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Taurine May Help Women's Hearts

Amino Acid Found in Dark Meat Poultry, Fish May Protect Women With High Cholesterol, Study Suggests
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 2, 2012 -- Taurine, an amino acid found in dark meat poultry and other foods, may be good for some people's hearts, according to a new study.

"People with high cholesterol may have a reduced risk of coronary heart disease if they have a high level of taurine in their diet," says researcher Yu Chen, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

Her research looked only at women. However, she suspects the same benefit may be found for men.

The study was small. Much more research is needed, Chen tells WebMD. Her study is published online in the European Journal of Nutrition.

The American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Taurine and Heart Disease Risk: Study Details

There hasn’t been a lot of research on taurine, Chen tells WebMD. The nutrient is found in dark meat turkey and chicken. It is also in some seafood, including white fish, mussels, and clams, she says.

It's also found in energy drinks. Some think it can improve athletic performance, although in a release Chen says the taurine in drinks is man-made and is in unstudied amounts. The taurine in her study is from natural sources.

Animal studies of taurine have found it is involved in many body processes such as blood pressure regulation. It has been found to have antioxidant properties.

Chen looked at data and blood samples collected from the NYU Women's Health Study. This study enrolled more than 14,000 women ages 34 to 65 between 1985 and 1991.

For this study, Chen compared blood samples and diet information from 223 women who developed heart disease or died from it during the study follow-up from 1986 to 2006.

The researchers compared these blood samples to those of 223 others who didn't get heart disease.

They divided the women into three groups, from lowest to highest taurine in their blood.

Overall, the reduction in heart disease risk was not substantial for those in the highest group compared to the lowest.

However, Chen did find a benefit when she looked only at those women who had high total cholesterol, over 250 mg/dL. (Under 200 is considered normal.)

Among those with high cholesterol, those with the highest blood levels of taurine had a lower risk of heart disease.

"Among women with high cholesterol, those with high taurine experienced a 60% reduction in coronary heart disease," she says.

Chen can't say how much or which foods to eat to get those blood levels.

Exactly why the taurine is linked with lower heart disease is not known. She says it could be due to taurine's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Eventually, those at risk of heart disease due to high cholesterol may be given a diet prescription in addition to medicine, Chen says.

However, she found an association, not cause and effect.

 

Taurine and Heart Disease Risk: Perspective

Taurine is gathering research interest, says Paramjit Tappia, PhD, a clinical research scientist at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre at the University of Manitoba.

He reviewed the findings for WebMD. He has researched the health benefits of taurine.

He says he would be cautious, however, about speculating that taurine's benefits extend to men until the study is done. "There is a lot of debate going on right now about gender differences in the ability to control lipids [cholesterol] with medicine or lifestyle changes," Tappia tells WebMD.

More research is needed, he says.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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