- 2-Aminoethanesulfonic acid
- Tauric acid
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Taurine has been shown to help muscle function and may lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Taurine is an amino acid present in many tissues of mammals that plays an important role in heart, muscle, and nervous system functioning. Taurine is obtained through diet by eating meat, dairy, and seafood products, and 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. It has also been shown that even though taurine levels can be increased in the muscles of rodents through oral supplementation, this does not occur in humans. In overweight and obese adults, taurine reduced inflammation and fat levels in the blood and improved fat and sugar metabolism. However, this has not translated into improvements in 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.
Taurine reduced kidney disease caused by diabetes and improved blood sugar levels in lab studies. However, long-term 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 supplementation helped improve exercise performance in some studies, but not in others. Additional, larger studies are needed to confirm this effect.
- Weight loss
In two small studies, taurine supplementation was shown to reduce weight in healthy overweight and obese individuals, but larger trials are needed.
Studies done in lab and in animal models indicate that taurine has neuroprotective effects. 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 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.
In animal models, chronic taurine intake reversed muscle dysfunction and atrophy (3) and decreased oxidative stress (4). Another study showed that maternal taurine ingestion confers a protective effect against developing adult hypertension in the offspring (5). Taurine also demonstrated neuroprotective effects, (6) reduced diabetic-induced nephropathy (7), and improved glycemic control (8) in vitro and in vivo.
In humans, consumption of foods rich in taurine has been associated with lower cardiovascular risk (9) (10). Ingestion of taurine before exercise improved performance (11), and a taurine supplement plus branched-chain amino acids reduced muscle damage following high-intensity exercise (12). However, other studies with energy shots that contained taurine have not found improvements in physical or cognitive performance (13) (14). Although oral taurine supplementation can increase skeletal muscle of rodents, these results have not been duplicated in humans (15) (16).
In overweight adults, taurine helped to reduce triglycerides and improve lipid metabolism (17). Another study found that taurine supplementation and nutritional counseling increased adiponectin levels and decreased inflammation and lipid peroxidation in obese women (18). However, long-term supplementation did not affect insulin response or blood glucose levels in overweight men prone to Type 2 diabetes (19). In prehypertensive patients, taurine significantly decreased blood pressure and improved vascular function (43). Other small studies suggest taurine supplementation may reduce blood pressure in young borderline hypertensive patients (20) and benefit older patients with congestive heart failure (21) (22).
Co-administration with taurine reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting during maintenance therapy in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (23).
Taurine has been associated with some adverse effects in animal models including increases in infection risk (24), delayed learning and memory (25) and when coadministered with ethanol, a drastic reduction in blood glucose resulting in death (26). In humans, some case studies have reported adverse reactions from the excessive ingestion of energy drinks with taurine and caffeine as major ingredients, and in combination with alcohol (27) .
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. With respect to skeletal muscle, taurine facilitates Ca2+ dependent excitation–contraction processes, contributes to regulation of cellular volume, and assists in providing antioxidant defenses from stress responses (16). Taurine binds with cholesterol to form bile acid and protects the liver from alcohol-induced steatosis and lipid peroxidation (29). In animal models of diabetes, it reduced hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia by improving insulin sensitivity and leptin modulation (8). It also protected the mitochondria of pancreatic islets from malnourishment damage (30).
In other studies, taurine showed renoprotective effects by decreasing proinflammatory cytokines and renal oxidative stress (31), and by inhibiting glucose-induced apoptosis in vascular endothelial cells (32). Potential prevention of diabetic nephropathy is associated with the inhibition of advanced glycation end products and exerted anti-fibrotic activity (7).
Taurine was shown to protect against atherosclerotic disease by reversing endothelial abnormalities (33). Oral taurine supplementation reduces blood pressure by decreasing the levels of plasma epinephrine (20) and inhibits ischemia-induced apoptosis in the heart muscle by activating protein kinase Akt activities and suppressing caspase-9 (34). It upregulates hydrogen sulfide-synthesizing enzyme expression and reduces vascular reactivity via inhibition of transient receptor potential channel subtype 3-mediated calcium influx (43). Taurine also serves as a neurotransmitter (35) and crosses the blood-brain barrier by transporters (36). It reduces glutamate excitotoxicity through regulation of calcium ions and mitochondrial energy metabolism (37). The anti-apoptotic function of taurine is due to its inhibition of glutamate-induced membrane depolarization (38).
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).
Taurine administered with ethanol (animal study): Caused a drastic reduction in blood glucose, resulting in death (26).