Health Care Professional Information

Scientific Name
2-aminoethanesulfonic acid
Common Name

2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, L-taurine, tauric acid

Clinical Summary

Taurine is a free amino sulfonic acid present in many tissues of mammals. In the bile, it conjugates with cholesterol to form soluble acids to facilitate excretion. Taurine also plays an important role in the functioning of cardiovascular, skeletal muscle, and nervous systems. Meat, dairy, and seafood products are rich sources, but it can also be synthesized in the body from cysteine (1). Infants may need supplementation due to immature metabolic pathways. Vegetarians also tend to have a lower level of plasma taurine due to reduced intake of meats (2).
Taurine is marketed as a dietary supplement and is also a major ingredient in many energy drinks.

Studies using animal models suggest that it is essential for skeletal muscle function: Chronic taurine use reduced muscle dysfunction and atrophy from disuse (3) and oxidative stress (4); ingestion of taurine before exercise improved performance (5); and a taurine supplement plus branded chain amino acids reduced muscle damage following high-intensity exercise (6).
Consumption of foods rich in taurine has also been associated with lower cardiovascular risk (7) (8). An animal study showed that maternal taurine ingestion confers a protective effect against developing adult hypertension in the offspring (9). In overweight adults, taurine helped to reduce triglyceride and improved lipid metabolism (16).
Furthermore, findings from small clinical studies indicate that oral supplementation of taurine reduces blood pressure (10) and benefits patients with congestive heart failure (11) (12). Data also suggest its effectiveness in reducing diabetic-induced nephropathy (13) and in improving glycemic control (14)in vitro and in vivo, although long term supplementation did not affect insulin response or blood glucose levels in overweight men prone to Type II diabetes (15).

Larger studies are needed to confirm the beneficial effects of taurine.

Food Sources

Meat, seafood and dairy products

Purported Uses
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Athletic performance
  • Weight loss
  • Neuropathy
Mechanism of Action

Taurine can be synthesized in the body from cysteine by cysteine sulfinic acid decarboxylase (1). It circulates in the body in the free form and is not incorporated into proteins. Taurine binds with cholesterol to form bile acid and protects the liver from alcohol-induced steatosis and lipid peroxidation (17). In animal models of diabetes, it reduced hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia by improving insulin sensitivity and leptin modulation (14). It also protected the mitochondria of pancreatic islets from damage resulting from malnourishment (18).
In other studies, taurine showed renoprotective effects by decreasing proinflammatory cytokines and renal oxidative stress (19), and by inhibiting glucose-induced apoptosis in vascular endothelial cells (20). Furthermore, it inhibits advanced glycation end products and exerted anti-fibrotic activity which suggest its role in preventing diabetic nephropathy (13).
Taurine was shown to protect against atherosclerotic disease by reversing endothelial abnormalities (21).
Oral supplementation of taurine reduces blood pressure by decreasing the levels of plasma epinephrine (10)and inhibits ischemia-induced apoptosis in heart muscle by activating protein kinase Akt activities and by suppressing caspase-9 (22). The anti-apoptotic function of taurine is due to its inhibition of glutamate-induced membrane depolarization (23).
Taurine also serves as a neurotransmitter (24)and crosses the blood-brain barrier by transporters (25). It reduces glutamate excitotoxicity through regulation of calcium ions and mitochondrial energy metabolism (26).
In an animal model, taurine demonstrated neuroprotective effects that may help prevent epilepsy (27). Human studies are needed to verify such effects.

Pharmacokinetics

Absorption: Taurine is absorbed in the intestine and actively transported intracellularly through the taurine transporter (TauT), which is downregulated when taurine levels are high (28). Diffusion also occurs at high concentration.
Distribution: Taurine is found in high levels in bile, intestine, heart, skeletal muscle, brain, nerve, liver, kidney, retina and leukocytes.
Excretion: Via the kidney, and the rate of excretion is closely related to dietary intake (29). When taurine level is low, TauT is upregulated and taurine is reabsorbed through the renal tubules (28).
In a pharmacokinetic study in healthy male volunteers, four grams of taurine capsules were given orally in a fasting state. Maximum plasma concentrations were reached between 1 to 2.5 h. Concentrations returned to normal range at 8 h (30).

Adverse Reactions

Although the case reports below are about energy drinks, taurine was identified as a major component.

