Taurine (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Acomprosate, glycochenodeoxycholic acid, glycocholic acid, taltrimide, taurochenodeoxycholic acid, taurocholic acid, tauro-UDCA, tauroursodeoxycholic acid, TUDCA, ursodeoxycholic acid.
Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, was originally discovered in ox (Bos taurus) bile and was named after taurus, or bull. A nonessential amino acid-like compound, taurine is found in high abundance in the tissues of many animals, especially sea animals, and in much lower concentrations in plants, fungi, and some bacteria. As an amine, taurine is important in several metabolic processes of the body, including stabilizing cell membranes in electrically active tissues, such as the brain and heart. It also has functions in the gallbladder, eyes, and blood vessels, and may have some antioxidant and detoxifying properties.
Taurine is a constituent of some energy drinks, including Red Bull®. Numerous clinical trials suggest Red Bull® and similar energy drinks may be effective in reducing fatigue, and improving mood and endurance. However, these drinks contain other ingredients, which may also offer benefit in these areas, including caffeine and glucuronolactone. The effect of taurine alone in energy drinks has not been studied. Thus, the effectiveness of taurine in energy drinks is unclear and further research is still required.
Several taurine derivatives are being investigated for medical use, such as taltrimide as an antiepileptic drug. Other taurine derivatives in various stages of development include acamprosate (antialcoholic), tauromustine (anticancer), and tauroursodeoxycholic acid (liver disorders).
The efficacy of taurine has been investigated for diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), cystic fibrosis, liver disorders, cardiovascular disorders, and nutritional support. Although promising in many fields, additional study is needed before a firm recommendation can be made for these indications. Taurine is added to many infant formulas based on the decreased ability to form taurine from cysteine in this population.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Nutritional supplement (infant formula):
Early evidence suggests that taurine supplementation may aid in auditory maturation, fatty acid absorption, and increased serum taurine levels. However, additional study is needed in this area.
Congestive heart failure (CHF):
Preliminary study suggests that taurine may be beneficial as an adjunct to traditional medications for symptoms of congestive heart failure. Taurine may be superior to coenzyme Q10, although further study is warranted to confirm these findings.
The interest in taurine for individuals with cystic fibrosis is based on its potential to increase effects of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), as well as its potential to increase nutritional status. However, results are mixed. More study is needed to drawn a firm recommendation in this area.
Diabetes mellitus (type 2):
It has been proposed that diabetes patients have decreased taurine levels. Currently, there is limited available evidence to recommend for or against the use of taurine in the treatment of diabetes.
Energy drinks containing taurine, along with other ingredients such as caffeine and glucuronolactone, have been available for about a decade. Overall these drinks have been suggested to decrease sleepiness associated with driving, increase concentration, mood, and memory, and positively affect well-being and vitality. Further study is required to examine the effect of taurine alone.
Preliminary evidence suggests that taurine may be beneficial in epileptic patients. However, additional study is needed in this area.
Hypertension (high blood pressure):
Preliminary results suggest that taurine may be beneficial in lowering blood pressure in individuals with borderline hypertension. Additional study is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
Iron deficiency anemia:
Preliminary study suggests that taurine aids in the ability of iron supplements to increase hemoglobin, red blood cell count, and serum ferritin. Additional study is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
Currently, the evidence in support of taurine in liver disease is minimal and additional study with positive results is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.
Preliminary study indicates that taurine supplementation may result in improvements in myotonic complaints. Although promising, additional study is needed to confirm these findings.
Nutritional support (TPN):
The use of taurine has been examined in total parenteral nutrition in various patient groups (trauma, cancer, and long term patients). Preliminary study is promising, but more study is needed in this area.
Currently, there is insufficient available evidence to recommend for or against the use of taurine in the treatment of obesity.
Surgery (coronary bypass):
Taurine may act as an antioxidant. The results from preliminary study are encouraging; however, more trials are needed in this field before a firm recommendation can be made.
Currently, there is insufficient available evidence to recommend for or against the use of taurine as a vaccine adjunct.
Vision problems (fatigue):
Taurine supplementation may reduce visual fatigue due to visual display terminals. Until further information is available, no firm recommendation can be made.