Taurine ~ The Energy Drink Amino Acid
By Tyler Woodward
What Is Taurine:
Taurine is a naturally occurring sulfur containing amino acid that was originally isolated from the bile acid of from which it received its name taurine. Taurine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that humans can produce it from other amino acids. Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids found in the body, but is predominantly found in excitatory tissues like the heart, brain and eyes. Taurine plays a number of roles in the body including:
- Aids In Bile Synthesis
- Acts As A Neurotransmitter
- Regulates Intracellular Calcium
- Regulates Autophagy
- Protects Against Inflammation
Taurine can by synthesized from cysteine as long as there is adequate amounts of Vitamin B6 and cysteine present in the diet. Cysteine is also a conditionally essential amino acid that requires adequate amounts of Vitamin B6 and methionine to be created. Although the body can synthesize taurine, assuming it has sufficient amounts of the prerequisite nutrients, we do not produce enough taurine to meet our body's requirements. In fact, the majority of our taurine intake comes through our diet, specifically the consumption of meat and seafood. For these reasons vegetarians and vegans are much more likely to be deficient in taurine due to a lack of taurine in their diet.
Additionally, under stressful conditions like a caloric deficit, excess oxidative stress, hormonal imbalance, or other nutrients deficiencies the body can make taurine an essential amino acid as this restricts the body's ability to produce it. This is why taurine is sometimes referred to as a "conditionally essential" amino acid.
Benefits Of Taurine:
Taurine has been shown to exert a number of beneficial effects in the body including:
- May Increase Insulin Sensitivity † -
- May Act To Protect The Heart †
- May Increase Exercise Performance † -
- May Help To Reduce Depression And Anxiety † -
- May Fight Neurodegenerative Diseases Like Parkinson’s And Alzheimer’s †
- Reduces Neuroinflammation & Systemic Inflammation
Prevents Against (Excess) Excitation In The Brain
Mechanisms Of Taurine:
- Regulates Ca2+ Homeostasis - Calcium is an extremely important electrolyte in the body, but in the wrong place, in the wrong amounts it can inhibit the cell from functioning properly. Normally, the majority of calcium stores within a cell reside outside the cell and when a cell receives a stimulus and “excites” calcium enters the cell. Taurine helps to excrete excess calcium from the cell, while also inhibiting further calcium from entering into the cell, helping to restore the cell back to homeostasis.
- Acts As An Inhibitory Neurotransmitter - Taurine has recently been shown to act as a nonspecific neurotransmitter and is able to bind with both the glycine and GABA receptors, but taurine receptors have not yet been found. Generally exerts a smaller effect than glycine or GABA on their respective. Within the glycine or GABA receptors of the brain taurine helps to limit excitation of the neurons. This is also likely one of the reasons that taurine is used in conjunction with caffeine in energy drinks in order to help balance out the caffeine.
- Cytoprotective And Neuroprotective - In the brain, taurine is readily able to counteract glutamate-induced excitation. Excess amounts of glutamine in the neuron prevents the cell from relaxing resulting in excitotoxicity and can potentially result in the death of the neuron. Taurine also helps to clear glutamate from the synaptic cleft.
- Anti-Inflammatory - Due to taurine’s chemical structure its able to exert antioxidant like effects in the body helping to end the chain of free radical reactions by acting as a free radical scavenger. Taurine also plays a role in phosphorylation and making sure the proteins are shaped correctly...Taurine also plays an essential role in maintaining the health of the eyes protecting them from oxidative stress. Multiple studies of taurine depleted animals prevented their eyes from developing properly resulting in blindness.
- Improves Liver Health - Supplemental taurine has been shown to increase the concentration of taurine in the liver, leading to improved liver function in mice. Supplemental taurine has been found to improve lipid profiles in the liver and may have beneficial effects on Alcohol-Induced Fatty Liver or Non-alcohol induced fatty liver. Interestingly, taurine supplementation may worsen alcohol-induced liver damage if consumed with alcohol, but if taken after alcohol consumption may help to reduce liver damage.
- Stimulates Bile Production - Bile is an essential part of lipid digestion and regulates our body's ability to absorb fat and the fat-soluble vitamins contained within the fat molecules. Taurine conjugates (combine) with bile acids helping to form the bile salts found in the digestive tract and supplemental taurine has been shown in mice to increase bile production. TUDCA a taurine containing (conjugated) bile supplement has also been shown to be effective in increasing bile production in humans decreasing cholestasis, liver enzymes and increasing insulin sensitivity.
- Acts As An Osmolyte - Due to taurine's unique chemical structure it can hold a positive or negative charge depending on its environment. This helps to regulate the cells osmotic (electrical) charge, helping to maintain the electrical balance of the cell by regulating the electrolytes sodium and calcium.
Read More: Why Is Beef Liver Nature's Superfood
Best Food Sources Of Taurine:
- Beef Liver
- Beef Jerky
- Fatty Fish
While supplements are generally not as ideal as food sources, supplemental taurine has been shown to very effective with minimal negative effects, making supplemental taurine (yes even redbull) relatively safe and healthy for use.
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