Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid found abundantly in the brain, retina, muscle tissue, and other organs throughout the body.
Taurine plays many important roles in the human body, including supporting the central nervous system and providing immune health. It is also involved in the formation of bile salts that aid digestion and lipid absorption.
Taurine can be consumed in foods such as eggs, meat, and fish or by way of dietary supplements. It is also added as an ingredient to energy drinks.
This article provides a review of the potential uses of taurine. It also covers possible side effects of the amino acid, interactions, dosage information, and guidance in selecting supplements.
Dietary supplements are not regulated the way drugs are the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, or NSF International.
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, they are not necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and ask about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.
How Does Taurine Function in the Body?
Taurine is commonly referred to as a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning the body can produce it naturally, except in certain instances, like during illness and stress.
Taurine is synthsized from the antioxidant methionine and the amino acid cysteine in the presence of vitamin B6.
It plays an important role in various functions of the body, including maintaining electrolyte balance, formation of bile salts and fat digestion, and the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
It is also considered important to immune health due to its antioxidant properties. It’s also often used to enhance stamina in sports nutrition.
Because the body makes taurine, deficiency is rare. However, aging and different health conditions can reduce our body’s ability to make taurine.
Active ingredient(s): Taurine
Alternate name(s): 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, L-taurine, tauric acid
Legal status: Approved for use as a nutritional supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1984
Suggested dose: There is no established dose, but most supplements contain 500 to 2,000 milligrams of taurine. Studies have evaluated dosages from 1 gram to 6 grams per day.
Safety considerations: Taurine can interact with anesthetics, analgesics, antidepressants, antibacterials, antiepileptics, alcohol, and aspirin.
Uses of Taurine and Health Benefits
Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.
There are many claims surrounding the health benefits of taurine. However, much of the research has been conducted in animal or lab models.
Some human research evaluates the use of taurine with other ingredients, such as caffeine. Because there is such a wide spectrum of use, it is difficult to understand the full benefits of taurine completely. Longer, higher-quality research studies are needed.
Below are some of the areas of research around taurine.
Although popular as an ergogenic aid (assisting in athletic performance), one recent review found that the effects of taurine on athletic performance are mixed.
This included aerobic and anaerobic performance (exercises that differ based on intensity, intervals, and types of muscles used), metabolic stress (a physiological process of increasing the load on a muscle), muscle soreness, and muscle recovery.
Scientists researched a group of studies looking at taurine as a single ingredient, dosed in ranges of 1 gram to 6 grams anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to two hours before exercise. Some individuals in the studies also supplemented with taurine regularly.
The researchers suggest that the type of exercise, age, and timing of supplementation can influence results. More studies are needed before taurine can be recommended for athletic performance or recovery.
Taurine may aid in heart health through:
- Improvement of lipids (fat profiles)
- Balancing electrolytes
- Antioxidant effects
In one study, 120 individuals with prehypertension (high blood pressure that’s not high enough to be classified as hypertension) took a 1.6 gram taurine supplement daily or a placebo (an intentionally ineffective treatment) for 12 weeks.
The taurine supplements significantly reduced the participants’ systolic blood pressure (the top number) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number), especially in those with high-normal blood pressure, compared with a placebo.
Taurine is thought to lower blood pressure through vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels in the body).
In another study, people with heart failure took 500 milligrams of taurine three times a day for two weeks or a placebo.
Those in the taurine group had significantly lower total cholesterol, triglyceride levels, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (considered “bad” cholesterol). and levels of an inflammatory biomarker associated with an increased risk of cardiac events (high-sensitivity C reactive protein).
Larger studies, however, are needed to confirm any heart health benefits of taurine.
Other Purported Benefits
Taurine has been studied for other alleged benefits, as well. However, these studies have been preliminary, using either lab or animal models. More research is needed to determine taurine’s effects in humans for these purposes.
In addition to the above uses, taurine has also been studied for its potential role in:
- Eye health
- Liver function
- Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease
Side Effects of Taurine
In healthy adults, there do not seem to be any negative effects of taking taurine. However, the long-term effects are unknown.
Drug-supplement interactions can occur in people who take certain medications, such as blood pressure medicine and drugs metabolized in the kidneys. Taurine supplementation can increase the blood pressure–lowering effects of these drugs.
