It may be the most important nutrient you never knew you needed. Taurine is an amino acid which is crucial to a number of your internal functions. These include:
- Forming bile salts, which play an important role in digestion;
- Regulating minerals such as calcium within cells;
- Supporting the general function of the central nervous system and eyes;
- Regulating immune system health and antioxidant function.
Taurine is a “conditionally essential” amino acid, which means that if you are healthy you can produce the minimal amount required for these essential functions. The main sources for it are meat, fish and dairy.
Certain situations make taurine supplementation essential for some people. These include heart or kidney failure, or premature infantsfollowing extensive intravenous feeding.
If the word “taurine” seems familiar to you and you can't quite place it, you're probably a fan of energy drinks. The amino acid is a major ingredient in beverages bottled by Monster, Rockstar, Red Bull and others, which may provide up to 600 to 1,000 milligrams in an 8-ounce serving. It's worth noting that the taurine found in energy drinks and most supplements is not derived from any animal products, and so is suitable for consumption by vegans.
And why would a vegan – or anyone else – want to supplement with taurine if they did not have to?
For one, research suggests that taurine may have benefits for people with diabetes. Long-term supplementation decreases fasting sugar levels without any changes in diet or exercise. Loading up on taurine may also even help prevent type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. In another study of type 1 diabetics, 2 weeks of of taurine supplementation significantly reduced arterial stiffness.
Another study has uncovered a link between higher taurine levels and significantly lower rates of death from heart disease, as well as reduced cholesterol and blood pressure.
There are indications that taurine can keep your blood pressure in check by decreasing the resistance to blood flow in the blood vessel walls. It may also greatly reduce the nerve impulses in the brain that cause blood pressure to increase.
Could you stand to lose a few pounds? Taurine has got you covered. In a study of a group of overweight people, 3 grams of taurine per day for 7 weeks reduced body weight and improved several heart disease risk factors.
But the reason you find taurine in so many energy drinks is its reputation for improving athletic performance. Studies indicate it can:
- Increase muscles’ ability to contract and produce force;
- Cause muscles to work harder and for a longer duration;
- Increase fat burning during exercise;
- Protect muscles from cell damage and oxidative stress;
- Remove waste products that lead to fatigue and cause the well-known “muscle burn.”
Most surprising of all, taurine has no negative side effects when used in the recommended amounts!