Taurine
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Animal Studies

Taurine is a semi-essential amino acid which most people obtain in their diets from animal products.  It can also be manufactured by the body from two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine.  I am uncertain what the average consumption is, but it varied widely in one study from 8 to 767 mg/day (Adv Exp Med Biol 2003;526:277-83).  Vegans get no taurine from their diets, but have only a modestly lower blood of taurine (22% less in one study).  In any case, by taking the typical taurine supplement (1000-3000 mg/day), a person increases his blood level well above normal blood levels.

Taurine is not incorporated into proteins but exists as a free amino acid. It is found in all mammalian tissue and is the most abundant free amino acid in the heart, retina, skeletal muscle, and white blood cells.  It fulfills a wide variety of functions for the body.  Taurine has been shown to be tissue-protective in many models of oxidant-induced injury.  

Research with taurine supplementation of humans is quite limited, but promising.  Two very small double-blind studies found benefit with congestive heart failure.  One small double-blind study each has found benefit for iron deficiency anemia, retinitis pigmentosa, VDT eye fatigue, high cholesterol, alcohol-withdrawal psychosis, and exercise performance.  One very small study each found benefit for borderline high blood pressure and another for dystonic myotonia.  Taurine was researched in the 1970's for epilepsy and found of no benefit.  Epidemiologic research suggests it reduces death from heart disease, the #1 cause of death.

More extensive animal research suggests that taurine may be of benefit for diabetics and hypertensives by protecting kidney function; that it may increase good HDL cholesterol and decrease atherosclerosis and heart disease; and that it may protect the liver and the brain from toxins and alcohol.  It increased the life span of mice with diabetes.  Other animal studies suggest possible benefits to the eye retina and for exercise endurance.  In a topical gel form, it may help with wound healing.  It may help prevent cataracts.

Taurine is inexpensive, costing as little as $3 a month for 3 grams a day using the powder form (bodybuilding.com).  The powder is tasteless and dry.  It is easily eaten off a spoon and washed down with a beverage.  Human studies have shown benefit with as little as 1 g/day.  I think 3 g/day is more than enough.  Taurine is in the energy drink Red Bull, 1 gram per can with 80 mg of caffeine and 600 mg. of glucuronolactone, but the research is poor, especially because it is unclear how much the added ingredients add to the caffeine effect. There is little modern research on glucuronolactone.  Red Bull is a very expensive way to get taurine mixed with caffeine.

I haven't seen mention of taurine deficiency in humans, but it is apparently not uncommon in dogs fed commercial lamb and rice diets.  It appears that dogs and, especially, cats have a hard time making their own taurine and must get it from their diets. Rice bran interferes with taurine absorption. The deficiency causes cats and dogs to develop dilated hearts.  Taurine has one report of causing drowsiness or ataxia (gait instability) in four children with epilepsy.  It is considered to have very little toxicity. 

Taurine is being irresponsibly promoted for cataracts and seizures and is widely promoted to weight lifters.  There is human research on seizures, and it didn't help.  With cataracts, there is a modest amount of favorable animal research, but not a single human study.  It may end up being a very useful supplement, but much more research is needed.  I like taurine and take it myself for a possible retinal difficulty, but exaggerated claims are unethical.  

Taurine Cost: Taurine capsules cost $10 for 100 capsules of 1000 mg or 1 g each from several internet distributors. Taurine powder is somewhat cheaper at $6 for 100 g or still cheaper per 100 g in a larger size container.  A level teaspoon of the powder is 2.7 g or about one day's dose for most human studies, roughly $3-5 per month using the powder. 11/21/04.

Taurine Basics: Taurine, a sulphur containing amino acid, is the most abundant intracellular amino acid in humans, and is implicated in numerous biological and physiological functions. In healthy individuals, the diet is the usual source of taurine; although in the presence of adequate vitamin B6, it is also synthesized from methionine and cysteine. Taurine may help in bile acid conjugation and cholestasis prevention, antiarrhythmic/inotropic/chronotropic effects, central nervous system neuromodulation, retinal development and function, endocrine/metabolic effects and antioxidant/antiinflammatory properties. It is an essential amino acid for premature infants and is assured by breast milk. Specific groups of individuals are at risk for taurine deficiency and may benefit from supplementation, e.g. patients requiring long-term parenteral nutrition (including premature and newborn infants); those with chronic hepatic, heart or renal failure. Nutr Hosp. 2002 Nov-Dec;17(6):262-70

Taurine is essential for intracellular calcium homeostasis. It exists as a free amino acid and is not incorporated into proteins. Animal muscle tissue, particularly fish, contained high taurine concentrations. Plant products contain little or no taurine. The amount of taurine that remains in a food ingredient after cooking depended upon the method of food preparation. When an ingredient is constantly surrounded by water during the cooking process, such as in boiling, more taurine is lost. Food preparation methods that minimized water loss, such as baking or frying, had higher rates of taurine retention. 

