- 2-Aminoethanesulfonic acid
- Tauric acid
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Taurine may help muscle function and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Taurine is an amino acid present in many tissues of mammals. It plays an important role in heart, muscle, and nervous system functioning. Taurine is obtained through diet by eating meat, dairy, and seafood products. It can also be made in the body from the amino acid cysteine. Eating foods rich in taurine may lower cardiovascular risk.
In animal studies, taurine reduced muscle dysfunction and wasting from disuse, imbalances that prevent the natural detoxification processes, and nerve pain. In humans, taking taurine supplements before exercise reduced muscle damage after high-intensity exercise, but its effect on physical or mental performance has been mixed. And even though taurine levels can be increased in the muscles of rodents with oral supplementation, this does not occur in humans. In overweight and obese adults, taurine reduced inflammation and blood fat levels, and improved fat and sugar metabolism. However, it has not improved blood sugar or insulin response in type 2 diabetes.
Taurine is marketed as a dietary supplement and is also a major ingredient in many energy drinks. There have been some toxic effects noted in animal studies and in humans when taken in excess amounts or with alcohol.
Although lab studies suggest benefit, taurine supplementation did not improve insulin response or blood glucose levels in overweight men prone to type 2 diabetes.
High blood pressure
A few studies suggest taurine supplementation may reduce blood pressure in humans.
Studies on taurine supplementation to improve exercise performance are mixed. Larger studies are needed to confirm this effect.
Taurine supplementation reduced weight in overweight and obese individuals in a few small studies, but larger trials are needed.
Lab studies suggest that taurine has neuroprotective effects, but human trials have yet to be conducted.
Do Not Take If
In these reports, taurine was identified as a major ingredient of energy drinks.
Acute kidney failure: In a 17-year-old boy who ingested large quantities of both alcohol and an energy drink containing taurine and caffeine.
High pulse rate and death: In a 28-year-old-man after drinking 3 cans of an energy drink containing caffeine and taurine among other ingredients.
For Healthcare Professionals
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, seafood, and dairy products are rich sources, but it can also be synthesized in the body from cysteine (1). Vegetarians may have lower plasma levels of 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.
In vitro and in vivo, taurine demonstrated neuroprotective effects (6), reduced diabetic-induced nephropathy (7), and improved glycemic control (8). In animal models, chronic taurine intake reversed muscle dysfunction and atrophy (3) and decreased oxidative stress (4), and maternal taurine ingestion conferred protection against offspring developing adult hypertension (5).
In humans, consumption of taurine-rich foods has been associated with lower cardiovascular risk (9) (10). Evidence on whether taurine can improve exercise performance are mixed (11) (12) (13) (14), and although taurine increased skeletal muscle in rodents, these results have not been duplicated in humans (15) (16).
A few studies in overweight or obese patients suggest taurine may reduce triglycerides and improve lipid metabolism (17), increase adiponectin levels, and decrease inflammation and lipid peroxidation (18). However, long-term supplementation did not affect insulin response or blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes (19). Other studies suggest potential decreases in blood pressure (20) (43) (44) and benefit in older patients with congestive heart failure (21) (22). It may also help manage muscle cramps in patients with chronic liver disease (45), improve cognitive function in dementia patients (46), and reduce stroke-like episodes in patients with a rare genetic disorder (47). Other preliminary data suggest taurine co-administration reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (23), but more studies are needed.
Taurine has been associated with some adverse effects in animal models including increased infection risk (24), delayed learning and memory (25), and when coadministered with ethanol, drastic reductions in blood glucose resulting in death (26). In humans, adverse reactions have been reported from excessive ingestion of energy drinks with taurine and caffeine, and in combination with alcohol (27) .
Mechanism of Action
Taurine can be synthesized in the body by cysteine sulfinic acid decarboxylase (1). It circulates in 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 (29). With respect to skeletal muscle, taurine facilitates Ca2+ dependent excitation–contraction processes, helps regulate cellular volume, and assists in antioxidant defense from stress responses (16). It also serves as a neurotransmitter (35) and crosses the blood-brain barrier by transporters (36). Taurine reduces glutamate excitotoxicity through regulation of calcium ions and mitochondrial energy metabolism (37). Its anti-apoptotic function is due to its inhibition of glutamate-induced membrane depolarization (38).
In animal models, taurine reduced hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia by improving insulin sensitivity and leptin modulation (8). It also protected mitochondria of pancreatic islets from malnourishment damage (30). Renoprotective effects were attributed to decreases in proinflammatory cytokines and renal oxidative stress (31). It also inhibited glucose-induced apoptosis in vascular endothelial cells (32), and advanced glycation end products and fibrotic activity to prevent diabetic nephropathy (7).
In humans, taurine protected against atherosclerotic disease by reversing endothelial abnormalities (33), and reduced blood pressure by decreasing the levels of plasma epinephrine (20). It also upregulated hydrogen sulfide-synthesizing enzyme expression and reduced vascular reactivity via inhibition of transient receptor potential channel subtype 3-mediated calcium influx (43).
Case reports In these reports, taurine was identified as a major component of energy drinks.
Acute renal failure: In a 17-year-old boy 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 (27).
Ventricular tachycardia and death: A 28-year-old-man suffered ventricular tachycardia and died after drinking 3 250-mL cans of an energy drink containing caffeine and taurine among other ingredients (42).
- Antihypertensives: In a study of young patients with borderline hypertension, taurine supplementation reduced blood pressure (20). Therefore it may also potentiate the hypotensive effects of these drugs.