In the ever-advancing field of medical research, a promising avenue for promoting longevity has recently come into focus—Taurine supplementation. As we age, a decline in the circulating levels of taurine is observed, sparking interest in its potential role in combating the aging process.
A groundbreaking study led by Singh et al. and published in Science delved into the effects of taurine supplementation on lifespan and healthspan across various species. The objective was to investigate whether the age-related decline in taurine blood concentration plays a significant role in the aging process.
The research shed light on the broader health benefits of taurine supplementation. The study revealed improvements in various crucial aspects of health, including bone health, muscle function, pancreatic health, brain function, gastrointestinal health, metabolic processes, and immune system function.
Furthermore, the study demonstrated that augmenting taurine concentration had a positive impact on various prevalent health conditions, including hypertension, obesity, inflammation, and type 2 diabetes.
What is Taurine?
Taurine is a naturally occurring sulfur-containing amino acid. It’s particularly concentrated in your brain, eyes, heart, and muscles. Although amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of protein, taurine isn’t used to build proteins in your body. Instead, it’s considered a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning it becomes essential only in times of illness and stress.
Taurine was first isolated in 1827 from the bile of an ox. The Latin name for an ox is Bos taurus, which is where the amino acid’s name originated.
Taurine is found in some foods, and your body can even produce it by itself. Therefore, taurine deficiency is unlikely in healthy adults. However, because newborns and infants can’t make taurine as well as adults, they depend on taurine from breast milk or taurine-supplemented formula.
Sources of Taurine
The main sources of taurine are animal proteins such as meat, seafood, and dairy. Plants contain no appreciable amount of taurine. Consequently, people eating a vegan or vegetarian diet consume less taurine. They tend to have lower taurine levels than those who regularly eat animal proteins.
Even so, taurine deficiency is unlikely. This is thanks to your body’s ability to make taurine in your liver from other amino acids.
For reference, the typical American diet provides 123–178 mg of taurine daily, while a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet — which includes both dairy products and eggs — provides only around 17 mg of taurine daily.
Functions in Your Body
Taurine is found in several organs and has widespread benefits. Its main roles in your body include:
- Maintaining Proper Hydration and Electrolyte Balance: Taurine helps keep your cells hydrated and maintains electrolyte balance.
- Forming Bile Salts: Bile salts play a vital role in digestion.
- Regulating Minerals: Taurine helps regulate minerals like calcium within your cells.
- Supporting the Central Nervous System and Eyes: Taurine plays a role in central nervous system function and eye health.
- Regulating Immune System Health: Taurine is involved in supporting the immune system and has antioxidant properties.
Because taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, a healthy adult’s body can produce the minimal amount required for these essential daily functions. However, your body may need larger amounts in times of illness or stress. This may be the case in people with heart or kidney disease. These individuals may need to get taurine from food or supplements.
In animal models, taurine deficiency has been shown to cause eye damage, chronic liver disease, muscle weakening, and an increased risk of developing diabetes. Low taurine levels have similarly been associated with these conditions.
Benefits of Taurine
Taurine offers a range of potential benefits due to its abundance in the body, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and its role in energy production.
1. May Fight Diabetes: Taurine’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may enhance insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes or improving blood sugar management in those with the condition. Some studies suggest taurine may have a role in diabetes management and preventing complications such as nerve damage, kidney damage, and heart disease.
2. May Improve Heart Health: Taurine supplements have been shown to regulate blood pressure, improve heart function, and lower blood fat levels in people with heart conditions such as heart failure. Research suggests a link between higher taurine levels and reduced cholesterol, lower blood pressure levels, and significantly lower rates of death from heart disease.
3. May Boost Exercise Performance: Taurine’s ability to enhance muscle contraction and delay muscle fatigue may benefit athletic performance. It may also increase fat burning during exercise.
4. Other Health Benefits: Taurine may also benefit eye health, hearing, and offer neuroprotective effects. Additionally, it may support liver health. However, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits for human health.
Side Effects and Precautions
According to the best available evidence, taurine has no negative side effects when supplemented appropriately. The highest daily dose of taurine considered safe is around 3 grams per day, although some guidelines suggest up to 6 grams per day.
Some individuals have reported side effects after taking taurine supplements, such as vomiting, nausea, liver pain, headache, and stomach pain. It’s unclear whether these side effects are related to the amino acid itself or to other ingredients in supplements.
Taurine may also interact with certain drugs, as it acts as a cytochrome P450 enzyme inhibitor. This means it could interfere with medications that rely on this enzyme to metabolize drugs, such as antidepressants, antiepileptic drugs, warfarin, and statins. Therefore, if you’re using any medications, consult your doctor before taking taurine.
If you choose to increase your taurine intake through pre-workout supplements or energy drinks, consider any other ingredients in these products that you may be sensitive to or want to limit, such as caffeine or added sugar.
In conclusion, taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid with diverse functions and potential health benefits. When used appropriately, it is generally safe and well-tolerated. However, if you have any underlying health conditions or take medications, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before adding taurine supplements to your routine.