  • Case Report: A 17-year-old boy suffered acute renal failure following consumption of 3 L of an energy drink in combination with 1 L of vodka, which amounted to 4600 mg of taurine and 780 mg of caffeine mixed with 380 g of alcohol (31).
  • Case Report: A 28-year-old-man suffered ventricular tachycardia and died after drinking 3 cans of 250-mL energy drink containing caffeine and taurine among other ingredients (32).
  • In a study of mice, taurine prevented clearance of E. coli infection from the bladder, due to decreased urothelial-endothelial activation resulting from taurine’s
    anti-inflammatory effects (33).
  • Taurine administered into the brain ventricle suppressed and delayed the learning ability and memory in rats (34).
  • Coadministration of taurine and ethanol caused toxic effects in mice, characterized by a drastic reduction in blood glucose, resulting in death (35).
Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Antihypertensive medications: Taurine may potentiate the hypotensive effects of these drugs.
Literature Summary and Critique

Zhang M, Bi LF, Fang JH, et al. Beneficial effects of taurine on serum lipids in overweight or obese non-diabetic subjects. Amino acids. Jun 2004;26(3):267-271.
Thirty volunteers (ages 20.3 +/-1.7 years) with a body mass index (BMI) >/=25.0 kg/m(2), with no evidence of diabetes mellitus were randomized to receive 3 g taurine or placebo orally, once a day for 7 weeks. Levels of triacylglycerol (TG), total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and plasma glucose were measured before and after supplementation. The atherogenic index (AI) was calculated as (TC-HDL-C)/HDL-C. The researchers did not observe any differences in baseline parameters between the two groups. But taurine supplementation significantly reduced the TG content and AI. There was also a significant reduction in body weight in those who took taurine.
Taurine exerts beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and may play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease. But larger studies are needed to confirm such effects.

Balshaw TG, Bampouras TM, Barry TJ, et al. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners.Amino acids. Feb 2013;44(2):555-561.
In this study, 8 male middle-distance runners were randomized to receive 1,000 mg taurine capsule or a placebo orally. This was followed by a 2-h ingestion period at the end of which participants commenced a maximal simulated 3KTT on a treadmill. After a washout period of one week, participants in the taurine group were switched to placebo and those in the placebo group received taurine. A 3KTT was conducted followed by a 2 h ingestion period as before. The capillary blood lactate level was measured pre- and post-3KTT. Expired gas, heart rate (HR), ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), and split times were measured at 500-m intervals during the 3KTT. The authors reported a significant improvement in 3KTT performance (TA 646.6 ± 52.8 s and PL 658.5 ± 58.2 s) (p = 0.013) with ingestion of taurine. Further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms by which taurine improves performance.

Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
This field is only visible to only OneMSK users.
References
  1. Wu JY. Purification and characterization of cysteic acid and cysteine sulfinic acid decarboxylase and L-glutamate decarboxylase from bovine brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Jul 1982;79(14):4270-4274.
  2. Laidlaw SA, Shultz TD, Cecchino JT, et al. Plasma and urine taurine levels in vegans. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Apr 1988;47(4):660-663.
  3. Pierno S, Liantonio A, Camerino GM, et al. Potential benefits of taurine in the prevention of skeletal muscle impairment induced by disuse in the hindlimb-unloaded rat. Amino acids. Jul 2012;43(1):431-445.
  4. Silva LA, Silveira PC, Ronsani MM, et al. Taurine supplementation decreases oxidative stress in skeletal muscle after eccentric exercise. Cell biochemistry and function. Jan-Feb 2011;29(1):43-49.
  5. Balshaw TG, Bampouras TM, Barry TJ, et al. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners. Amino acids. Feb 2013;44(2):555-561.
  6. Ra SG, Miyazaki T, Ishikura K, et al. Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. 2013;776:179-187.
  7. Yamori Y, Taguchi T, Mori H, et al. Low cardiovascular risks in the middle aged males and females excreting greater 24-hour urinary taurine and magnesium in 41 WHO-CARDIAC study populations in the world. Journal of biomedical science. 2010;17 Suppl 1:S21.
  8. Liu L, Liu L, Ding Y, et al. Ethnic and environmental differences in various markers of dietary intake and blood pressure among Chinese Han and three other minority peoples of China: results from the WHO Cardiovascular Diseases and Alimentary Comparison (CARDIAC) Study. Hypertension research : official journal of the Japanese Society of Hypertension. May 2001;24(3):315-322.
  9. Scabora JE, de Lima MC, Lopes A, et al. Impact of taurine supplementation on blood pressure in gestational protein-restricted offspring: Effect on the medial solitary tract nucleus cell numbers, angiotensin receptors, and renal sodium handling. Journal of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system : JRAAS. Mar 6 2013.
  10. Fujita T, Ando K, Noda H, et al. Effects of increased adrenomedullary activity and taurine in young patients with borderline hypertension. Circulation. Mar 1987;75(3):525-532.
  11. Azuma J, Sawamura A, Awata N. Usefulness of taurine in chronic congestive heart failure and its prospective application. Japanese circulation journal. Jan 1992;56(1):95-99.
  12. Azuma J, Sawamura A, Awata N, et al. Therapeutic effect of taurine in congestive heart failure: a double-blind crossover trial. Clinical cardiology. May 1985;8(5):276-282.
  13. Huang JS, Chuang LY, Guh JY, et al. Effect of taurine on advanced glycation end products-induced hypertrophy in renal tubular epithelial cells. Toxicology and applied pharmacology. Dec 1 2008;233(2):220-226.
  14. Kim KS, Oh da H, Kim JY, et al. Taurine ameliorates hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia by reducing insulin resistance and leptin level in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima fatty (OLETF) rats with long-term diabetes. Experimental & molecular medicine. Nov 30 2012;44(11):665-673.
  15. Brons C, Spohr C, Storgaard H, et al. Effect of taurine treatment on insulin secretion and action, and on serum lipid levels in overweight men with a genetic predisposition for type II diabetes mellitus. European journal of clinical nutrition. Sep 2004;58(9):1239-1247.
  16. Zhang M, Bi LF, Fang JH, et al. Beneficial effects of taurine on serum lipids in overweight or obese non-diabetic subjects. Amino acids. Jun 2004;26(3):267-271.
  17. Kerai MD, Waterfield CJ, Kenyon SH, et al. Taurine: protective properties against ethanol-induced hepatic steatosis and lipid peroxidation during chronic ethanol consumption in rats. Amino acids. 1998;15(1-2):53-76.
  18. Lee YY, Lee HJ, Lee SS, et al. Taurine supplementation restored the changes in pancreatic islet mitochondria in the fetal protein-malnourished rat. The British journal of nutrition. Oct 2011;106(8):1198-1206.
  19. Das J, Sil PC. Taurine ameliorates alloxan-induced diabetic renal injury, oxidative stress-related signaling pathways and apoptosis in rats. Amino acids. Oct 2012;43(4):1509-1523.
  20. Wu QD, Wang JH, Fennessy F, et al. Taurine prevents high-glucose-induced human vascular endothelial cell apoptosis. The American journal of physiology. Dec 1999;277(6 Pt 1):C1229-1238.
  21. Moloney MA, Casey RG, O'Donnell DH, et al. Two weeks taurine supplementation reverses endothelial dysfunction in young male type 1 diabetics. Diabetes & vascular disease research : official journal of the International Society of Diabetes and Vascular Disease. Oct 2010;7(4):300-310.
  22. Takatani T, Takahashi K, Uozumi Y, et al. Taurine prevents the ischemia-induced apoptosis in cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes through Akt/caspase-9 pathway. Biochemical and biophysical research communications. Apr 2 2004;316(2):484-489.
  23. Leon R, Wu H, Jin Y, et al. Protective function of taurine in glutamate-induced apoptosis in cultured neurons. Journal of neuroscience research. Apr 2009;87(5):1185-1194.
  24. Kumari N, Prentice H, Wu JY. Taurine and its neuroprotective role. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. 2013;775:19-27.
  25. Kang YS, Ohtsuki S, Takanaga H, et al. Regulation of taurine transport at the blood-brain barrier by tumor necrosis factor-alpha, taurine and hypertonicity. Journal of neurochemistry. Dec 2002;83(5):1188-1195.
  26. El Idrissi A, Trenkner E. Growth factors and taurine protect against excitotoxicity by stabilizing calcium homeostasis and energy metabolism. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Nov 1 1999;19(21):9459-9468.
  27. Junyent F, Utrera J, Romero R, et al. Prevention of epilepsy by taurine treatments in mice experimental model. Journal of neuroscience research. May 1 2009;87(6):1500-1508.
  28. Tappaz ML. Taurine biosynthetic enzymes and taurine transporter: molecular identification and regulations. Neurochemical research. Jan 2004;29(1):83-96.
  29. Abebe W, Mozaffari MS. Role of taurine in the vasculature: an overview of experimental and human studies. American journal of cardiovascular disease. 2011;1(3):293-311.
  30. Ghandforoush-Sattari M, Mashayekhi S, Krishna CV, et al. Pharmacokinetics of oral taurine in healthy volunteers. Journal of amino acids. 2010;2010:346237.
  31. Schoffl I, Kothmann JF, Schoffl V, et al. “Vodka energy”: too much for the adolescent nephron? Pediatrics. Jul 2011;128(1):e227-231.
  32. Avci S, Sarikaya R, Buyukcam F. Death of a young man after overuse of energy drink. The American journal of emergency medicine. Nov 2013;31(11):1624 e1623-1624.
  33. Condron C, Casey RG, Kehoe S, et al. Taurine modulates neutrophil function but potentiates uropathogenic E. coli infection in the murine bladder. Urological research. Aug 2010;38(4):215-222.
  34. Ito K, Arko M, Kawaguchi T, et al. Intracerebroventricular administration of taurine impairs learning and memory in rats. Nutritional neuroscience. Mar 2012;15(2):70-77.
  35. Taranukhin AG, Saransaari P, Oja SS. Lethality of taurine and alcohol coadministration in mice. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. 2013;776:29-38.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom line: Taurine has been shown to help muscle function and may lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Taurine is a free amino sulfonic acid present in many tissues of mammals. It plays an important role in the functioning of cardiovascular, skeletal muscle, and nervous systems. Taurine is abundant in meat, dairy, and seafood products, but it can also be made in the body from the amino acid cysteine.
It is marketed as a dietary supplement and is also a major ingredient in many energy drinks. 

