by Lisa Breitenwischer, CHHC
Taurine is the most abundant amino acid you’ve never heard of.
The Japanese have a life expectancy that is among the highest in the world. Undoubtedly, there are many factors that play into the life spans of the longest-living populations, but evidence shows that they all have one thing in common: high dietary intake of an amino acid called taurine.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine, a lesser known amino acid, is not part of our muscle protein, yet is important in metabolism, especially in the brain. It’s essential in newborns as their bodies cannot make it. Adults can make it however, so it’s considered a non-essential, or conditional, amino acid. Certain vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and precursor amino acids (cysteine and methionine) must be available for us to manufacture taurine. If a person is deficient in cysteine or vitamin B6, it may be further required in the diet or supplemental form.
Taurine is high in meats and seafood especially in shellfish like oysters and clams.
Certain diets, particularly vegetarian or vegan diets, may lack adequate amounts of taurine. Disease states—including liver, kidney, or heart failure, diabetes, and cancer—can all cause a deficiency in taurine. And aging bodies often cannot internally produce an optimal amount of taurine, making supplementation vital.
Taurine plays a part in many aspects of good health:
- It’s essential for a healthy heart, brain, bones, vision, hearing, and more.
- It’s best-understood function is in creating bile, which is needed to metabolize fats.
- It’s thought to increase physical stamina and enhance athletic performance.
Dr. Hyla Cass, author of The Addicted Brain: How to Break Free, reports that taurine is helpful in treating:
- stress and anxiety
- sleep problems
- the manic phase of bipolar disorder
Taurine also has a role in a number of nervous system functions and shows promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Do You Need Supplemental Taurine?
Although it’s possible for your body to produce taurine on its own, you still need to obtain taurine through diet (fish or meat) or supplementation in order to achieve optimal amounts of this essential nutrient. Because of taurine’s essential role in the body, supplementing with taurine can provide numerous health benefits, including restoring insulin sensitivity, mitigating diabetic complications, reversing cardiovascular disease factors, preventing and treating fatty liver disease, alleviating seizures, reversing tinnitus, and more.
Can you rely on energy drinks to get all the taurine your brain and body needs?
Research has found that the amount of taurine used in energy drinks is so low that it won’t cause any side effects, but it won’t provide any benefits either. Stick to fish or meat!
While there are general guidelines for taurine supplementation, you may want to have your levels tested first by your Doctor or Naturopath. Keep in mind that some tests are more accurate than others.
Urine and stool tests are less likely to be accurate, especially for vegans, newborns and people with low zinc or the systemic fungal infection, candida. In these cases, these tests may show a deficiency or excess of taurine, which would not be an accurate measurement of total body taurine levels
Click here for a link on testing and supplementing Taurine.