Taurine is a common ingredient in energy and sport drinks, leading many to believe that it somehow contributes to energy or concentration. There is evidence that taurine can improve overall feelings of well-being, concentration and memory, but this is not its primary purpose in the body. In fact, taurine is a rather multifaceted chemical, pervading most of the body's systems to play a significant role in its operation and maintenance.
Taurine is a nonessential amino acid, because the body can manufacture it naturally. The liver forms taurine from cysteine via the cysteine sulfinic pathway using pyridoxine, or vitamin B-6, zinc and manganese as cofactors. Alternately, alanine and glutamic acid, which are other amino acids, can inhibit taurine absorption. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, contains glutamic acid and, accordingly, will also prevent taurine absorption and reduce overall taurine levels. Foods that contain taurine include meat, fish and organ meat; breast milk also naturally contains it.
Taurine exists abundantly in cells throughout the body. In the brain, it acts as a neurotransmitter and a buffer for fragile membranes. It is inhibitory, as it suppresses the release of norepinephrine, an excitatory hormone that acts in tandem with adrenalin during stressful situations, and acetylcholine, which can be either excitatory or inhibitory, depending on the situation. In the cardiovascular system, it contributes to the utilization of calcium to maintain muscle health and functionality. In fact, a clinical study confirmed that taurine improved bone mineral density in calcium-deficient rats, according to Mi-Ja Choi and Nancy M. DiMarco in the article "The Effects of Dietary Taurine Supplementation on Bone Mineral Density in Ovariectomized Rats." Therefore, taurine may directly contribute to the general utilization of calcium throughout the body. Taurine may also contribute to eye health; those suffering from gradual eye degeneration exhibit abnormal taurine levels, according to Carl Pfeiffer, Ken Blum and Richard Smayda in "Healing Nutrients Within."
Interactions and Side Effects
Taurine may increase stomach acid in those who already produce an excess. Therefore, those with ulcers should avoid supplementing their diet with taurine. Regarding other nutrients, taurine assists with the transport of potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium. Taurine may also decrease cholesterol levels, as evidenced in clinical studies that involved hyperlipidemic rats, according to SMi-Ja Choi, Jung-Hee Kim and Kyung Ja Chang.
There is evidence that taurine can improve memory, concentration and mood, which may translate as sustained or a rise in energy. However, taurine does not provide energy; the body does not convert taurine into glucose and although it exists in every cell, it does not nourish those cells. According to MayoClinic.com, taurine may also improve athletic and mental performance, although the integrity of these claims remains uncertain.
- MayoClinic.com; Taurine is listed as an ingredient in many energy drinks. What is taurine? Is it safe?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.; June 26, 2010
- "The Healing Nutrients: Facts, Findings and New Research on Amino Acids"; Eric R. Braverman, M.D.; 2003
- "Taurine 7"; Junichi Azuma, Stephen W. Schaffer and Takashi Ito; 2009
- "Taurine 6"; Simo S. Oja and Pirijo Saransaari; 2006