Taurine is an amino acid sold in supplements and available in energy drinks. Taurine also occurs naturally in the body and plays a key role in many biological processes, such as detoxification and regulation of nerve-cell activity. Although low levels of taurine have been linked to several conditions (including eye diseases and cardiovascular problems), research on the health benefits of taurine supplements is fairly limited.
Uses for Taurine
Proponents claim that taurine can improve cognitive function, enhance sports performance, preserve eyesight, boost heart health, and increase energy levels. Taurine is also known to act as an antioxidant.
Health Benefits of Taurine
Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on the health effects of taurine:
There's some evidence that taurine may protect against diabetes and diabetes-related complications. In a 2006 report from Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, for instance, researchers analyzed findings from preliminary research and found that taurine may help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Published in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews in 2001, an earlier report indicates that taurine supplementation shows promise in the prevention of certain diabetes-related complications (such as atherosclerosis).
2) Blood Pressure
Taurine may help treat high blood pressure, according to a 2002 report published in Amino Acids. Looking at data from preliminary research, the report's authors found that taurine supplementation may lead to significant decreases in blood pressure. However, due to the lack of large clinical trials testing taurine's effects on blood pressure, taurine supplements cannot currently be recommended as a treatment for high blood pressure.
3) Heart Disease
Preliminary research suggests that taurine may help combat heart disease, according to a 2008 research review from Experimental and Clinical Cardiology. The review's authors note that taurine may help offer a number of cardiovascular benefits (such as protection against hardening of the arteries), but caution that more research is needed before taurine supplements can be recommended for the prevention or treatment of any heart condition.
In a more recent study, scientists discovered that taurine supplements may help reduce levels of homocysteine (an amino acid shown to raise heart disease risk when detected at elevated levels). Published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2009, the study involved 22 healthy middle-aged women. After four weeks of taking 3 grams of taurine in supplement form daily, study participants showed a significant decrease in homocysteine levels.
Preliminary findings from animal-based research suggests that taurine may offer anxiety relief. For example, a 2006 study from Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior found that rats treated with taurine experienced a significant decrease in anxiety.
To date, there is a lack of studies testing taurine's anti-anxiety effects in humans.
Taurine in Energy Drinks
Taurine is a common ingredient in energy drinks. While some preliminary studies show that taurine may improve mental performance and increase exercise endurance, overall research on the energy-enhancing effects of taurine is limited. What's more, a 2010 report published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine states that the fatigue-fighting effects of energy drinks are most likely due to their caffeine content (rather than their taurine content).
Side Effects of Taurine
Although taurine is generally considered safe, it may cause some side effects (including itching, nausea, headache, and dizziness). If you notice any serious side effects while taking taurine supplements, it's important to discontinue your use of taurine.
Although taurine may offer some beneficial health effects, self-treating an existing health problem with taurine supplements and avoiding doctor-prescribed care can have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of taurine supplements for a chronic condition, consult your doctor to determine a safe and effective dosage.
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