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Taurine: effect, areas of application, side effects

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 259 views

Taurine is known as a component of “energy drinks” (energy drinks) and is also often found in complex dietary supplements and parenteral nutrition solutions. As a naturally occurring compound in the body, taurine has numerous physiological effects. Among other things, it is involved in the development of the brain and visual apparatus. Here you can read everything you need to know about the effects and side effects of taurine.

This is how taurine works

Taurine is a breakdown product of the protein building blocks ( amino acids ) methionine and cysteine. Although it is occasionally referred to as an amino acid in the specialist literature, it is not an amino acid in the conventional sense – rather, amino sulfonic acid is the chemically correct name for taurine.

The human body can make the connection itself and is not dependent on an external supply. Taurine is naturally found in animal foods, especially fish, meat and milk.

In the body, the substance is found in many types of tissue. The highest concentrations are found in the brain , in the retina of the eye (retina), in the heart , in the muscles and the white blood cells ( leukocytes ). Taurine is also found in breast milk.

Taurine fulfills a variety of tasks in the body. These include:

  • Stabilization of cell membranes
  • antioxidant effect, ie binding of cell-damaging “free radicals” (aggressive oxygen compounds)
  • Participation in fat digestion: Taurine is attached to the bile acids formed there in the liver in order to improve their solubility. After being temporarily stored in the gallbladder , these bile acid conjugates reach the small intestine , where they are broken down again. The now free bile acids are only available for fat digestion.
  • Involved in the development of the central nervous system and the heart
  • antiarrhythmic effect, that is, taurine ensures a regular heartbeat

Other possible effects of taurine include:

  • anxiolytic properties
  • Prevention of glycation (the attachment of sugar to cell structures, affecting their function), particularly in the kidney

Taurine is often touted as cell protection for athletes with frequent overloads because of its involvement in membrane-stabilizing cell protection mechanisms and its antioxidant effect. However, experts say this effect is overstated.

As a component of energy drinks, taurine is said to make you fit together with caffeine . However, the stimulating effect of such drinks is based in particular on the high amount of caffeine.

It has not yet been possible to prove in high-quality studies that taurine, as is often propagated, improves mental and physical performance.

When is taurine used?

Taurine is used in medicines exclusively in the context of so-called parenteral nutrition. Doctors call parenteral nutrition artificial nutrition via nutrient infusions that are introduced directly into the bloodstream .

Newborns in particular receive such nutritional infusions, since their bodies cannot yet produce taurine themselves – their liver function is not yet fully developed. However, the substance is vital (essential) for them, for example for the development of the retina, the protection and stabilization of cell membranes, fat digestion and communication between nerve cells (neural transmission).

If there is a medical need for it, taurine can also be given long-term. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined that even with a daily intake of three grams, there are no negative effects or taurine side effects.

Taurine is also added to some dietary supplements and many energy drinks.

How Taurine is used

Taurine is administered as an infusion solution as part of parenteral nutrition.

As a dietary supplement, the substance is dissolved in drinks or taken in the form of capsules or pure/mixed taurine powder. It’s also found in many energy drinks (along with caffeine).

What side effects does taurine have?

Side effects usually only appear at very high doses. Individual cases report upset stomachs and burning sensations in the stomach. Taurine can cause drowsiness in children.

What should be considered when taking taurine?

If the maximum daily dosage is observed, taurine is relatively harmless, but people with kidney problems should avoid taking it (especially in higher dosages).

pregnancy and breast feeding period

There is no data on the use of taurine during pregnancy and lactation. For this reason, pregnant and breastfeeding women should refrain from taking it.

How long has taurine been known?

Taurine was first isolated from ox bile by German chemists in 1827 and named bile asparagine. The common name of 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid is taurine. It was first mentioned in scientific literature in 1838.

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