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Is Taurine Safe?

by |
author image Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
Originally from Maryland, Staci Gulbin started writing professionally in 2010. Her work has been published on a Baltimore news website as well as other online entities. Gulbin holds graduate degrees in biology and nutrition from New York University and Columbia University, and is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer.
Is Taurine Safe?
Top down view of two cans of energy drink surrounded by ice. Photo Credit FikMik/iStock/Getty Images

Taurine is an amino acid abundant in the nervous system and muscles of the body. While there is no dietary requirement for taurine, the protein can be found as part of various energy drinks and supplements claiming to enhance athletic performance. Before consuming taurine, consider some of the research performed on the protein so that safety precautions and intake recommendations can be followed.

Background

Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body and can be obtained through consumption of animal products such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and fish. There are no dietary requirements of taurine since the body can make it out of vitamin B6 and the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Those at risk for developing a taurine deficiency are vegetarians, whose diets may not provide the building blocks for making taurine, and those with diabetes, who usually have lower levels of taurine in their blood. However, it is unclear whether those with diabetes should supplement their diet with taurine.

Energy Claims

Taurine is found in a variety of energy drinks and is claimed to increase physical energy. A 2010 study in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" found that in comparison to ingestion of carbohydrate alone, congestion of protein such as taurine and carbohydrate during exercise demonstrated an ergogenic effect on endurance performance when assessed by time to exhaustion. However, it is unclear whether this increase of energy was due to ingestion of the protein or simply due to ingestion of more caloric energy. Researchers at Cornell University found in a 2008 study that taurine may actually have an inhibitory effect on the excitation of brain cells. It was found that taurine is a strong activator of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, receptors in a regulatory area of the brain called the thalamus that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It is suggested that taurine may actually be responsible for the energy "crash" that people feel after consumption of energy drinks. More research is needed to confirm taurine's exact role in the brain.

Health Claims

A 2010 study in "Atherosclerosis" suggests that taurine may be protective against the development of coronary heart disease. This suggestion is due to taurine's role in regulating blood pressure, in the conjugation of bile acids that break down fats and metabolize cholesterol, as well as taurine's role as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.

Safety Considerations

Taurine consumption is thought to be safe overall, however little is known about heavy or long-term effects of taurine use. Therefore, the MayoClinic.com recommends moderation in taurine consumption. It is also important to remember that energy drinks that contain taurine may also contain high amounts of caffeine that can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, and cause restlessness, nervousness, and irritability. In addition, some energy drinks may also contain high amounts of sugar that can add unnecessary calories to your diet.

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