Alcoholism: Taurine and several related molecules including the synthetic acamprosate (calcium acetylhomotaurinate) can reduce ethanol self-administration and relapse to drinking in both animals and humans. Taurine may be an important modulator of effects of ethanol on the nervous system. Interactions between taurine and ethanol in the central nervous system. Olive MF. University of California at San Francisco. Amino Acids. 2002;23(4):345-57. Ed: I haven't seen any research on taurine itself on this issue. Acamprosate is now available in the U.S. (Campral) for the treatment of alcoholism.

Alcoholism: Helped Prevent Psychotic Symptoms: Twenty-two patients undergoing treatment for alcohol withdrawal were given 1 gram of taurine three times per day orally for seven days. When compared to retrospective controls, fewer of the taurine-treated patients had "psychotic episodes" (14% vs. 45%, p < 0.05). The number of "psychotic cases" after admission who had also been psychotic before admission was 1/16 for the taurine group and 11/17 for the controls (p < 0.001). Ikeda H. Effects of taurine on alcohol withdrawal. Lancet 1977;2(8036):509. Ed: This author is using the term psychosis more loosely than American usage.  He probably means any psychotic-like symptom since psychosis in alcohol withdrawal is much less common than in his study.

Anemia: Taurine Helps Iron-Deficiency Anemia: Taurine is an anti-oxidant. At Al Azhar Univ in Gaza, 51 iron deficiency anemia females (6% of females screened) were treated in a DB PC study with 325 mg iron with or without 1000 mg/d of taurine d(-l). Additive positive change from the baseline values was measured on hemoglobin (2.67 g/dL), red blood cell count [(0.57) x 1012/L] and serum ferritin (30.33 microg/L) as compared to placebo group values, which were 1.80 g/dL, (0.39) x 1012/L, and 20.11 microg/L. Possible ameliorative effect of taurine in the treatment of iron-deficiency anemia in female university students of Gaza, Palestine. Sirdah MM, El-Agouza IM, Abu Shahla AN. Eur J Haematol. 2002 Oct;69(4):236-42.

Congestive Heart Failure: Taurine But Not CoQ10 Helped: In a DB study, taurine 3 g/day vs. Q10 in 17 patients with CHF for 6 weeks found no benefit from Q10 but better left ventricular heart function with taurine. Azuma, Osaka U, Jpn Circ J í92;56:95. Ed: Q10 has been found helpful in some other studies (see CoQ10).

Congestive Heart Failure: Taurine Helped: In a DB PC crossover study, 14 patients were given 4 weeks each of a placebo or 6 mg/day of taurine. No side-effects were noted from the taurine. Improved New York Heart Association functional class (p<0.02), pulmonary crackles (p<0.02), and chest film abnormalities (p<0.01) were documented during the taurine treatment. A benefit of taurine over placebo was demonstrated when an overall treatment response for each patient was evaluated on the basis of clinical examination (p<0.05). No patient worsened during taurine administration, but four patients did during placebo. Therapeutic effect of taurine in congestive heart failure: a double-blind crossover trial. Azuma J, Sawamura A, et al. Clin Cardiol. 1985 May;8(5):276-82. Taurine is found in very high concentration in the mammalian heart. Because chronic myocardial taurine loss produces myocardial injury, taurine may be beneficial.

Cystic Fibrosis: Taurine Decreased/Didnít Decrease Fecal Fat & Sterol: In one DB crossover study of 4 months in each phase, taurine 30 mg/kg/d given to 13 children resulted in 40% and 20% decreases. Taurine decreases fecal fatty acid and sterol excretion in cystic fibrosis. A randomized double-blind trial. Smith LJ, Lacaille F, Lepage G, Ronco N, Lamarre A, Roy CC. Am J Dis Child. 1991 Dec;145(12):1401-4; However, in another DB study, no benefit was found. J Pediatr. 1987 Oct;111(4):501-6

Depression: Taurine Levels Increased: Taurine, aspartate and glutamine levels were increased in the lymphocytes of depressed patients before mirtazapine treatment compared to the control group, and were normalized after treatment. Gamma-aminobutyric acid and glutamate did not differ between patients and controls. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2003;526:297-304

Diabetes: Small Study Suggest Might Not Prevent Diabetes: In a DB PC crossover study of 20 non-diabetic, overweight men given taurine 1.5 g/day for 8 weeks, there was no effect on insulin secretion or sensitivity, or on blood lipid levels. 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. Brons C, Spohr C, et al., Denmark. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Sep;58(9):1239-47

Diabetes: Taurine Reduced Mortality in Streptozotocin-induced Diabetic Rats. Di Leo MA, Catholic University, Rome, Italy. Amino Acids. 2004 Oct;27(2):187-91

Dystonic Myotonia: Taurine Helped: In a DB PC study of 9 patients, chronic treatment helped without side-effects. The treatment of myotonia: evaluation of chronic oral taurine therapy. Durelli L, Mutani R, Fassio F. Neurology. 1983 May;33(5):599-603.

