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Taurine is a semi-essential amino acid which acts as a lipid/membrance stablilizer in the body and can aid various anti-oxidant defense systems.
Taurine exerts most of its benefits vicariously though other compounds in the body, but exerts some of its own on a cellular level. It is being heavily researched as an anti-diabetic compound due to its actions on organs of the body of most concern to diabetics (kidney, eye, nerve health) as well as controlling blood sugar while reducing some forms of insulin resistance.
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Dosages between 500mg-2,000mg have shown efficacy, although the upper limit for toxicity is placed at a much greater level and high doses are well-tolerated.
The upper limit for which one can be relatively assured no side effects will occur over a lifetime has been suggested to be 3g a day.
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The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (excluding animal/petri-dish studies) to tell you what effect Taurine has in your body, and how strong these effects are.
|Grade||Level of Evidence|
|A||Robust research conducted with repeated double blind clinical trials|
|B||Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled|
|C||Single double blind study or multiple cohort studies|
|D||Uncontrolled or observational studies only|
|Level of Evidence ||Effect||Change||Magnitude of Effect Size ||Scientific Consensus||Comments|
See 2 studies
Despite the improvement in blood flow, no significant influence on blood pressure
See 2 studies
No significant influence on heart rate following Taurine supplementation
The improvement in blood flow seen in type 1 diabetics was sufficient to normalize to a non-diabetic control group
|D||Exercise Capacity (with Heart Conditions)|
An improvement in walking distance has been noted
No significant influence on weight noted with supplementation
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Taurine is a semi-essential amino acid (conditionally essential) that is known as a sulfur containing beta-amino acid due to its structure. It comprises over 50% of the free amino acid pool of cardiac tissue (highly prominent) but is located systemically in lower concentrations, particularily the testicles where it is the most prominent free amino acid. In general, taurine is present in excitable tissues more than others although as its transporter is expressed ubiquitously it could be assumed taurine is omnipresent in the human body.
Unlike other amino acids and more like beta-amino acids, taurine is not a structural component of any quaternary proteins or peptide bonds and resembles a peptide neurotransmitter (like adrenaline or dopamine) more than classical dietary proteins.
Taurine maintains an intracellular concentration of 5-20 µmol/g wet weight, and enters cells through its transporter, the Taurine Transporter (TauT) that belongs to the class of sodium-chloride dependent transporters (similar to Creatine) and is named SLC6a6; this transporter is expressed in most, if not all, mammalian tissue. Pathological problems are observed when cellular taurine is depleted, and this is observed in as little as 48 hours when the transporter is either blocked by a competitive inhibitor or outright deleted. The reasons for this depletion is that intracellular (within the cell) synthesis of taurine is limited, and cells appear to be dependent on taurine uptake from the blood, and the average serum concentration appears to be 20-100uM (up to 100 fold less than cells), which is reason for the active transport via TauT as taurine uptake works againt a concentration gradient.
Cellular accumulation of Taurine is dependent almost exlusively on the SLC6a6 transporter, and avoiding pathological conditions of Taurine deficiency are dependent on having taurine in the cell
In non-human species who cannot synthesize taurine, it is an essential nutrient. The primary example of a species that is taurine-dependent is all feline species (cat family) where a lack of dietary taurine results in cardiopathology, impaired muscular function, and ocular degeneration. These side-effects may occur to humans if a taurine deficiency exists, but this assumes an error in inborn metabolism impairing one's ability to synthesis taurine. The average human would not need to worry about outright taurine deficiency and its clinical manifestations.
Cats need taurine like a vitamin, these same deficiency conditions may exist with humans but since we synthesize taurine we are not outright dependent on it. Thus its status as 'conditionally essential'
It is possible to be 'deficiency' in taurine despite it being classified as a non-essential amino acid, and deficiency states can be induced experimentally with overfeeding of Beta-Alanine which competes at the level of the transporter due to being structured similarily. Guanidinoethane sulfonate (GES) may also be used to inhibit taurine uptake.
Knocking out the taurine transporter (TauT, also known as SLC6a6) genetically, and preventing its uptake into cardiomyocytes and skeletal muscle, can lead to cardiomyopathy and reduction in exercise performance coupled with a loss of body weight.
Taurine deficiency in skeletal muscle is a bit difficult to assess as the two ways to inhibit uptake influence muscle function, as guanidinoethane sulfonate itself enhances response to Ca2+ in muscle cells as does Beta-Alanine which is a proven ergogenic aid. Studies using genetic knock-out mice without the transporter at all note that weight-loaded swimming test performance was reduced from 118+/-2.3m to 10+/-2.5min, treadmill running endurance is reduced by over 80%, and the skeletal muscle itself undergoes atrophy with some cells actually displaying necrosis.