Lastly, when taurine is taken along with caffeine, as in energy drinks, it can result in high blood pressure and increased heartbeat.
Large health institutions caution against using single amino acids, like taurine, for long periods due to the risks of creating a negative nitrogen balance, which indicates a loss of protein. This can cause your kidneys to work harder.
In addition, pregnant people, breastfeeding people, and children should not supplement with taurine. Taurine should not be consumed with alcohol.
Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking any supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.
How much taurine you take will depend on what you are using it for.
In studies, most doses of taurine range from 0.05 grams (50 milligrams) to 6 grams (6,000 milligrams).
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) estimates that taurine is safe when taken in doses of up to 6,000 grams daily.
Supplementation may be needed when under stress or with certain health conditions.
People who do not eat meat, fish, or dairy may also need supplementation due to the low taurine concentration in plant-based products. It has been suggested that the bioavailability is higher when taurine is ingested on an empty stomach.
Talk with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) before supplementing with taurine to determine the most appropriate dosage.
What Happens If I Take Too Much Taurine?
To date, there is no established tolerable upper intake for taurine. However, most literature suggests that taurine of up to 3 grams per day is safe, and the ESFA indicates that taurine is also safe at up to 6 grams per day.
Still, it is suggested that more research be done on the higher dosage amounts of taurine administration.
Taurine can have interactions with the following:
- Anesthetics (drugs used to prevent pain during procedures)
- Antidepressants (drugs used to treat depression)
- Antibacterials (drugs used against bacterial infections)
- Antiepileptics (drugs used to treat seizures)
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
People who take blood pressure medications should also consult their healthcare provider before taking taurine.
It’s important to note that these and other potential taurine interactions are not well-documented.
Always carefully read the ingredients list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. You should review supplement labels with a healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications you take.
How to Store Taurine Supplements
Always read labels for storage instructions. Taurine should be stored in a cool, dry place with a tightly closed lid to prevent exposure to sunlight and moisture. Keep out of the sight and reach of children and pets.
Supplements like taurine should be discarded after one year or as indicated on the packaging.
Sources and What to Look For
Taurine is found in foods like fish, particularly shellfish, and meat.
Aiming to meet your taurine needs through food is the best approach because food contains various nutrients that work together in your body. If you do not eat meat, fish, or dairy, you may not meet your taurine needs. Discuss with your healthcare provider or an RD or RDN whether supplementation is right for you.
Taurine is found in animal products, specifically the darker meat of animals like chicken, beef, and turkey. Fish and certain types of seaweed also contain taurine.
The foods that contain the highest amount of taurine include:
Lower amounts of taurine can be found in dairy products like yogurt and milk. The highest amounts, greater than 1,000 milligrams, are in energy drinks.
When purchasing supplements, it is best to choose those that are third-party certified. Third-party certification like NSF, USP, and ConsumerLab.com certifies supplement quality. It verifies that what the supplement label says is in it is, in fact, in it.
Taurine supplements are synthetic forms of taurine, which means they are not made from animals. Usually, they are free of animal products, but it’s always good to read labels.
Amino acid supplements can be sold as single amino acids, like taurine, or as combinations of amino acids, such as branch chain amino acids and L-carnitine. They each have a different function and purpose.
Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid naturally made in the body and found in the cells of many organs. It plays an important role in the body, supporting the central nervous system, immune health, and digestion.
Taurine has been studied for its use in heart disease, exercise performance, and other health purposes. Still, more research is needed before taurine supplementation can be recommended for these health benefits.
Aging, illness, and stress can reduce the amount of taurine in our bodies. Mostly, you can get enough taurine through food sources, such as meat and seafood. In rare cases, supplementation may be needed.
If you are unable to get an adequate amount of taurine from your diet or you would like to explore supplementation, discuss your options with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does taurine do in the body?
Taurine is in the cells of the body and serves many functions. It scavenges unstable molecules called free radicals, assists in making bile salts, and maintains electrolyte balance in the cells.
Some research suggests that taurine depletion can lead to a wide range of diseases, including problems with the heart, kidneys, pancreas, and eyes.
Why is taurine used in energy drinks?
Taurine is used in energy drinks for its potential to increase mental and physical performance and recovery.
Energy drinks also contain other ingredients like caffeine that may also have similar effects, so it’s difficult to know which ingredient is responsible for its effects.