufficient amounts to optimize the level in the body.

Taurine content in certain foods - here are some examples:

  • Meat and poultry - 11 to 306 milligrams per 100 grams
  • Seafood - 11 to 827 mg per 100 grams
  • Dairy products - 2 to 8 mg per 100 ml
  • Breast milk and infant formula - 4 to 7 mg per 100 ml

Taurine and diabetes

Taurine can improve blood sugar control and offer benefits for diabetics. Studies show that long-term supplementation lowered blood sugar in rats with diabetes on an empty stomach without any change in diet or exercise.

Blood sugar levels on an empty stomach are very important for health because high levels are a key factor in type 2 diabetes and many other chronic diseases.

Some studies suggest that an increased intake can help prevent type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Interestingly enough, the taurine levels tend to be lower in diabetics than in healthy individuals, which is another indication that it may play a role in this disease.

Taurine and cardiovascular diseases

Studies show that taurine can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It does this by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. Some evidence suggests that taurine improves left ventricular functions and calms the nervous system.

Research suggests that taurine, even when taken temporarily, has the ability to improve physical functions, reduce the cardiovascular risks that can occur after exercise and improve the problems associated with patients with a heart failure. Although more studies need to be done, this sounds promising to anyone with a heart disease.

Studies show a link between higher taurine levels and significantly lower death rates from heart diseases, as well as reduced cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Taurine can help lower high blood pressure by reducing blood flow resistance in the blood vessel walls. It can also minimize nerve impulses in the brain that raise blood pressure.

In one study, a 2-week taurine supplementation significantly reduced arterial stiffness in type 1 diabetics. This should make it easier for the heart to pump blood through the body.

In a group of overweight people, taking 3 grams of taurine daily for 7 weeks reduced body weight and improved several risk factors for heart disease.

In addition to this, taurine supplementation has been found to reduce inflammation and arterial thickening. In combination, the above factors can dramatically reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Taurine and athletic performance

Taurine can also offer benefits for the athletic performance. Studies suggest that: 
  • it makes muscles work harder and longer in animals.
  • it increases the muscles' ability to contract and generate strength in animals.
  • it removes waste products that lead to fatigue and the "muscle soreness" known in humans.
  • it can protect muscles from cell damage and oxidative stress in humans.
  • it increases fat burning during exercise in humans.

In mice, it reduced fatigue and muscle damage during exercise. In human studies, trained athletes who took taurine as a dietary supplement showed an improved exercise performance. Cyclists and runners could cover longer distances with less fatigue.

Another study supports the role of taurine in reducing muscle damage. People who participated in muscle-damaging weightlifting, found that it helped reduce damage and sore muscles.

In addition to these performance benefits, it could offer weight loss benefits by increasing fat burning. For cyclists, taking 1.66 grams of taurine increased fat burning by 16%.

Taurine seems to improve the athletic performance. In a study by the research group on health and sports science at the University of Stirling in Scotland, middle-distance runners were examined as test subjects before and after eating taurine as a dietary supplement. Ninety percent of the test subjects improved by a few seconds; and for runners, those few seconds can make a big difference.

The athletes took 1,000 milligrams of taurine two hours before the run, with the food supplement not affecting the airways, heart rate or lactate levels in the blood. The result shows a clear increase in their performance. It was shown with a 99.3% chance that taurine increased the performance during the run.

However, other studies have had different results. The test, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, had 15 runners on a treadmill for 15 minutes, consuming various energy drinks containing caffeine and taurine. After the test, the researchers concluded that: "The results do not show any performance benefits under the conditions of this study. However, there appears to be a significant increase in the systolic blood pressure."

It is clear that more research is needed but it appears that taurine can improve athletic performance under the right conditions.

Taurine and Parkinson's

Studies suggest that taurine can help regenerate brain cells. Tests have shown low levels of taurine in Parkinson's patients.

Research has shown that taurine has the ability to increase brain cell growth by stimulating stem cells and extending the life of neurons. Furthermore, it was also detected that new brain cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, can grow with the support of foods rich in taurine and food supplements. It seems that taurine works well in combination with glycine in terms of brain stimulation.

Taurine and the metabolic syndrome

If you have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer and other health problems due to obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and/or low HDL levels, you may have a metabolic syndrome.

A report published in Food & Function magazine wanted to find out to what extent taurine is able to fight the metabolic syndrome. After analyzing human and animal studies, the researchers found that taurine "is effective against the metabolic syndrome and includes the following areas: reducing triglycerides to prevent obesity, improving insulin resistance to regulate glucose metabolism and lowering cholesterol to prevent diet-induced hypercholesterolemia and lower blood pressure."

