Taurine, an amino acid thought to help with neurological development, is found in breast milk, especially the early secretions known as colostrum. Research shows that taurine is especially essential in the first few weeks of an infant's life. Whether you feed your baby breast milk or formula, there are ways to ensure your child gets ample amounts of taurine in his diet.
In the first few weeks of life, an infant's liver is not mature enough to synthesize the enzyme cysteine sulphinic acid, which produces taurine. Therefore, additional taurine from the infant's diet is needed to promote brain development. Full-term babies only need this additional source of taurine for about two weeks, while prematurely born infants may need it for a longer period of time based on doctors' recommendations.
Although women tend to excrete more of most amino acids through their urine during pregnancy than when not pregnant, they actually retain more taurine than normal, according to a 1987 study published in the journal "Human Nutrition." Your body begins to slow the excretion of taurine starting at about the ninth week of pregnancy. Vegan and vegetarian mothers studied retained even more taurine than omnivore mothers during lactation, presumably to make up for the lack of taurine obtained through their diets. The study's authors concluded that these stores of taurine are contained in the maternal tissues for later use.
You can take taurine supplements -- with a doctor's permission and guidance -- while pregnant, but it may not be necessary, as your body already does the job of storing extra taurine for you. The effects of long-term or heavy taurine dosages are unknown, so use supplements only in moderation; you should only take 3,000 mg per day at the most. Many energy drinks contain taurine, but they may not be safe to consume during pregnancy due to the caffeine and other added supplements they tend to contain.
If you are feeding your baby formula instead of breastfeeding, consider one with added taurine. A 1993 study published in the journal "Acta Paedeatrica" found that infants fed a taurine-enriched formula had vitamin D absorption levels on par with those fed breast milk, while babies fed unenriched formula lagged behind. Your pediatrician will have the best advice on what to feed your baby, based on your and your child's personal health histories.
- "Voeding"; Taurine in breast milk and cow's milk - a literature review; Rutten, M.L.P.; July 1981
- "Human Nutrition"; Metabolism of taurine during reproduction in women; Naismith DJ, Rana SK, Emery PW.; January 1987
- MayoClinic.com: Taurine in energy drinks: What is it?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
- "Acta Paediatrica"; Influence of dietary taurine on vitamin D absorption; Zamboni G. et al; October 1993