Exercise:Taurine Helped Exercise Performance: DNA migration increased 24 hr after exercise (p<0.01). Significant increases were also found in VO(2)max, exercise time to exhaustion and maximal workload with taurine (p<0.05). Taurine reduced exercise induced DNA damage. Role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men. Zhang M, Izumi I, et al, Toyama University, Japan. Amino Acids. 2004 Mar;26(2):203-7  

Eye: Retinitis Pigmentosa: Taurine + Vit E + Diltiazem (Cardizem) Helps: In a 3-year DB PC study of 62 patients with visual field loss from retinitis pigmentosa, a combination of taurine/diltiazem/vitamin E on the progression of the disease. For placebo, 50% worsened and 15% improved. In the treated group 20% worsened and 23% improved. In the periphery, 69% on placebo worsened and 6% improved vs. 6% worsening on the combination and 53% improving. Over 3 additional years, 19 continued on the combination with similar results. The beneficial effect of decreasing the rate of visual field loss was likely through a protective action from free radical reactions in affected photoreceptors. Treatment with taurine, diltiazem, and vitamin E retards the progressive visual field reduction in retinitis pigmentosa: a 3-year follow-up study. Pasantes-Morales H, et al., National University of Mexico, Metab Brain Dis. 2002 Sep;17(3):183-97; A clinical trial of taurine (1-2 g/day) for one year in patients with RP did not result in any laboratory or clinical evidence of improvement, although some subjective benefits were reported. Reccia R, Pignalosa B, Grasso A, Campanella G. Taurine treatment in retinitis pigmentosa. Acta Neurologica 1980;18:132-136

Eye: Taurine Protected Eyes Against VDT Fatigue: In a DB PC study of 25 males ages 20-24, after 12 days of taurine (3 g/day) or placebo, two identical 2.5-hr VDT work tests were performed. The results suggest that taurine supplementation alleviates visual fatigue induced by VDT work. Effects of taurine supplementation on VDT work induced visual stress. Zhang M, Bi LF, et al. Toyama University, Japan. Amino Acids. 2004 Feb;26(1):59-63.

Heart & Strokes: Taurine Good: In a cross-sectional study in 16 countries of 2462 men ages 48-56, ischemic heart disease mortality was associated positively with body mass index, serum total cholesterol, urinary potassium and serum phospholipid palmitic acid, and negatively with urinary taurine, sodium and Na/K ratio, omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated-to-saturated (P/S) fatty acid ratio. Stroke mortality was associated positively with Na and Na/K ratio and phospholipid arachidonic acid, and negatively with cholesterol and potassium. Stepwise linear regression analyses indicated that 59% of the variance in IHD mortality could be explained by the variance in taurine and P/S ratio and that 57% of stroke mortality could be explained by Na/K ratio and phospholipid AA. Male cardiovascular mortality and dietary markers in 25 population samples of 16 countries. Yamori Y et al. Shujitsu University, Japan. J Hypertension 2006 Aug;24(8):1499-1505.

Heart: Taurine Inversely Associated with Coronary Heart Death: Taurine supplementation reduced the risk of hypertension and stroke in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRSP). The WHO-CARDIAC study found wide differences in 24-h urinary taurine excretion in humans, which were inversely associated with age-adjusted mortality rates of coronary heart diseases (CHD). Hypercholesterolemia as well as arterial fat deposition related to the cause of CHD was attenuated by dietary taurine supplementation in SHRSP on high-fat cholesterol diet. Taurine affected the gene expression of 7alpha-hydroxylase and thus regulated serum cholesterol level through the control of the rate limiting step of cholesterol excretion into bile acids. Taurine attenuated atherogenesis due to the control of oxidative stress through the inhibition of the production of oxidative LDL and to its scavenger effect on hypochlorous acid from leucocytes and macrophages. FISH and LIFESTYLE-RELATED DISEASE PREVENTION: EXPERIMENTAL AND EPIDEMIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR ANTI-ATHEROGENIC POTENTIAL OF TAURINE. Yamori Y, Murakami S, et al. Mukogawa Women's University, Nishinomiya, Japan. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2004 Dec;31 Suppl 2:S20-3

