Taurine is an amino acid, a chemical that is a required building block of protein. Taurine is found in large amounts in the brain, retina, heart, and blood cells called platelets. The best food sources are meat and fish.
You may see taurine referred to as “a conditional amino acid,” to distinguish it from “an essential amino acid.” A “conditional amino acid” can be manufactured by the body, but an “essential amino acid” cannot be made by the body and must be provided by the diet. People who, for one reason or another, cannot make taurine, must get all the taurine they need from their diet or supplements. For example, supplementation is necessary in infants who are not breastfed because their ability to make taurine is not yet developed and cow's milk does not provide enough taurine. So taurine is often added to infant formulas. People who are being tube-fed often need taurine as well, so it is added to the nutritional products that they use. Excess taurine is excreted by the kidneys.
Some people take taurine supplements as medicine to treat congestive heart failure (CHF), high blood pressure, liver disease (hepatitis), high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), and cystic fibrosis. Other uses include seizure disorders (epilepsy), autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eye problems (disorders of the retina), diabetes, and alcoholism. It is also used to improve mental performance and as an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells of the body from damage that results from certain chemical reactions involving oxygen (oxidation).
How does it work?
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why taurine seems to help congestive heart failure (CHF). There is some evidence that it improves the function of the left ventricle, one of the chambers of the heart. Taurine might also improve heart failure because it seems to lower blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is often too active in people with high blood pressure and CHF. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that responds to stress.
Possibly Effective for:
- Congestive heart failure (CHF). Taking taurine seems to improve heart function and symptoms in patients with moderate heart failure (New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional class II) to severe heart failure (New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional class IV). Some patients with severe heart failure rapidly improve from NYHA class IV to II after 4-8 weeks of treatment. Improvement seems to continue for as long as taurine treatment is continued, up to one year.
- Liver disease (hepatitis). Taking taurine might improve liver function in patients with hepatitis.
- Cystic fibrosis. Taurine supplementation might be useful along with usual treatment to reduce fatty stools (steatorrhea) in children with cystic fibrosis. However, it does not seem to improve growth, lung function, or other symptoms of cystic fibrosis.
- Mental performance. Early clinical research suggests that taurine, in combination with caffeine, can produce minor improvements in mental performance. It might improve attention and verbal reasoning, but doesn't seem to have any effect on memory.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Taurine is POSSIBLY SAFE for adults and children when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts. Taurine has been used safely in adults in studies lasting up to one year. It has been given safely to children for up to 4 months. People enrolled in research studies have not reported any side effects connected with the use of taurine. However, there is one report of brain damage in a body-builder who took about 14 grams of taurine in combination with insulin and anabolic steroids. It is not known if this was due to the taurine or the other drugs taken.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the safety of taurine in pregnancy and during breast-feeding. Avoid using it.
Bipolar disorder: There is some concern that taking too much taurine might make bipolar disorder worse. In one case, a 36-year-old man with adequately controlled bipolar disorder was hospitalized with symptoms of mania after consuming several cans of an energy drink containing taurine, caffeine, inositol, and other ingredients (Red Bull Energy Drink) over a period of 4 days. It is not known if this is related to taurine, caffeine, inositol, a different ingredient, or a combination of the ingredients.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Lithium interacts with TAURINE
Taurine might have an effect like a water pill or "diuretic." Taking taurine might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For the treatment of congestive heart failure: 2-6 grams of taurine per day in two or three divided doses.
- For the treatment of acute hepatitis: 4 grams of taurine 3 times daily for 6 weeks.