Animal studies show that taurine is essential for skeletal muscle function. It reduced muscle dysfunction, atrophy from disuse and oxidative stress.
In humans, taking taurine before exercise improved performance, and reduced muscle damage after high-intensity exercise. Intake of foods rich in taurine may also lower cardiovascular risk.
Some lab studies suggest taurine helps to reduce diabetes-induced nephropathy and to improve glycemic control.
In overweight adults, taurine reduced triglyceride and improved lipid metabolism.

Purported Uses
  • Diabetes
    Taurine reduced kidney disease induced by diabetes improved glycemic control in lab studies. However, long term supplementation with taurine supplementation did not affect insulin response or blood glucose levels in overweight men prone to Type II diabetes.
  • High blood pressure
    Oral supplementation of taurine was shown to reduce blood pressure in humans.
  • Athletic performance
    Taurine intake helped improve performance in middle distance runners. But more studies are needed to confirm this effect.
  • Weight loss
    In a small study, taurine supplementation was shown to reduce weight in healthy overweight individuals. Larger trials are needed.
  • Neuropathy
    Studies done in lab and in animal models indicate that taurine has neuroprotective effects. Human trials have yet to be conducted.
Research Evidence

Cardiovascular disease
Thirty volunteers (average age of 20 years) were randomized to receive 3 g taurine or placebo orally, once a day for 7 weeks. Levels of triacylglycerol (TG), total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and plasma glucose were measured before and after supplementation. The atherogenic index (AI) was calculated as (TC-HDL-C)/HDL-C.
Taurine supplementation significantly reduced the TG content and AI. There was also a significant reduction in body weight in those who took taurine.
Larger studies are needed to confirm these effects.

Athletic performance
Eight male middle-distance runners were randomized to receive 1,000 mg taurine capsule or placebo orally. This was followed by a 2-h ingestion period at the end of which participants started a maximal simulated 3KTT on a treadmill. After a washout period of one week, participants in the taurine group were switched to placebo and those in the placebo group received taurine. A 3KTT was conducted followed by a 2 h ingestion period as before.
The authors found that taurine significantly improved the 3KTT performance.

Do Not Take If
  • You are taking Antihypertensive medications: Taurine may increase the hypotensive effects of these drugs.
Side Effects

Although the following case reports below are about energy drinks, taurine was identified as a major component.

  • Case Report: A 17-year-old boy suffered acute renal failure following consumption of 3 L of an energy drink in combination with 1 L of vodka, which amounted to 4600 mg of taurine and 780 mg of caffeine mixed with 380 g of alcohol.
  • Case Report: A 28-year-old-man suffered ventricular tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and died after drinking 3 cans of 250-mL energy drink containing caffeine and taurine among other ingredients.  
  • In a study of mice, taurine prevented clearance of E. coli infection from the bladder.
  • Taurine administered into the brain ventricle suppressed and delayed the learning ability and memory in rats.
  • Coadministration of taurine and ethanol caused toxic effects in mice, characterized by a drastic reduction in blood glucose, resulting in death.
E-mail your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.