The amino acid precursor compound taurine is found in very high concentrations in cardiac muscles and skeletal muscles, as well as white blood cells, in the tissues that make up the central nervous system such as the brain and the spinal cord. Taurine is found as a vital component of human bile and can be considered to be a building block for all the other amino acids in the body, this compound is required for the proper digestion of fats and for the proper absorption and assimilation of all the fat soluble vitamins. Taurine is also essential in the regulation and control of serum cholesterol levels in the blood. Individuals affected by disorders such as atherosclerosis, edema and various heart diseases, problems of blood pressure such as hypertension or blood sugar problems such as hypoglycemia can benefit from using supplements of taurine. Taurine is essential for the body to properly utilize essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, and the minerals calcium and magnesium in the body. For example, this amino acid plays a very specific role in reducing the loss of potassium from the muscles of the heart. Taurine can thus prevent the onset of potentially hazardous cardiac arrhythmias and related heart disorders.
The tissues of the brain are protected by the presence of taurine, this is especially so if the brain tissue is dehydrated in anyway. Supplements of taurine are often used in the treatment of mental disorders such as anxiety, and chronic problems like epilepsy, it is also used to curb hyperactivity, improve poor brain function and alleviate problems such as seizures. The brain tissues of children contain up to four times the amount of taurine found in the brains of adults - this signifies the importance of taurine in the process of growth and development. There may thus be a connection between a deficiency of taurine in the developing brain and the development of epileptic attacks in people. People affected by epilepsy also often suffer from a deficiency of the trace mineral zinc - the absence of this essential mineral in the required amounts might be the cause of this deficiency in the levels of taurine in the body. Taurine and zinc help in maintaining function of the eyes; a deficiency of taurine and zinc may impair vision. Taurine supplementation may be good for children with Down syndrome and muscular dystrophy. In some clinics taurine is used for treatment of breast cancer.
Many types of metabolic diseases can lead to the loss of excessive amounts of taurine through the urine. High loss of taurine through the urine can be induced by cardiac arrhythmias, some disorders of platelet formation, certain kinds of intestinal problems, or an overwhelming infection of candida. The presence of extreme physical or emotional stress, the presence of a zinc deficiency, or the excessive consumption of alcohol can all induce high loss of taurine in the urine. The ability of the body to utilize taurine in a proper manner is also affected by the excessive consumption of alcohol - this situation is normally evident in long term alcoholics. The requirement for taurine in the body is increased by diseases such as diabetes. At the same time, using supplements of taurine and cystine can reduce the need for insulin in the body.
Food sources that are rich in taurine include high protein food sources such as eggs, fish and meats, and dairy products like milk, however, taurine is not found in vegetable proteins in any significant amounts. Taurine can be synthesized from the amino acid cysteine of the synthesis which occurs inside the liver and from the amino acid methionine everywhere else in the body - the presence of sufficient amounts of the vitamin B6 is a requirement for the synthesis of taurine. Synthesis of taurine is especially crucial for the majority of vegetarians, as vegetarian diets lack taurine. Taurine supplements are required by all individuals suffering from genetic or metabolic disorders which may prevent the synthesis of taurine.
Taurine is not consumed in any significant quantity by vegans - who are vegetarians without dairy products or eggs in the diet. However, even vegans synthesize enough taurine in the body to avoid a deficiency of the compound in the body. Taurine is also not synthesized in sufficient levels by infants; this lack of synthesis is usually made up for by the abundant taurine present in human milk and taurine contained in most infant formulas. Taurine levels are also generally found at a lower level in the blood of diabetics.
Taurine supplements are not required by the majority of people, even vegetarians synthesize enough taurine in their bodies. Taurine is however, required by most infants, this requirement is met by taurine found either in human milk or in infant formulas. Nutritionally oriented doctors when dealing with people, who suffer from specific conditions, typically recommend using two grams of taurine taken thrice daily to make a total supplemental regimen of six grams of taurine on a daily basis.
Side effects and cautions
No toxic effects have been recorded with the use of supplemental taurine in any person using such supplements. The major action of taurine in the body is as a depressant on the nervous system. However, taking very large doses of taurine can induce the loss of short term memory in individuals using the supplement.