Heart Arrhythymias Helped in Uncontrolled Report: Case histories of people with very frequent arrhythmias report 10-20g taurine per day reduced PACs by 50% and prevented all PVCs but did not prevent pauses. Adding 4-6g of l-arginine immediately terminated essentially all remaining pauses and PACs, maintaining normal cardiac rhythm with continued treatment. Effects of taurine useful in preventing arrhythmias include regulating potassium, calcium and sodium levels in the blood and tissues, regulating excitability of the myocardium, and protecting against free radicals damage. Taurine restored energy and endurance in one of the cases from a debilitated status to normal. Arrhythmias may also respond to taurine because it dampens activity of the sympathetic nervous system and dampens epinephrine release. l-arginine may have anti-arrhythmic properties resulting from its role as a nitric oxide (NO) precursor and from its ability to restore sinus rhythm spontaneously. Endogenous production of taurine and l-arginine may decline in aging perturbing cardiac rhythm, and these "conditional" essential nutrients therefore become "essential" and require supplementation to prevent morbidity and mortality. Elimination of cardiac arrhythmias using oral taurine with l-arginine with case histories: Hypothesis for nitric oxide stabilization of the sinus node. Eby G, et al.  Austin, TX. Med Hypotheses 2006 Jun 22

Hepatitis: Taurine Didnít Help in Chronic Hepatitis: In a DB PC study of 1.5 g/day of taurine, ursodeoxycholic acid helped but not taurine either singly or in combo. Effects of ursodeoxycholic acid and taurine on serum liver enzymes and bile acids in chronic hepatitis. Podda M, Ghezzi C, Battezzati PM, Crosignani A, Zuin M, Roda A. Gastroenterology. 1990 Apr;98(4):1044-50.

Hepatitis: Taurine Helped: In a DB PC study of patients with acute hepatitis with serum bilirubin levels above 3 mg/dl, 4 grams of taurine three times daily decreased bilirubin, total bile acids, and biliary glycine:taurine ratio. Matsuyama Y, Morita T, Higuchi M, Tsujii T. The effect of taurine administration on patients with acute hepatitis. Prog Clin Biol Res 1983;125:461-468

Hypertension: Taurine Lowered BP in Small, Brief Study: In 19 borderline high blood pressure young patients treated in a DB PC trial for just 7 days with taurine 6 g/d, systolic blood pressure decreased 9.0 vs. 2.7 mmHg and diastolic decreased 4.1 vs. 2.7. Taurine lowered epinepherine but not norepinepherine. Effects of increased adrenomedullary activity and taurine in young patients with borderline hypertension. Fujita T, Ando K, Noda H, Ito Y, Sato Y. Circulation. 1987 Mar;75(3):525-32

Lipids and Weight Helped in Overweight: Taurine has beneficial effects on lipid metabolism in experimental animals fed with high-cholesterol or high fat diets. In a DB PC study, 30 college students with a body mass index (BMI) >/=25.0 kg/m(2), and with no evidence of diabetes mellitus took taurine 3 g/day or the placebo for 7 weeks. The atherogenic index (AI) was calculated as (Total cholesterol - HDL-C)/HDL-C. Taurine supplementation decreased triacylglycerol and AI significantly. Body weight also reduced significantly in the taurine group. Zhang M, Bi LF, Fang JH, Su XL, Da GL, Kuwamori T, Kagamimori S. Toyama Medical, Japan. Amino Acids. 2004 Jun;26(3):267-71 

Parkinson's: Taurine Low in Parkinsonís: Whereas all 22 amino acid levels were unchanged, taurine was significantly lower in Parkinson's disease patients. Studies showed that taurine exerts a trophic action on the central nervous system. In this view, decreased taurine in a neurodegenerative disorder as Parkinson's disease deserves attention. Neurochem Res. 2003 Aug;28(8):1145-50. Taurine is the abundant sulfur-containing beta-amino acid in brain where it exerts a neuroprotective effect.

Red Bull Taurine: Poor Quality Studies: There were no DB studies of just glucuronolactone and only five studies of Red Bull on PubMed 8/24/03. One DB vs. glucose or sugar free drinks without caffeine deprivation found increased attention and verbal reasoning but no effect on memory. An evaluation of a caffeinated taurine drink on mood, memory and information processing in healthy volunteers without caffeine abstinence. Warburton DM, Bersellini E, Sweeney E. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Nov;158(3):322-8. Another study of 36 found increased aerobic endurance and anaerobic performance as well as attention. The effects of red bull energy drink on human performance and mood. Alford C, Cox H, Wescott R. Univ of the West, England. Amino Acids. 2001;21(2):139-50. None of the studies compared Red Bull to plain caffeine. Two German heart studies did compare it to caffeine, but the studies are hard to decipher. 