Taurine helps with tinnitus

Taurine plays an important role in hearing. Indeed, studies have found that taurine can reverse the biochemical processes of hearing loss in some cases. (53,54) Other studies have shown that taurine can almost completely eliminate the ringing in the ears associated with tinnitus.

Much of the hearing damage doesn't occur in the mechanical parts of the ear, but rather in the nerve cells, which convert sound waves into electrical energy, which are perceived in our brain. Like other nerve cells, these so-called "hair cells" depend on the flow of calcium ions in and out of the cell. Taurine helps restore and control normal calcium ion flow in the auditory cells.

Taurine improves hearing in animals that have been given medication such as the antibiotic Gentamicin and are known to be harmful to their hearing. As a blessing for the 17% of us who suffer from chronic tinnitus (ringing in the ears), taurine can help soothe the noise.

Animal studies using human equivalent doses of taurine from 700 mg to 3.2 grams per day over several weeks showed almost a complete halt of the tinnitus with taurine as a dietary supplement. A pilot study in humans has shown promising results in which 12% of people have responded positively to taurine supplementation.

Taurine and periodontosis

Taurine is an antioxidant. This means that it can help fight free radicals and anything that causes oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body. Patients with periodontitis have been studied for some time to understand whether taurine supports the healing process of patients with chronic periodontosis. According to the data, taurine significantly improved patients' antioxidant levels by increasing lipid peroxidation products (TBARS) and antioxidant enzymes; the healing process was improved this way.

Other health benefits of taurine

Taurine offers a surprisingly wide range of health benefits. It can improve various bodily functions such as vision and hearing in certain population groups.

In a human study, 12% of the subjects who took taurine as a dietary supplement got rid of the ringing in their ears, which is associated with hearing loss.

Taurine is also found in large parts of the eyes and studies show that eye problems can occur when the taurine level drops. An increased concentration of taurine is believed to optimize eyesight and eye health.

Because it plays an important role in regulating muscle contractions, animal studies have shown that it can reduce seizures and help treat diseases like epilepsy.

It appears to be effective by binding to the brain's GABA receptors, which play a key role in controlling and calming the central nervous system.

It can also protect liver cells from free radicals and toxin damage. In one study, 2 grams of taurine, administered 3 times a day, reduced liver damage while reducing oxidative stress.

However, most of these benefits require additional research.

Taurine and energy drinks

Taurine or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid was isolated from bull bile in 1827. Nowadays, it is most commonly found in the form of dietary supplements. That brings us to the energy drinks. Did you know that the number of emergency admissions has doubled in recent years due to energy drinks? It's no secret that they also contain caffeine. Some of them also contain taurine. It may be the high caffeine content that is responsible for the negative side effects of energy drinks.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, there appears to be no "No Observed Adverse Effect Level" for taurine, although contained in high doses in energy drinks, with daily consumption of up to 3,000 milligrams in the form of dietary supplements. (The NOAEL corresponds to the highest dose of an active ingredient, where no harmful effects were observed.) Half a dose contains 125 milliliters, which means that you are probably in the green in terms of taurine levels if you are not consuming several cans a day.

However, this should not be taken for granted, especially considering the number of side effects that many energy drinks can cause - in addition to this, energy drinks contain harmful ingredients, such as high levels of sugar and caffeine, as well as artificial colors etc., which you should avoid.

Unlike these harmful ingredients, taurine has health benefits as it is good for heart health, acts as an antioxidant, stimulates muscles, helps athletes perform better and has relaxing and calming effects that can help people with neurological disorders. Hold on, relaxing effects and energy drinks? That doesn't go together. It is more than likely that the energy from these drinks comes from the large amount of caffeine and sugar, not from the taurine.

But the question remains: are energy drinks safe? The media has often reported about children/teenagers who died from a caffeine overdose, according to medical examiners. For example, one of the teenagers had quickly consumed three different drinks, one of which was an energy drink. He did not have any heart disease but the large amount of caffeine caused cardiac arrhythmia. When something like this happens, the heart either beats too fast, too slow or irregularly.

Taurine was not mentioned in these results. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that caffeine in cans of up to 400 milligrams or about five cups of coffee is generally considered safe. However, research shows that drinking 0.95 liters of an energy drink can have harmful effects on the blood pressure and heart function. To a greater extent than if you only drank pure caffeine. With over 500 energy drinks products on the market today, it is not surprising that the number of emergency admissions in connection with the consumption has increased greatly.

In short: No, energy drinks are not good for you, whether they contain taurine or not. However, this does not mean that taurine should be completely rejected because it has advantages and occurs naturally in the body. What is taurine good for? Let’s take a closer look.

Taurine: Essential for Good Health
Taurine: Essential for Good Health

Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid and one of the most essential substances in the human body. This abundant amino acid is found in the brain, retina, muscles, heart and other organs throughout the body, ... Read More ›

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