What Is Taurine?

Medically Reviewed by Shelley A. Borgia, CCCA on December 09, 2022
3 min read

Alongside caffeine and sugar, taurine appears as a main ingredient in many energy drinks. But before you dismiss it, note that taurine is an important chemical for your bodily functions. 

Taurine is an essential amino acid that helps with things like your digestive, cardiovascular, skeletal, muscular, and nervous system functions. Most people get their daily requirements of taurine through their diet, but taurine supplements have been used to treat some medical conditions. 

Adult bodies make their own taurine from a nonessential amino acid called cysteine. High-protein foods have enough cysteine for the human body, so most people don’t need supplements. 

Babies, on the other hand, can’t make their own taurine. They get it from breast milk or formula that has taurine supplements. 

Natural sources.High-protein foods with taurine include:

  • Meat, especially dark-meat poultry
  • Seafood, particularly shellfish
  • Dairy products
  • Seaweed 

Energy drinks. Taurine’s role in energy drinks requires further research. It’s possible that taurine and caffeine work together to improve mental performance and energy. The taurine in energy drinks augments the caffeine. The amount of taurine isn’t enough to provide long-term effects, making it an inadequate source. 

The primary reason for the controversy around energy drinks is the caffeine and sugar content, not the taurine. The caffeine and sugar can lead to problems with your heart rate and blood pressure, which can be made worse by the taurine. 

Taurine supplements. Aside from a balanced diet, taurine health supplements are the most effective source of taurine. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements. 

Doctors may prescribe taurine supplements for a lack in your diet or to help prevent or treat conditions including:

Congestive heart failure. Taurine may boost the strength of your heart contractions to protect against congestive heart failure

Anemia. Taurine supplements help your body use iron better, making them effective for iron deficiency and anemia. 

Cystic fibrosis. Taurine is also a part of bile acids. Supplements can promote proper fat digestion and can be used as an adjunct therapy in cystic fibrosis with fat malabsorption.

Nervous system health. Taurine supplements can support your central nervous system. They may be used to treat anxiety, seizures, and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). But more research is needed. 

Immune health. Taurine plays an important role in immune cell functions. Taurine supplements, especially in surgery health, may ease inflammation. 

Type 1 diabetes. Taurine supplements might support blood vessel function in people with type 1 diabetes

Taurine may also help with:

Exercise. Due to taurine’s support for heart health and blood flow, it has been used as an exercise supplement. Studies have shown that people taking taurine supplements for congestive heart failure also had better exercise capacity. 

Additionally, taurine can be used before high-intensity exercise to prevent damage to your muscles and improve physical performance. 

Weight loss. Taurine is often marketed as a dietary supplement. In small studies, it reduced weight in overweight or obese participants. 

Safe in moderation. With a balanced diet and enough protein, you should be getting all the taurine and amino acids you need. If you have a lack of taurine, as with an IV infusion (or parenteral nutrition), you might take supplements. Check with your doctor about the proper dosage. 

Side effects. An excess of taurine can lead to:

  • Negative nitrogen balance
  • Growth problems in children
  • Kidney strain 

Interactions. If you are on antihypertensive medications, taurine may strengthen the effects of the drugs. This can be dangerous when trying to maintain blood pressure. 

Large amounts of taurine mixed with alcohol or caffeine may have dangerous effects.