There are several taurine sources available to you, including your own body. That's why it's not an essential amino acid because as an adult, you produce it yourself. But it still plays a significant role in several aspects of the functioning of your body.
So it's a good idea to make sure you're consuming foods high in taurine. Meat is not only a great source of protein, but it also provides a quality source of taurine.
There are many natural taurine sources available in meat and other animal products. Most healthy adults produce sufficient taurine on their own, but some populations, such as infants, require a taurine-rich diet.
What Is Taurine?
Before you start making plans for your diet, it's essential to understand the role of taurine. Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid, similar to amino acids. Proteins contain amino acids, a fundamental cornerstone of healthy nutrition.
Taurine is essential for babies, but by adulthood, you produce enough on your own. Outside of your own body, the best source for taurine is meat such as chicken, beef and salmon. Taurine plays a role in several functions of your body, including working as a neurotransmitter. As such, it's essential that you maintain healthy levels .
You may need to take taurine supplements while you're splitting your taurine supply with your baby. Infants who aren't breastfed also may need taurine supplementation. As mentioned, babies do not produce taurine on their own, so they need to get it from breast milk or supplements. When breastfeeding isn't possible, the baby will need supplements.
Read more: What Do Amino Acids Do For Your Body?
Taurine's Role in Your Body
A January 2014 study in Amino Acids took an in-depth look into the role of taurine in the body. It plays a significant role in biological processes like bile acid conjugation, calcium homeostasis, osmoregulation and membrane stabilization. There is a correlation between taurine and inflammation. Inflamed tissues contain more taurine, believed to be due to its anti-inflammatory effect.
Taurine also acts as a detoxifier, reinforcing its regulatory role in the body. As such, a taurine deficiency can lead to several different types of medical issues. For example, it can disrupt calcium levels, harm your stomach lining and cause bacterial imbalances.
It was found that deficiencies impaired energy production and usage in a study published in the February 2016 issue of Amino Acids. This reduced energy function may relate to impaired respiratory chain function, all of which has a connection to the impaired breakdown of fuel in the mitochondria.
Skeletal Muscle Benefits
Taurine plays an essential role in your muscle function. It assists in the contraction and release of your muscles, according to a study in the January 2015 issue of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. Since contracting and releasing is how your muscles create movements and actions, taurine plays an important role in the overall movement of your body.
In fact, your muscles protect their taurine levels to ensure that they have enough to perform these functions. More studies are still needed, but taurine may be beneficial in muscle growth and stamina. In a similar vein, you need energy to grow muscles, and since taurine provides energy, it's even used in energy drinks.
Foods High in Taurine
With so many vital functions in your body, it's a good idea to make sure you're consuming foods high in taurine. This amino acid is only found in meats and other animal products such as dairy. Some common sources include chicken, beef and fish such as salmon.
A study in the November 2014 issue of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition found that exercise increases the taurine content of a muscle. So the muscles that are used the most have the most taurine. And since the heart is the hardest-working muscle in the body, it has the highest concentrations of taurine. For chickens, this means that their dark meat contains more taurine than their white meat.
Because the heart is the hardest working muscle in the body, it's not surprising that it has the most taurine. So if you're looking for something to eat that's high in taurine, a chicken heart is a great idea. Of course, if you prefer to skip organs, red meat is a great source of taurine as well.
Do Vegans Need Taurine?
If you get taurine from meat and animal products, it may seem that vegans are in trouble. Fortunately for adult vegans, humans produce taurine for themselves, although they should still monitor their levels for deficiencies. There are amino acids and other nutrients your body doesn't produce that you may have a difficult time getting enough of in your vegan diet.
Read more: 12 Tips to Getting a Vegetarian Diet Right
The September 2017 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition featured a study on the vegan diet. The researchers found that vegans shouldn't need taurine supplementation. Furthermore, vegan athletes shouldn't have a problem producing enough energy for their sports.
However, if your taurine levels are getting low, taking a supplement is an easy way to maintain your health. It's smart to monitor your nutrition and ensure your body is in balance. This is particularly true for people following an elimination diet.
What Conditions Benefit From Taurine?
Taurine isn't just something your body needs; it's beneficial for certain disorders as well. An article in the journal Amino Acids in January 2014 discusses the benefits of taurine for people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Due to its physiological function in the central nervous system, it can be beneficial for those with Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's attacks the central nervous system, which needs all the support it can get.
Huntington's disease is another neurodegenerative disorder that can benefit from taurine. A marker of the disease is the death of brain cells, which leads to a continuous loss of motor skills. While it's no cure, maintaining a diet rich in taurine will provide supplemental support to the nervous system.
Another condition that can be supported by taurine is Alzheimer's. This well-known and tragic disease attacks patients' memories. Typically, it starts slowly and worsens with time, and while taurine can't stop or slow it down, it does provide needed additional support.
- University of Rochester Medical Center: “Taurine”
- Amino Acids: “Taurine and Inflammatory Diseases”
- Amino Acids: “Impaired Energy Metabolism of the Taurine-Deficient Heart”
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: “Vegan Diets: Practical Advice for Athletes and Exercisers”
- Amino Acid: "Taurine and Central Nervous System Disorders"
- Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: "Taurine and Skeletal Muscle Function"
- Chemical Land: Taurine
- University of South Florida: Department of Integrative Biology
- "Journal of Animal Physiology": Taurine Concentrations in Animal Feed Ingredients
- Ask Dr. Sears: Breastfeeding
- Neonatology: Is Taurine Essential for the Neonates?