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What Is Taurine? Benefits, Side Effects and More
By Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN |
First published on authoritynutrition.com
Taurin: It is found in many foods and often added to energy drinks.
Many people take taurine as a supplement, and some researchers refer to it as a “wonder molecule”
Taurine has been shown to have several health benefits, such as a lower risk of disease and improved sports performance (
It is also very safe and has no known side effects when taken in reasonable doses.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is a type of amino acid found throughout the body. It is particularly concentrated in the brain, eyes, heart and muscles
Unlike most other amino acids, it is not used to build proteins in the body. It is classified as a “conditionally essential” amino acid.
Your body can produce some amount of taurine, and it is also found in some foods. However, certain individuals may benefit from taking a supplement
Those with specific illnesses or diseases, such as heart issues or diabetes, may also benefit from additional taurine intake
Despite common belief, this amino acid is not extracted from bull urine or bull semen. The name is derived from the Latin word taurus, which means ox or bull, so that may be the source of the confusion.
Bottom Line: Taurine is classified as a “conditionally essential” amino acid. It serves various important functions in the body.
Sources of Taurine
The main sources of taurine are animal foods such as meat, fish and dairy
Although some vegetarian foods provide it in smaller amounts, it is unlikely that these will provide sufficient quantities to optimize the body’s levels
Taurine is also often added to soda and energy drinks, which may provide up to 600-1,000 mg in an 8-ounce serving. However, it is not recommended to drink soda or energy drinks due to other ingredients that are harmful
The form of taurine used in supplements and energy drinks (like red bull) is usually made synthetically and not derived from animals. It is therefore suitable for vegans.
An average diet will provide about 40–400 mg of taurine per day, but studies have used supplements with up to 400–6,000 mg per day
Bottom Line: The main dietary sources of taurine are animal foods such as meat, fish and dairy. Smaller amounts are found in some plant foods. It is also added to many energy drinks.
Primary Roles of Taurine in the Body
Large Bottle of Capsules
Taurine is found in several organs, and its benefits are widespread.
Its direct roles include:
Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance in your cells
Forming bile salts, which play an important role in digestion
Regulating minerals such as calcium within cells
Supporting the general function of the central nervous system and eyes
Regulating immune system health and antioxidant function
Since it’s a “conditionally essential” amino acid, a healthy individual can produce the minimal amount required for these essential daily functions.
However, higher amounts may be required in rare cases, making it an “essential” nutrient for some people. This includes people with heart or kidney failure, or premature infants that have been fed intravenously for a long time
When a deficiency occurs during development, serious symptoms like impaired brain function and poor blood sugar control have been observed
Bottom Line: Taurine plays many important roles in the body. Although extremely rare, deficiency is linked to several serious health issues.
Taurine May Have Benefits for Diabetics
Taurine may improve blood sugar control and have benefits against diabetes.
Taurine Enhances Blood Sugar In Rats
Fasting blood sugar levels are very important for health, as high levels are a key factor in type 2 diabetes and many other chronic diseases
Some research suggests that an increased intake could help prevent type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels and insulin resistance
Interestingly, taurine levels tend to be lower in diabetics than healthy individuals, another indicator that it may play a role in this disease
Bottom Line: Taurine may have benefits for people with diabetes. It may lower blood sugar levels and improve various risk factors for heart disease.
Taurine May Improve Heart Health
Taurine may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Research shows a link between higher taurine levels and significantly lower rates of death from heart disease, as well as reduced cholesterol and blood pressure
Taurine may help reduce high blood pressure by decreasing the resistance to blood flow in the blood vessel walls. It may also minimize nerve impulses in the brain that cause blood pressure to increase
In one study, 2 weeks of taurine supplementation in type 1 diabetics significantly reduced arterial stiffness. This should make it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body
In one group of overweight humans, 3 grams of taurine per day for 7 weeks reduced body weight and improved several heart disease risk factors
Additionally, supplementation has been found to reduce inflammation and arterial thickening. When combined, the factors mentioned above may drastically reduce the risk of heart disease
Bottom Line: Taurine may reduce the risk of heart disease by improving several key risk factors, such as cholesterol and blood pressure.