In the stomach, taurine seems to be safe from stomach acid and does not undergo changes.
In the intestines, pancreatin can reduce levels of detectable food-bound taurine by almost 40%. However, this study noted that the taurine was not broken into metabolites but somehow became 'inaccessible', which may be due to the taurine being from meat.
Taurine is an anti-oxidant compound with relatively unique mechanisms as it is directly unable to scavenge any free radical, yet one of the events of taurine deficiency is tied into dysregulated oxidation. One in vitro study noted that taurine deficiency (via Beta-Alanine incubation) was associated with increased oxidative stress (measured by aconitase and glutathione redox couplet) yet the 10% increase in taurine levels after incubation with taurine alone was not paired with any alteration and coincubation of the two also resulted in no significant differences with control cells (incubated with neither) and similar trends were seen in the mitochondria when measuring the activity of Complex I and III. Beta-alanine resulted in an impaired electron-transport chain function (due to either beta-alanine per se or merely a deficiency of taurine), which tends to cause increases in superoxide production due to spare electrons being diverted to other accepting molecules such as oxygen; it appears that taurine prevents this increase in oxidation by attenuating its own deficiency at times. These effects have been hypothesized elsewhere, and it was expanded that taurine may play a role in mitochondrial tRNA conjugation where its deficiency and the relative lack of conjugation produced oxidation via the aforementioned electron chain impairment. This study hypothesized a lack of 5-taurinomethyluridine as the first step of mitochondrial impairment, but a later study failed to note this despite a decrease in mitochondrial protein synthesis.
A cellular deficiency of taurine results in cellular death by pro-oxidative means, and indirectly dietary taurine can prevent oxidation by preventing its own deficiency
Taurine has also been found to upregulate thioredoxin interacting protein (TXNIP) mRNA levels, which is dependent on cellular accumulation of taurine. As TXNIP regulates oxidation via thioredoxin, this is a plausible mechanism for anti-oxidative effects.
Taurine acts as both a cell protecting agent by modulating the cell membranes fluidity and health, as well as exerting anti-oxidant like effects.
It may exert anti-oxidant like effects by binding free ions (Fe2+, Cu2+) and oxidant metalloproteins the blood which would then act as pro-oxidants in situations of high blood glucose. Taurine may also exert anti-oxidant like effects over time by preventing pro-oxidative effects associated with insulin resistance via it's insulin sensitizing actions.
Taurine, at a concentration of 1mM, significantly reduces oxidative stress on cardiac muscle tissue in the presence of oxidative stress and can protect against damage from ischaemia-reperfusion injury in cardiac tissue.
Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels, and is of concern to both cardiovascular health (microcirculation) and cancer metabolism (fuelling tumor cells). Taurine appears to be able to activate angiogenesis (via Akt and via PI3K, FAK via Src, and ERK via MEK) and accelerate endothelial cell proliferation (via Cyclin D1/B), and angiogenesis appears to mediated from outside the cell as inhibiting taurine uptake with Beta-Alanine actually increased these effects.
One study on type I diabetic smokers with higher rates of endothelial dysfunction who were given taurine supplementation, 2 weeks of 1,500mg taurine supplementation was able to return these parameters to the levels of control and improve both blood flow (assessed by flow-mediated vasodilation and brachial flow).
Many of the in vivo studies to follow were conducted in experimental procedures of fructose-induced insulin resistance.
Taurine may hold promise in treating insulin resistance by modifying the post-receptor (intracellular) effects of insulin signalling as well as regenerating intrinsic antioxidants, reducing lipid peroxidation, and ameliorating insulin resistance in fructose-induced insulin resistance. Taurine can also control glucose levels to a degree via improved acute insulin action.
This anti-diabetic effect may be (in part) specific to fructose-induced insulin resistance (both hepatic and peripheral) due to the interactions with post-receptor intermediates (and subsequent receptor transcription) rather than receptor desensitization; as has been shown in fructose feedings.
Outside of the previous benefits established in glucose metabolism, eye health, kidney health and endothelial health (all of which are systems that are potentially damaged in diabetics), taurine has other mechanisms which lead it to be a great conjunct treatment to diabetes management.
Taurine can aid in diabetic-induced joint pain by alleviating the glycation and physiological changes of collagen via donating amino groups to glycating agents in a sacrificial manner although the effect was only seen in those with compromised health. This is the same mechanism of actions seen to protect the retinas from glycation.
Taurine at 1g taken 2 hours prior to exercise has been implicated in improving performance on a 3km time trial in trained athletes, improving time by 1.7% without significantly affecting heart rate or oxygen uptake.