Red Bull Taurine Didn't Help Alcohol Effects: Red Bull is often used in hopes of reducing the depressant effects of alcohol on central nervous system. In a DB PC study of 14 adults drinking water, alcohol, Red Bull, or both, Red Bull did not improve performance or reduce alterations induced by acute alcohol ingestion. Does an energy drink modify the effects of alcohol in a maximal effort test? Ferreira SE, de Mello MT, et al.  Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 Sep;28(9):1408-12

Seizure Benefit Brief: Taurine's antiepileptic action, confirmed in several models of experimental epilepsy and in short-term clinical studies, does not seem to possess major clinical relevance since trials with a longer follow-up gave unsatisfactory results. Taurine's limited diffusibility across the blood-brain barrier may be the main factor restricting the antiepileptic effect of this compound. Clin Neuropharmacol. 1983 Mar;6(1):37-48; Taurine was given to 25 intractable epileptic children, ages 1 to 12. Taurine doses ranged from 0.05 to 0.3 g/kg/day. Twelve patients received probenecid additionally. Complete control of seizures was achieved in a case of Lennox syndrome, over 50% decrease of seizure frequency in 1 case, less than 50% decrease in 4 cases, and no effects in 18 cases. The effects of taurine often manifest only temporarily. Four patients exhibited side effects of drowsiness and ataxia. Therapeutic trial by taurine for intractable childhood epilepsies. Fukuyama Y, Ochiai Y. Brain Dev. 1982;4(1):63-9

Seizures: No Benefit: Taurine at 375 to 8,000 mg/day was given to six patients with mixed seizure disorders refractory to standard anticonvulsant treatment. No improvement in seizure control was seen. During taurine tolerance testing, a substantial rise in plasma growth hormone concentration was noted in four of the six patients. Effects of taurine on seizures and growth hormone release in epileptic patients. Mantovani J, DeVivo DC. Arch Neurol. 1979 Nov;36(11):672-4; Ed: There are more studies on epilepsy from the 1970's which showed no benefit except one with IV taurine which was an uncontrolled open trial of very little scientific value.

Vacular Endothelium in Smokers Protected by Taurine: In a 5 day study of cigarette smokers, taurine at 1.5 g/day had a beneficial impact on macrovascular endothelial function. Taurine and vitamin C modify monocyte and endothelial dysfunction in young smokers. Fennessy FM, Moneley DS, et al, Dublin, Ireland. Circulation. 2003 Jan 28;107(3):410-5. Endothelial dysfunction is one of the causes of atherosclerosis. Monocyte-endothelial interactions have been implicated in the initiation of endothelial dysfunction in dyslipidemic states, diabetes mellitus, and chronic cigarette smoking. This is in part due to impaired activity of endothelial-derived nitric oxide (NO) and overproduction of the vasospastic cytokine endothelin-1 (ET-1). ET-1, an endothelial-derived peptide, is a potent vasoconstrictor and growth promoter that has a short plasma half-life but a prolonged onset and duration of action. NO decreases its release. Impaired flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), a NO mediated response, has been demonstrated by ultrasonic insonation in the brachial arteries of young, otherwise-healthy cigarette smokers and in patients with dyslipidemia and with proven atherosclerosis.  In FMD of the brachial artery, endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) is activated by the mechanical forces of increased shear and stretch, with the resultant release of NO, which induces relaxation of smooth muscle cells in the vessel wall. Taurine, a semiessential amino acid, has been shown to be protective of endothelial structure and function after exposure to inflammatory cells, their mediators, and other chemicals. This molecule, which is present in high amounts in inflammatory cells, seems to be uniquely capable of modifying both target and receptor cell homeostasis through antioxidant, calcium flux, and osmoregulatory pathways.  Taurine restored eNOS, the enzyme responsible for the production of NO from L-arginine within the endothelial cell. 

Other Studies

Taurine Protects White Blood Cells in Urine: It a study suggesting that taurine might help urinary tract infections, a lab study found it kept Taurine protects against PMN dysfunction and death in urine.  The polymorphonuclear neutrophils were less likely to die and more likely to retain anti-bacterial abilities. Condron CM, et al, Dublin, Ireland, Urol Res. 2004 Oct;32(5):338-45

Thomas E. Radecki, M.D., J.D.

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