Taurine is a nonessential amino acid, which means that it
is manufactured from other amino acids in the liver; it does not have to be
obtained directly through the diet.
Taurine is synthesized from the essential amino acid
methionine. It works as a neuromodulator or membrane-active amino acid that
helps the cell to hold onto potassium. In the central nervous system, taurine
has been known as a neuroinhibitory neuromodulator that works along with
gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glycine, and glutamine. Taurine is also
necessary for the management of potassium levels in tissues such as the heart.
Recent research also indicates that taurine may be a very important amino acid
for thinning bile and preventing gall stones. Researchers have fed animals a
high-cholesterol diet supplemented with taurine. After a few weeks, cholesterol
levels in the liver dropped significantly. This prevented the formation of gall
stones from the cholesterol-rich bile.
Taurine has been shown to help prevent epileptic seizures
in some children at doses between 400 and 1,200 mg per day. It has also been
shown to be useful in the prevention of cardiac arrhythmias or heartbeat
irregularities in animal studies. Taurine has recently been used
therapeutically for such problems as epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias,
cholesterol-saturated bile, and dystrophies. Dose ranges of taurine are from
200 to 2,000 mg per day in divided doses.
Taurine is synthesized from methionine, which is found in
greatest concentration in animal products. It is possible that strict
vegetarians on a diet that is poorly balanced for protein could suffer from
deficiencies of methionine, and have tissue deficiencies of taurine. The
conversion of methionine to cysteine and on to taurine requires vitamin B-6;
therefore, vitamin B-6 deficiencies can result in taurine insufficiencies. This
may produce loss of potassium from cells such as the heart. Taurine is also
high in white blood cells and seems to be involved in the respiratory burst
that results in proper immune function.
Insufficiencies of taurine can result in alteration of
immune function and increased risk to free radical damage.
Vegetables and grains do not contain taurine; it is only
found in animal products. Taurine is a reasonably safe amino acid and has been
used effectively in a number of clinical applications.