Taurine

Last Updated: August 17 2022

Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is not involved in protein synthesis but is essential to cardiovascular function and the development and function of the brain, retina, and skeletal muscle.

Taurine is most often used for

What is taurine?

Taurine is a nonproteinogenic (i.e., it is not incorporated into proteins during translation) sulfur-containing beta-amino acid that is omnipresent in the body and is particularly abundant in electrically excitable tissues such as the heart, retina, brain, and skeletal muscle.

A small amount of taurine is produced in the liver from the metabolism of cysteine (which is derived from the essential amino acid methionine). Taurine can also be obtained directly from certain foods like beef and dark meat poultry, but most abundantly from shellfish such as scallops and mussels.[1]

Taurine is considered a conditionally essential nutrient. Because it can be produced in the body, the average adult doesn’t need to be concerned about overt symptoms of taurine deficiency (unlike cats, who develop retinopathy and cardiomyopathy with inadequate taurine intake). However, low plasma taurine levels are associated with various conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.[2][3][4]

In accordance with its ubiquitous presence in the body, taurine has diverse physiological functions. It is renowned as a cell-protecting agent and is involved in osmoregulation, modulation of mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum stress, cell membrane stabilization, conjugation of bile acids, calcium homeostasis, energy metabolism, neuromodulation, and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.[5][6]

What are taurine’s main benefits?

Interest in taurine primarily stems from its potential beneficial effects on athletic performance and cardiovascular risk factors.

Taurine was first used to treat heart failure patients and demonstrated the ability to improve symptoms — as evidenced by improved cardiac output and stroke volume — which spurred research to determine whether it elicited other cardioprotective effects.[7]

More recent evidence demonstrates that taurine modestly reduces blood pressure, and it seems to be more effective in people with prehypertension or hypertension.[8][9][10] Taurine may also reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.[9]

Taurine is a common component of energy drinks, which have been shown to enhance various aspects of physical performance (e.g., endurance exercise performance, vertical jump height).[11] However, energy drinks also contain caffeine, among other ingredients, so it is unclear how much of their benefit can be attributed to taurine.

Because taurine levels are much higher in type I than type II muscle fibers, most studies have investigated whether taurine supplementation improves endurance exercise performance.[12] Taurine appears to have a small positive effect on time to exhaustion in both untrained healthy people and older adults with heart failure.[13] In contrast, taurine does not seem to benefit time trial performance.

Research on whether taurine improves muscle strength and power is limited and inconclusive. However, taurine has shown promise for reducing symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness and accelerating strength recovery following exercise.[14]

What are taurine’s main drawbacks?

Serious adverse effects have not been reported with taurine supplementation.[15] The highest dose used in a human trial was 10 grams per day for 6 months, and the longest human trial was 12 months and used a dose of 0.5–1.5 grams per day. Based on the available evidence, it’s suggested that 3 grams per day can be consumed indefinitely without risk of side effects.[15]

How does taurine work?

Most of taurine’s benefits are thought to derive from its role as a cell-protecting agent; it regulates cell volume, calcium homeostasis, and membrane stabilization and exerts antioxidant effects. The primary mechanism by which taurine acts as an antioxidant is unclear. Taurine may have the ability to directly scavenge free radicals,[16] but it's more likely that taurine works by regulating antioxidant enzymes and inhibiting generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species.[6][17]

Taurine may have cardioprotective effects by decreasing oxidative stress and a few other mechanisms. It can modify blood lipids by binding to bile acids and facilitating the breakdown and excretion of cholesterol.[17][9] Additionally, it reduces blood pressure by enhancing vasodilation (i.e., a relaxation of blood vessels, leading to an increase in blood flow).[8][18] Taurine may also reduce blood pressure by reducing production of angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor within the renin-angiotensin system.[19]

Muscle contraction is triggered by the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Taurine may improve physical performance by increasing the calcium-storing ability of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, as well as increasing the sensitivity of force-generating proteins (i.e., actin and myosin) to calcium, thus increasing muscle force.[20][21]

With special reference to endurance exercise, taurine may aid performance by increasing the use of fat for fuel and reducing the contribution from glycogen, as well as improving the function of mitochondria.[20]

What else is Taurine known as?
Note that Taurine is also known as:
  • 2-aminoethane sulphonic acid
  • L-Taurine
Taurine should not be confused with:
  • Tacrine
Dosage information

For all purposes, a range of 1–6 grams per day has been used in studies. The most common protocol to reduce blood pressure is 1.5 grams per day divided into three doses of 0.5 grams.[10]

For athletic performance, it is recommended to consume taurine 60–120 minutes before exercise for peak bioavailability. Additionally, it’s worth noting that chronic ingestion of taurine is not required to obtain performance benefits.

Studies that used taurine to improve recovery had participants supplement on multiple days before and after exercise.

Examine Database
References
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