Taurine is a well-known ingredient, featuring heavily in energy drinks and other performance-focused supplements. But what is taurine, and what are the potential benefits of this naturally occurring amino acid? Keep reading to find out.
Occurring inside the human body, taurine acts slightly different from traditional amino acids. While nearly all amino acids contribute to the production of proteins, taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning the body only uses it during periods of stress or illness. Moreover, most of the taurine in your body is concentrated in the brain, eyes, heart, and muscles.
When the immune system or central nervous system is under pressure, taurine can help to regulate cell production, produce bile salts, and adjust calcium levels inside cells. Although these functions may not seem that impactful, the potential benefits of taurine extend to several inflammatory and cardiovascular conditions.
Encouragingly, because the body can produce taurine on its own, a deficiency in adults is incredibly rare. Plus, there are also small amounts of taurine in meat and dairy products, so you shouldn't need to worry about regular supplementation unless you are vegetarian or vegan. That said, keeping taurine levels balanced through supplementation could still prove beneficial for well-being, so let's take a closer look at what the body uses it for.
Taurine's role as a conditionally essential amino acid extends to the following:
• Producing bile salts involved in digestion
• Regulating levels of calcium inside cells
• Supporting the immune and central nervous systems
• Stabilising cell membranes
• Balancing cell hydration and electrolytes
Typically, the liver uses existing amino acids to create taurine, raising levels when the body is under pressure. However, during times of illness or stress, your body may need more taurine than it can produce. This is when you may want to consider taking supplements or increasing consumption of taurine-rich food and drink.
Before considering taurine supplements, it's essential to know which foods contain the amino acid. The primary food sources of taurine are:
• Pork loin
• Cow's milk
Taurine is also an incredibly popular addition to energy drinks, for reasons we'll discuss shortly. However, the caveat to these products is the inclusion of high levels of sugar, caffeine, and other stimulants. While energy drinks may be one of the most significant sources of taurine, it's crucial to consider the overall impact on well-being.
You may have also noticed that there are few botanical sources of taurine. Because the majority comes from animal proteins, vegetarians and vegans may need to consider supplementation. While taurine deficiency is rare, low levels have been linked to several debilitating health conditions.
Given the role of taurine in cell function, it will come as no surprise that the substance may have myriad benefits. Below is a summary of key research findings.
While a handful of older studies have examined the acute effects of taurine and caffeine-containing energy drinks, a recent review of "Taurine in sports and exercise" sheds light on the potential benefits.,,
Of the nineteen studies that met the researchers’ criteria, the review highlights two crucial considerations. The first is mixed evidence concerning taurine's effects on aerobic vs anaerobic exercise, with more substantial results for aerobic improvements. And second, the timing of taurine ingestion appears to play a crucial role in the compound's effectiveness. Given the complexity of muscle damage, metabolic stress, and recovery, the paper does, however, conclude that more investigations are needed.
Taurine's role as a conditionally essential amino acid means its regulation of cell function ramps up during periods of stress and illness. And nothing is more damaging to the body than issues relating to the heart. For this very reason, a 2020 study sought to understand the possible anti-inflammatory effects of taurine.
The paper draws links between the consumption of seafood (a rich source of taurine) and lower rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, it isn't easy to attribute the influence solely to taurine. Despite this, the researchers acknowledge that taurine "shows promise" and may help address several heart-related conditions. The study concludes that future research should focus on the amino acid’s impact on inflammatory markers, lipid peroxidation, and oxidative stress.
The impact of taurine on cognitive function is similar to that of exercise—mixed. Specifically, the influence of taurine supplementation may have little benefit in adolescents, but could prove pivotal in an elderly population.
A 2017 animal model outlining the risks of energy drinks for adolescent brains suggests chronic consumption of caffeine and taurine often leads to ill effects. Now, whether this is due to individual compounds or their combined influence remains to be seen. However, the paper does suggest "that age is an important factor in both caffeine and taurine toxicity", supporting the evidence regarding elderly populations.
Because the body is constantly keeping taurine levels topped up, it copes pretty well with the compound's influence. As such, taurine appears well-tolerated in humans, with only minor side effects noted. These include:
However, it's important to consider the source of taurine, especially if it's energy drinks. Given the abundance of extra ingredients (caffeine and artificial sugars) inside a typical energy drink, you may experience more significant side effects.
A 2012 report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggests that:
"Daily ingestion of taurine doses of up to 6 g/person per day for periods up to one year (including supplements) did not produce adverse health effects".
However, 6000mg is likely more than the average person will need. Anywhere from 500–3000mg should still provide an impact while limiting potential side effects. A balanced diet including the foods highlighted earlier should satisfy a significant portion of that daily threshold.
Another option is taurine supplements, a category that includes powders and capsules. Should you choose either of these, check the amount of taurine per serving. Typically, powdered taurine supplements contain greater levels than capsules.
There isn't much evidence to suggest whether you should consume taurine alongside food or not. However, if you're already eating foods rich in taurine, supplementation with meals may not provide a discernible benefit.
That said, some data suggests that taking taurine 1–3 hours before physical activity could prove beneficial. If you're using taurine for its proposed influence on sports performance, try to take the amino acid shortly before or during exercise.
Based on the evidence, the tolerance for daily taurine consumption appears high. And given that taurine's impact is observable at doses much lower than the recommended limit, most people will have plenty of room for experimentation.
Whether through a balanced diet or dedicated taurine supplements, there are plenty of options for increasing your intake. Just remember that many taurine-focused products also include ingredients such as caffeine and sugar, so ensure that they match your lifestyle, dietary, and wellness needs. Finally, if you have any doubts or concerns about taking taurine, discuss these with your doctor or physician for case-specific advice.
Find out if taurine is right for you by browsing Cibdol’s complete selection of wellness supplements. And if you want to learn more about the role of amino acids in well-being, visit our CBD Encyclopedia for everything you need to know.
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