Similar to the heart, taurine supplementation can protect against ischemia/reperfusion injury in the kidneys and protect against toxin-induced oxidative stress in addition to general diet-induced oxidative stress
Taurine may also help protect the eyes, as in vitro evidence suggests it protects against glucose-induced oxidation in retinal tissue. It has been found to be equally or more effective than Vitamin E + Selenium in a range of markers of retinal health.
Taurine may also protect the lungs from oxidant induced stress (as occurs with smoking) via acting in a sacrificial manner and producing N-chlorotaurine via reactions with hypochlorous acid (HOCl) rather than having HOCl react in alternate methods to induce inflammation responses which then cause damage.
Taurine can protect the liver from acetominophen induced toxicity at a level slightly less potent than N-acetylglutathione. It may also exert protective effects against other toxins in general.
Taurine is investigated for its interactions with testosterone due to being the most prominent free amino acid localized in the testicles of males. It has been detected in Leydig cells, vascular endothelial cells, and other interstitial cells of testis, epithelial cells of the efferent ducts by immunohistochemical methods. In the testes, taurine acts mostly as an anti-oxidant compound and protect the testes and localized structures from oxidative stress. This does appear to attenuate reductions of testosterone from other agents which may reduce testosterone via pro-oxidation, and this has been shown with Nicotine, arsenic, cadmium, and doxorubicin.
Another state in which taurine may prevent oxidation-mediated reductions in testosterone is diabetes. Excess glucose and pro-oxidants in the blood of diabetic rats negatively influence testicular function, which is attenuated by taurine and testicular anti-oxidants in general. One study to measure testicular anti-oxidant enzymes also found they were increased, with increases in superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione with more efficacy in aged rats; young rats had a remarkable increase in sorbitol dehydrogenase, and both groups experienced a slight increase in testicular Nitric Oxide levels.
Maternal consumption of taurine also appears to beneficially influence androgen levels of the offspring, when measuring serum testosterone when the mother consumed 1% taurine in drinking water (rats).
General protective effects of taurine on oxidant-induced decreases in testosterone, which is linked to taurine acting as an anti-oxidant and being highly concentrated in the testicles
One study in healthy 2-month old rats given 0.5, 1, and 1.5% taurine in the drinking water for 5 weeks noted increases in serum testosterone (as well as FSH and LH) with 1% being most significant and elevating testosterone in both serum and the testes from around 50ng/dL to 80ng/dL, a 60% increase. These results were later replicated with 1% Taurine in the diet of adult and aged male rats, where an increase in testosterone and LH were noted in both groups but to a more significant degree in older rats.
The mechanism, as assessed in vitro, appears to be enhancement of HCG-induced testosterone secretion at 10-100ug/mL (and also progresterone induced testosterone secretion) while 1ug/mL or less had no effect and 400ug/mL had a suppressive effect. Secretion of testosterone was attenuated when cysteine sulfinate decarboxylase (CSD) was inhibited as well, suggesting that locally produced taurine also plays a role.
The only human study on taurine (1500mg) was confounded with Creatine (5g) and Glucuronolactone (350mg) as well as Caffeine (110mg) and 19g Branched Chain Amino Acids (Amino Shooter, Champion Nutrition) and failed to show any significant influence on testosterone different than placebo. The lack of response from creatine in increasing testosterone may be due to creatine's instability in solution, and the selected product being a ready-to-drink formulation (and thus no active creatine, only creatinine).
Two studies have shown taurine supplementation to increase testosterone in otherwise healthy rats, no current human studies with similar design; one human study showing no effects of 1,500mg taurine acutely with other ingredient confounds
The observed safety limit, the highest dose for which one can be relatively assured that no side effects will occur over a lifetime, has been suggested to be 3g of taurine in supplemental form (in addition to food intake) a day. Higher doses have been tested and well tolerated, but not enough evidence is available to suggest lifelong safety of said doses.
1% of the diet as taurine to adult or aged male rats does not appear to significantly influence estrogen levels. Higher doses have been tested and well tolerated, but not enough evidence is available to suggest lifelong safety of said doses.
There is a notion that taurine causes heart damage, which is currently unsupported (and contrary to a fair bit of evidence). This appears to be due to a misunderstanding of why serum taurine levels are elevated during cardiac failure (which is from taurine leakage from cells).
(Common misspellings for Taurine include torine, tarine, sulfonic, aminoethanol, aminoethane)
(Common phrases used by users for this page include tourine for kidney health, taurine lung, taurine good and bad, taurine and glucose metabolism, taurine and diabetes sugar lowering, taurine + blood sugar control)