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Taurine

Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & Tips

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Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Taurine
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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.

Health Benefits of Taurine:

Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on the health effects of taurine:

1) Diabetes

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).

See more natural remedies for diabetes.

2) High 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.

Find out more about natural remedies 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.

See Natural Remedies For Heart Disease.

4) Anxiety

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.

Get the scoop on natural remedies for Anxiety.

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).

Related: Energy Drinks: What You Need to Know

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.

Side Effects

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.

Using 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.

Sources:

Ahn CS. "Effect of taurine supplementation on plasma homocysteine levels of the middle-aged Korean women." Adv Exp Med Biol. 2009;643:415-22.

Ballard SL, Wellborn-Kim JJ, Clauson KA. "Effects of commercial energy drink consumption on athletic performance and body composition." Phys Sportsmed. 2010 Apr;38(1):107-17.

Birdsall TC. "Therapeutic applications of taurine." Altern Med Rev. 1998 Apr;3(2):128-36.

Franconi F, Loizzo A, Ghirlanda G, Seghieri G. "Taurine supplementation and diabetes mellitus." Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Jan;9(1):32-6.

Hansen SH. "The role of taurine in diabetes and the development of diabetic complications." Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2001 Sep-Oct;17(5):330-46.

Kong WX, Chen SW, Li YL, Zhang YJ, Wang R, Min L, Mi X. "Effects of taurine on rat behaviors in three anxiety models." Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Feb;83(2):271-6.

Militante JD, Lombardini JB. "Treatment of hypertension with oral taurine: experimental and clinical studies." Amino Acids. 2002;23(4):381-93.

Miyazaki T, Matsuzaki Y, Ikegami T, Miyakawa S, Doy M, Tanaka N, Bouscarel B. "Optimal and effective oral dose of taurine to prolong exercise performance in rat." Amino Acids. 2004 Dec;27(3-4):291-8.

Seidl R, Peyrl A, Nicham R, Hauser E. "A taurine and caffeine-containing drink stimulates cognitive performance and well-being." Amino Acids. 2000;19(3-4):635-42.

Xu YJ, Arneja AS, Tappia PS, Dhalla NS. "The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease." Exp Clin Cardiol. 2008 Summer;13(2):57-65.

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