Taurine’s Role in Exercise Performance
Female Athlete Long Distance Running
Taurine may also have benefits for athletic performance.
Research suggests that it can:
Cause muscles to work harder and for a longer duration in animals
Increase muscles’ ability to contract and produce force in animals
Remove waste products that lead to fatigue and cause the well-known “muscle burn” in humans
Protect muscles from cell damage and oxidative stress in humans
Increase fat burning during exercise in humans
In mice, it reduced fatigue and muscle damage during a workout
In human studies, trained athletes who supplemented with taurine experienced improved exercise performance. Cyclists and runners were able to cover longer distances with less fatigue
Another study supports its role in reducing muscle damage. Participants placed on a muscle-damaging weight lifting routine found that it helped reduce markers of damage and muscle soreness
In addition to these performance benefits, it may have benefits for weight loss by increasing the use of fat for fuel. In cyclists, supplementing with 1.66 grams of taurine increased fat burning by 16%
Bottom Line: Taurine plays several important roles in your muscles and may help with various aspects of exercise performance. This includes reduced fatigue, increased fat burning and less muscle damage.
Other Health Benefits of Taurine
Taurine has a surprisingly wide range of health benefits.
It may improve various other functions in the body, such as eyesight and hearing in certain populations
In one human study, 12% of participants supplementing with taurine completely eliminated ringing in their ears, which is associated with hearing loss
Taurine is also found in large quantities in the eyes, with research showing that eye problems may occur when these levels start to decline. Increased concentrations are believed to optimize eyesight and eye health
Because it plays an important role in regulating muscle contractions, research in animals has shown that it can reduce seizures and help treat conditions such as epilepsy
It appears to work by binding to the brain’s GABA receptors, which play a key role in controlling and calming the central nervous system
Finally, it can protect liver cells against free radicals and toxin damage. In one study, 2 grams of taurine 3 times per day reduced markers of liver damage while decreasing oxidative stress
However, more research is needed on most of these benefits.
Bottom Line: Taurine has a wide range of potential health benefits, which range from reducing seizures to improving eyesight.
Side Effects and Safety Concerns
According to the best available evidence, taurine has no negative side effects when used in the recommended amounts
While there have been no direct issues from taurine supplements, athlete deaths in Europe have been linked to energy drinks containing taurine and caffeine. This has led several countries to ban or limit the sale of taurine
However, this may as well have been caused by the large doses of caffeine or some other substances the athletes were taking.
As with most amino acid-based supplements, issues could potentially arise in people with kidney problems
Bottom Line: When consumed in reasonable amounts by a healthy individual, taurine does not have any known negative side effects.
How to Supplement with Taurine
The most common dosage is 500–2,000 mg per day.
The upper limit for toxicity is much higher though, and even doses above 2,000 mg seem to be well tolerated.
Research on the safety of taurine has suggested that up to 3,000 mg per day for an entire lifetime is still safe (53).
While some studies may use a higher dose for short periods, 3,000 mg per day will help you maximize the benefits while staying within a safe range
The easiest and most cost-effective method to achieve this is through powder or tablet supplementation, which can cost as little as $6 for 50 servings.
While you can obtain taurine naturally from meat, fish and dairy, most people will not consume enough to meet the doses used in the studies discussed above
Bottom Line: Supplementing with 500-3,000 mg of taurine per day is known to be effective, cheap and safe.
Take Home Message
Now you know why some researchers call taurine a “wonder molecule.”
Very few supplements can provide so many health and performance benefits for less than $10 for a 2-month supply.
Whether you want to improve your health or optimize your sports performance, taurine can be a very cost-effective and safe addition to your supplement regimen.
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