Taurine Amino Acid: Sources and Health Benefits

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2022

What is taurine?

Taurine is a compound that is similar to amino acids. Sources of taurine include energy drinks, pork, beef and other foods and health benefits of taurine include that it is a component of bile acids that is used to improve the absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins.
Taurine is a compound that is similar to amino acids. Sources of taurine include energy drinks, pork, beef and other foods and health benefits of taurine include that it is a component of bile acids that is used to improve the absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins.

Taurine is a compound that is similar to amino acids. It is a component of bile acids that are used to improve the absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins. It also is said to regulate heart rhythm, stabilize cell membranes, and decrease the overactivity of brain cells. 

Taurine has a chemical makeup like that of other amino acids, so it is important in metabolic body processes. It is also speculated to have antioxidant properties, but not much is known about the long-term effects of taurine.

Taurine is an amino-acid-like compound essential to babies. An adult can produce their own taurine, but it can also be found in abundant amounts in fish and meat. Usually, sufficient amounts of taurine are produced by your body from hypotaurine and cysteine. 

Taurine has numerous functions in the body, one of which is processing in the brain as a neurotransmitter. 

Taurine is commonly found in healthy amounts in the retina, brain, heart, and reproductive organ cells. It is also found in abundant amounts in current energy drinks. This makes the drinks a major source for the supplementation of taurine. 

Little is known about the effects of supplementation on the endocrine system, though. Research is still being compiled on the structure of taurine, as well as its synthesis, metabolism, distribution, mechanisms, safety, effects, and therapeutic uses. 

Where can you find taurine?

Taurine is a major component of energy drinks, which are very popular. Taurine is also a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator that is inhibitory. The structure is the same as that of gamma-aminobutyric acid. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a prominent neurotransmitter in the brain.  

Taurine is plentiful in the body, and the body has about 1 gram per kilogram. Foods like pork, beef, poultry, seafood, and processed meats contain a lot of taurine content. If you eat a lot of seafood and meat, you are likely taking in enough taurine dietarily. Vegans and vegetarians eat much less, so they have much lower circulating levels because no plant-based foods contain large amounts of taurine.  

Most American diets provide 123–178 mg of taurine a day. Taking in one 8-ounce energy drink can make this average intake go up 6 to 16 times. Therefore an energy drink can help those who have a vegetarian diet. Vegan diets have almost no taurine, so drinking an energy drink would increase levels of taurine. 

How is taurine taken in?

Taurine naturally is found in fish, meat, dairy products, and human milk. It is also available as a dietary supplement. The research is still pending, but some suggest that supplementation with taurine could improve athletic performance. In some studies, people with congestive heart failure that supplemented their taurine levels several times a day showed increased capacity for exercise

Some other research has suggested that the combination of caffeine and taurine improves mental functioning. More research is needed, though, because the findings are controversial, as is consumption of energy drinks. 

Energy drinks are high in other ingredients like caffeine, sugar, and herbal stimulants. Additional increases in caffeine can speed up your heart rate and your blood pressure. It can also disrupt your sleep and increase anxiety levels. Sugar can add unneeded calories. 

How does the body use taurine?

A good deal of taurine is expelled as urine, along with sulfate. The majority of the sulfate from taurine is made through bacterial metabolism in the GI system and then absorbed. 

Taurine can be broken down by bile acids to act as a detergent in lipid actions. In this secondary form, it is circulated through the liver, giving bacteria an additional chance to be converted to sulfate and to be eliminated in urine. 

Since taurine is inhibitory and similar to GABA, it binds to receptors to work as a neurotransmitter. It has a complex relationship with numerous hormones. The direct effects on the secretion of hormones are still not fully understood. Some clinical studies of acute and chronic nervous and endocrine effects of taurine need to be expanded upon so the true relationship can be understood. 

What are the health benefits of taurine?

Taurine is said to have widespread anti-inflammatory properties. Its supplementation has been said to have benefits that help with the treatment of epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and heart failure. In animal studies, it has been shown to aid in protection against toxicity caused by ammonia, alcohol, lead, and other compounds. 

Also, derivatives of taurine like homotaurine have been studied for therapeutic use. Homotaurine has been shown to have anti-amyloid activity. This activity is said to protect against the growth of Alzheimer's disease. Other derivatives have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. 

The following are also somewhat tested therapeutic uses for taurine:

  • Congestive heart failure: Taurine helps to increase the effectiveness and the force of heart muscle contractions. It is sometimes administered supplementarily at 2 grams, three times a day under the supervision of your doctor. 
  • Iron Deficiency and Anemia: Taurine has been researched in a double-blind study and shown to improve the reaction of iron therapy in young women who have iron-deficiency anemia. It is administered supplementarily. 
  • Cystic fibrosis: Taurine functions as an amino acid and component of bile acids, both of which are important for the digestion of fat. Taking in additional supplementation of taurine could help to improve the digestion of fat. It is administered supplementarily based on body weight. 
  • Type 1 diabetes: Taurine supplementation has been shown to improve the function of blood vessels in people that have type one diabetes. It should be taken supplementarily three times a day.
  • Pre and post-health from surgery: Taurine serves as an amino acid and appears to have important roles in cell function immunity. Supplementation may reduce inflammation. It is given as a supplement before and after surgery. 

There are many benefits that are hypothetical but have not been proven through studies and research. For instance: 


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How much taurine do you need?

Amino acids are available as single or combination amino acids. They also come as proteins, food supplements, and multivitamins.  The various forms include tablets, powders, and fluids. 

If you eat enough protein in your diet, you have all of the amino acids that your body needs. If you don’t take in enough taurine, supplementation may be needed. This could happen during parenteral nutrition. This is due to the fact that your body cannot make enough of it on its own. 

Babies eventually develop the ability to produce their own taurine but may need supplements if they are not breastfed. A lot of infant formulas and nutrition supplements taken parenterally have taurine added. 

Are there any side effects of taurine?

Using supplementation of a single amino acid could lead to a negative nitrogen balance. This could hamper how well your metabolism kicks in and strain your kidneys. 

For children, single amino acid supplements like taurine can lead to growth problems. 

You should not take high doses of single amino acid supplements for an extended period of time. Moms who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use supplements that contain taurine. New mom breast milk has increased levels of taurine compared to cow milk. Taurine is supplemented in infant formula that is made from cow's milk. 

Although there is no specific evidence linking taurine to bad effects when it is used at the same time as other medications, there could be a relationship between supplementation of taurine with cytochrome systems. These systems are used to regulate liver metabolism. More specifically, taurine keeps the cytochrome system from breaking down over 70 substrates. This includes many commonly used analgesics, anesthetics, antibacterials, antidepressants, and antiepileptics. Notably, taurine adds to oxidative stress in the liver when taken alongside acetaminophen or alcohol.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/23/2022

Brigham and Women's Hospital: "Taurine."

Cleveland Clinic Foundation: "Taurine, energy drinks, and neuroendocrine effects."

Kaiser Permanente: "Taurine."

Mayo Clinic: "Taurine is an ingredient in many energy drinks. Is taurine safe?"