Taurine is an amino acid that was once labelled as non-essential simply because it is manufactured by our bodies, therefore the need for it as a supplement was not necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth and today taurine is considered an essential amino acid that is vital for many of the processes carried out within our bodies.
Amino acids are compounds that are derived from a protein diet such as fish, chicken and meat. The body breaks protein down into numerous amino acids which are then utilised to rebuild our body proteins from hair right down to the feet. But there’s more to amino acids then just rebuilding our structures. They are required for cell function, cell regeneration, for the formation of antibodies and hence for the immune system, for hormone production and for enzyme production. In effect they are equally important as vitamins and minerals are for the optimal function of the whole body.
Taurine’s benefits are very widespread, but before we find out its benefits, it is important to know that a deficiency state of taurine is very likely in vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as in those suffering from cardiovascular concerns and diabetics, as well as poor functioning of the liver and kidneys. Additionally, our ageing bodies simply do not manufacture sufficient taurine making supplementation vital.
The benefits of Taurine
Before I explain the benefits of taurine, I think it important to address the negative publicity associated with energy drinks and taurine. Taurine is included in numerous heavily advertised energy drinks and many people assume that taurine is the causal factor of the side effects, whilst actually nothing could be further from the truth. These energy drinks often contain high amounts of caffeine, in many instances as high as 300mg in a serving, which is equivalent to 4-5 cups of strong coffee. Side effects of such high doses of caffeine include nervousness, jitters, seizures and a racing heart.
Taurine can provide numerous benefits and listed below are some of the protective properties of taurine.
Weight loss and obesity - the consequence of obesity impacts nearly every area of our bodies. Our abdominal fat stores are known to cause inflammation, which can lead to cardiovascular concerns. Taurine has the ability to significantly help lower lipid levels within the bloodstream and improves the body’s ability to cope with excess glucose in the bloodstream. Lipid lowering may help to protect against cardiovascular concerns whilst glucose tolerance is significant because many obese people go on to develop diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease – the heart contains a high concentration of taurine and various studies indicate the benefits of supplementing taurine for a variety of heart concerns. In studies, taurine was found to increase the retention of potassium and magnesium in the heart muscle which are necessary for electrical stability and regular heart muscle contractions. Studies also suggest that patients with high blood pressure have lower than normal levels of taurine in the bloodstream. When taurine levels are lower than normal, a protein called ‘angiotensin’ is released that causes the elevation of blood pressure.
Cholesterol reduction – elevated cholesterol is a common feature of cardiovascular disease. Taurine is required for the production of a compound that causes more cholesterol to be excreted in bile. Taurine has also been shown to improve the ability to reduce low density lipoproteins (LDL) which is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’. In this way taurine may protect the body against the hardening of the arteries and cardiovascular disease.
Eye Protection – taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the retina and protects the eye from various toxins. Its levels also decline significantly with age. Age-related vision loss has many different causes, but high on the list of causal factors is oxidative stress on the light sensory cells in the retina. Taurine’s ability to remove damaging molecules in the eye may implicate its ability to protect the retina.
Tinnitus – generally damage to hearing occurs to the nerve cells that convert sound waves into electrical energy, which the brain becomes aware of. Like nearly all nerve cells, the hair cells within the ear depend upon the flow of calcium into and out of them. Taurine helps to control the flow of calcium into and out of the hearing cells in the ear. These properties may help to prevent progressive hearing loss and may also be invaluable in the control of tinnitus.
Liver Protection – the liver is the body’s master organ of detoxification filtering toxins and harmful chemicals from the bloodstream as they pass through. Studies indicate that taurine helps to protect the liver cells against oxidative damage thus ensuring that the liver cells efficiently remove harmful compounds. This is vital in both alcohol and non-alcohol fatty liver diseases both of which can lead to eventual liver failure.
Exercise – taurine helps muscles work harder, longer and safer. Taurine increases muscle contractility both within the heart and joints resulting in more powerful workouts. Taurine also helps to remove lactic acid build-up which means that you can carry on working out for longer than you would otherwise. Finally, taurine’s ability to mop up compounds that cause oxidative stress thus protecting them from damage.
With all these multiple benefits, it is no wonder that taurine is often called the longevity nutrient. The Japanese population has the highest longevity and this is thought to be due to the amount of taurine rich-foods consumed such as meat and especially seafood. Numerous studies indicate that the average omnivorous diet (meat and vegetables) provides approximately 58 mg per day. Studies indicate a daily dose of 1500 mg to 3000 mg per day may offer health benefits that are almost impossible to achieve from diet alone.
As we age all our processes age with us including the manufacture of taurine from cysteine within our bodies. I am not advocating high doses of taurine such as those used in clinical studies, however I do feel that if any of the above concerns are applicable to you then it would be prudent to introduce Taurine by Life Extension into your supplemental regimen even on a one-a-day dosage. Currently, there are no known side effects or drug interactions, however taurine is best avoided by pregnant women and nursing mothers.