Attention deficit disorder, ADD, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, are mental health diagnoses made by qualified mental health professionals using the criteria established by the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic Statistical Manual-IV Text Revision. The high prevalence of ADD/ADHD makes it a serious public health issue in the U.S. Taurine, an amino acid known for its role in brain development, may promote positive changes in the developing child's brain.
Taurine is an amino acid that has gained notoriety in recent years with its inclusion in many energy drinks. Taurine supports neurological development and, although it is not a muscle protein, taurine supports metabolism, particularly in the brain. Taurine is an important amino acid for the central nervous system, found in the body in high concentrations in the heart and brain. Taurine works in the brain and the heart to stabilize cell membranes by regulating the electro-chemical forces, inhibiting and modulating neurotransmitters in the brain and helping to stabilize cell membranes. Taurine aids the movement of essential minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium in and out of cells, helping to generate nerve impulses.
Sources of Taurine
Taurine is a conditionally essential fatty acid that the body is able to produce on its own. We also get taurine by consuming foods rich in this amino acid. Not everyone needs to supplement taurine, as their diets are rich in animal proteins containing the nutrient. Taurine-rich sources include breast milk, dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, milk and seafood. Taurine is synthesized for use as a supplement by combining cysteine, methionine and vitamin E. For the most part, the human body produces adequate taurine and will get enough through consumption of natural taurine sources.
ADD/ADHD and Treatment
Mental health and school-based professionals use a combination of behavioral, medical, parenting and school based interventions to treat ADD/ADHD. The root cause of ADD/ADHD is unknown; however, symptoms arise as a result of trauma and abuse, nutritional deficiencies, chemical imbalances, allergic responses to food and chemicals, or a poor diet. ADD/ADHD may also be a result of the brain's inability to regulate itself. If the latter is true, or if there is a nutritional deficiency, then taurine supplementation may provide some benefit.
Taurine and the Brain
It is unknown if it is safe to supplement with taurine over the long term. There are approximately 50 different neurotransmitters in the human brain, but communication between brain cells uses only about 10. The food we consume affects how effectively these neurotransmitters operate. You can positively affect the functioning of your brain, including your memory, thought process and mood, through proper nutrition. Inhibitory amino acids, like taurine and others, play a major role in behavior and emotions. Taurine is the second-most important inhibitory transmitter in the brain after GABA.
Taurine and ADD/ADHD
There is minimal evidence available in 2011 around the efficacy of using taurine to treat ADD/ADHD. Taurine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, whose main use has been to help treat epilepsy and other excitable brain states, where it functions as a mild sedative. Taurine's efficacy for these conditions makes it a potential candidate for a nutritional approach to ADD/ADHD.
- Vanderbilt University Psychology Department: Taurine + Energy Drinks: Meant to Be or Doomed?; Sonal Patel; September 2006
- Healthy.Net; Amino Acids: Taurine; Elson M. Haas M.D.
- Mayo Clinic; Taurine in Energy Drinks: What is it?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
- Inteligen; ADD & ADHD Natural Control of ADD & ADHD; Billie J. Sahley, Ph.D., CNC
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)