- 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid
- tauric acid
For Patients & Caregivers
Bottom line: 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.
In a small study of 30 volunteers with an average age of 20 years, subjects were randomized to receive 3 g taurine or placebo orally, once daily for 7 weeks. Blood tests to measure fats and sugars in the blood and overall heart disease risk were conducted before and after supplementation. Taurine supplementation appeared to significantly reduce fat levels, heart disease risk, and body weight, but larger studies are needed to confirm safety as well as these effects.
Weight loss and markers of insulin resistance
In this study, 16 women diagnosed as obese along with 8 normal-weight women were blindly and randomly assigned to either taurine supplementation or placebo starch flour plus nutritional counseling for 8 weeks. Data was gathered on weight loss differences between the two groups, as well as markers for inflammation and blood sugar regulation. At the beginning of the study, taurine levels were significantly lower in the obese women. After 8 weeks, the taurine-supplemented group had significant increases in taurine and markers of glucose and fat metabolism. There were no differences between the supplemented and placebo groups for weight reduction, although both groups showed significant weight loss. Researchers concluded that taurine supplementation along with nutritional counseling decreased markers of inflammation and increased glucose and fat metabolism in obese women. Larger studies are needed to confirm these effects.
In one study, 8 male middle-distance runners were randomized to receive a 1,000-mg taurine capsule or placebo orally, 2 hours before a simulated 3K treadmill race. One week later to ensure any potential effects from taking this capsule were gone, the groups switched so that those in the taurine group took a placebo pill and those in the placebo group received taurine. The same race was conducted 2 hours after taking the pill. Taurine appeared to significantly improve athletic performance, but larger studies are needed to confirm safety and how this effect might occur.
Another study evaluated two types of energy shots: one containing carbohydrate-protein-caffeine, or one containing caffeine-taurine-niacin, in 14 adult recreational cyclists who exercised regularly. Neither the participants nor the staff knew who got which of these drinks or a placebo instead to ingest throughout the exercise. At the end of 2 hours of moderate and high intensity interval exercise, the taurine-containing energy shot did not enhance exercise performance, but ingestion of a carbohydrate-protein-caffeine combination did.
To determine whether taurine supplements could actually affect muscle levels of taurine, another study gave a 7-day regimen of a placebo pill to cyclers, who then exercised for 2 hours. The process was repeated, but this time with a 7-day regimen of taurine given to cyclers before the same exercise. Researchers found that taurine supplementation did not alter skeletal muscle taurine content, although it did impact other muscle amino acid responses to exercise.
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 branded 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). 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) .
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). 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).
Absorption: Taurine is absorbed in the intestine and actively transported intracellularly through the taurine transporter, which is downregulated when taurine levels are high (39). Diffusion also occurs at high concentration.
Distribution: Taurine is found in high levels in bile, the intestines, heart, skeletal muscle, brain, nerve, liver, kidney, retina, and leukocytes.
Excretion: Renal rate of excretion is closely related to dietary intake (40). When taurine level is low, the taurine transporter is upregulated and taurine is reabsorbed through the renal tubules (39). In a pharmacokinetic study in healthy male volunteers, 4 g of taurine capsules were given orally in a fasting state. Maximum plasma concentrations were reached in 1–2.5 h. Concentrations returned to normal ranges at 8 h (41).
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).
Rosa FT, et al. Oxidative stress and inflammation in obesity after taurine supplementation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Eur J Nutr. 2014;53:823-830.
This study examined whether taurine supplementation along with nutritional counseling could affect oxidative stress, inflammatory markers, and glucose homeostasis. Women who had an obesity diagnosis (n=16) and normal weight women (n=8) were blindly and randomly assigned to either taurine 3 g daily or placebo starch flour along with nutritional counseling for 8 weeks. Measures included levels of plasma sulfur amino acids, insulin, and adiponectin, serum glycemia, and markers of inflammatory response and oxidative stress. At baseline, plasma taurine levels were significantly decreased in obese volunteers. After 8 weeks, the taurine-supplemented group had significant increases in plasma taurine and adiponectin with significant reductions in high-sensitivity-C-reactive protein and lipid peroxidation. There were no between-group differences in weight reduction, with both groups showing significant weight loss (3%). Researchers concluded that taurine supplementation along with nutritional counseling decreased markers of inflammation and increased adiponectin levels in obese women.
Seifert JG, Connor DA. The influence of commercial energy shots on response time and power output in recreational cyclists. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:56.
In this double-blind randomized crossover trial, 14 adult subjects of average weight who were recreational cyclists and exercised regularly but did not compete in races were enrolled to evaluate the theoretical combined benefits of caffeine, taurine and niacin on energy and performance. Throughout the exercise, participants ingested either of two types of supplements: carbohydrate-protein-caffeine (CPC), OR caffeine-taurine-niacin (CTN); OR a non-caloric placebo. Cycling consisted of an interval exercise at 70% VO2max for 13 min plus 90% of VO2max for 2 minutes for a total of 120 minutes, followed by a 6-minute power output (PO) task. Response time, average PO, and blood glucose levels were significantly greater and rate of perceived exertion was significantly lower for those in the CPC group vs the CTN group and placebo. In addition, heart rate was significantly greater for the CTN group compared with the CPC group. Researchers determined that following 2 hours of moderate and high intensity interval exercise the ingestion of a taurine-containing energy shot did not enhance exercise performance, but ingestion of a carbohydrate-protein-caffeine combination did.
Balshaw TG, et al. The effect of acute taurine ingestion on 3-km running performance in trained middle-distance runners. Amino Acids. 2013;44:555-561.
In this study, 8 male middle-distance runners were randomized to receive 1,000 mg taurine capsule or a placebo orally 2 hours prior to a maximal simulated 3k time trial (3KTT) on a treadmill. After a washout period of 1 week, participants in the taurine group were switched to placebo and those in the placebo group received taurine. Another 3KTT was conducted after a 2-h ingestion period as before. Capillary blood lactate levels were 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 = .013) with taurine ingestion. Further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms by which taurine improves performance.
Galloway SD, et al. Seven days of oral taurine supplementation does not increase muscle taurine content or alter substrate metabolism during prolonged exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008;105:643-651.
This two-part study evaluated the effects of acute oral taurine supplementation on plasma taurine response and 7-day taurine supplementation on muscle amino acid content and substrate metabolism during 2 h of cycling at 60% peak oxygen consumption. In Part 1: After an overnight fast, 7 volunteers ingested taurine 1.66 g with breakfast and lunch and blood samples were taken throughout the day. Plasma taurine rose rapidly in the morning and remained elevated at noon. In Part 2: 8 men cycled for 2 h after 7 days of glucose 6 g daily (placebo) and again following 7 days of taurine 5 g daily. The 7-day regimen had no effect on muscle taurine content at rest or after exercise. There was no difference in muscle glycogen or other muscle metabolites between conditions, but there were notable interactions for other amino acid content following exercise after taurine. Researchers concluded acute ingestion of taurine led to a 13-fold increase in plasma taurine concentration and that 7 days of taurine supplementation did not alter skeletal muscle taurine content or carbohydrate and fat oxidation during exercise, although it did impact other muscle amino acid responses to exercise.
Zhang M, et al. Beneficial effects of taurine on serum lipids in overweight or obese non-diabetic subjects. Amino Acids. 2004;26:267-271.
In this study, 30 volunteers age 20.3 ±1.7 y, BMI ≥25.0 kg/m2 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. There were no differences in baseline parameters between the two groups. Data indicated that taurine supplementation significantly reduced the TG content, AI, and body weight. Larger studies are needed to confirm such effects as well as safety.