Despite urban myths, taurine does not come from bull urine or bull semen. The so-called “wonder molecule” is a type of amino acid found in many foods that’s added to energy drinks because of its benefits. In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about taurine.
Our bodies produce taurine as an amino acid. Those with specific diseases such as diabetes can benefit from taking it as a supplement. The name is derived from the Latin word taurus, which means ox or bull — so that may be the source of the confusion regarding its origin.
The main sources of taurine are animal foods, such as meat, fish, and dairy. They are often added artificially to energy drinks, but it is not recommended to drink them in high amounts due to other ingredients that could be harmful. An average diet provides about 40–400 mg of taurine per day.
Chemical processes can synthesize taurine from other source molecules in much the same way your body does. There are many laboratories all over the world that produce synthetic taurine through a process known as ammonolysis.
What are its key benefits?
Taurine has widespread benefits. Its direct effects include maintaining proper hydration, forming bile salts which are important in digestion, regulating minerals such as calcium, supporting the general function of the central nervous system, and regulating immune system health and antioxidant function.
Since it’s a conditionally essential amino acid, a healthy individual can produce the minimal amount required for these essential daily functions. However, higher amounts may be required in rare cases, making taurine essential for some people — such as those with heart or kidney failure.
Taurine may improve blood sugar control and combat diabetes. Long-term supplementing decreased fasting blood sugar levels in diabetic rats. Some animal research suggests that an increased intake of taurine could help prevent type 2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels.
At the same time, taurine may help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Research shows a link between higher taurine levels and significantly lower rates of death from heart disease, as well as reduced cholesterol and blood pressure.
Taurine could also help reduce high blood pressure by decreasing the resistance to blood flow in your blood vessel walls. It may also minimize nerve impulses in your brain that increase blood pressure and reduce inflammation and artery thickening, according to research
Can it boost exercise performance?
Taurine may have benefits for athletic performance. In animal studies, taurine caused muscles to work harder and for longer and increased the muscles’ ability to contract and generate force. In mice, it reduced fatigue and muscle damage during a workout.
In human studies, taurine has been shown to remove waste products that lead to fatigue and cause muscle burn. It also protects muscles from cell damage and oxidative stress. What’s more, it increases fat burning during exercise.
Other studies indicate that trained athletes who supplement with taurine experience improved exercise performance. Cyclists and runners have been able to cover longer distances with less fatigue. Studies also supported taurine’s role in reducing muscle damage.
In addition to these performance benefits, taurine may aid weight loss by increasing your body’s use of fat for fuel. In cyclists, supplementing with 1.66 grams of taurine increased fat burning by 16%.
Are there any side effects?
According to the best available evidence, taurine has no negative side effects when used in the recommended amounts.
While there have been no direct issues from taurine supplements, athlete deaths in Europe have been linked to energy drinks containing taurine and caffeine. This has led several countries to ban or limit the sale of taurine.
However, these deaths may have been caused by large doses of caffeine or some other substances the athletes were taking.
As with most amino-acid-based supplements, issues could potentially arise in people with kidney problems
How should taurine be supplemented?
The most common dosages of taurine are 500–2,000 mg per day. However, the upper limit for toxicity is much higher — even doses above 2,000 mg seem to be well tolerated.
Research on the safety of taurine suggests that up to 3,000 mg per day for an entire lifetime is still safe. While some studies may use a higher dose for short periods, 3,000 mg per day will help you maximize the benefits while staying within a safe range.
The easiest and most cost-effective method to achieve this is through powder or tablet supplements, which can cost as little as US$6 for 50 doses.
While you can obtain taurine naturally from meat, dairy, and fish, most people will not consume enough to meet the doses used in the studies discussed above.
So, should I take taurine or not?
Researchers call taurine a “wonder molecule” because few supplements provide as many potential health and performance benefits.
Whether seeking to improve your health or optimize your sports performance, taurine can be a very cost-effective and safe addition to your supplement regimen. However, as always, be sure to check with a trained doctor to make sure you’re all good to go.