Taurine, an amino acid once considered nonessential, has been reclassified as a conditionally essential nutrient, based on new information researchers have revealed. Taurine plays a role in fat, protein and sugar metabolism and influences calcium levels and nerve function, according to registered dietitian Katherine Chauncey, Ph.D., Texas Tech Medical Center. Muscles also rely on taurine; thus, muscle cramps may respond well to taurine supplementation, in some cases.
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Exercise depletes taurine in the muscle tissue of patients with liver cirrhosis, found researchers at Ibaraki Prefectural Institute of Public Health, Mito, Japan. Supplementation with taurine reduces muscle cramps in the same patients. A study on laboratory animals published in the June 2004 issue of the "Journal of Gastroenterology" found that taurine levels in liver, brain, heart and muscle were lower than in animals with liver damage and significantly decreased in those animals after exercise. Based on the results of this preliminary animal study, taurine supplementation may be advisable as a measure to prevent taurine depletion in susceptible people. Further studies are needed to determine the effects of taurine supplementation on muscle pain in people susceptible to taurine depletion.
Taurine prevents muscle damage that leads to cramping and pain, says Simo Oja of The Center for Laboratory Medicine, Tampere University Hospital, Finland, and editor of the book "Taurine 6." The amino acid is present in high concentrations in skeletal muscles — also known as voluntary muscles — and in heart muscle. Taurine supplementation has been shown to prevent exercise-induced muscle fatigue and also muscle injury due to decreased blood and oxygen supply. A receptor for taurine in heart and skeletal muscle is responsible for maintaining high concentrations in those tissues. When that receptor is disabled, total exercise capacity is diminished, implying that taurine is necessary for proper muscle function.
Taurine supplementation will correct magnesium deficiency, perhaps alleviating muscle cramping, says Andrew Hall Cutler, Ph.D., author of the book "Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment." Magnesium is a necessary nutrient in muscle function and acts as a signal for muscles to relax. Magnesium deficiency can lead to painful muscle cramping and weakness, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Taurine regulates calcium, potassium and magnesium transport into cells and helps the body retain magnesium, says R.A.S. Hemat, author of the book "Orthomolecularism: Principles And Practice." Hemat adds that taurine deficiency symptoms are similar to magnesium deficiency symptoms and include muscle cramps, low back pain, constipation, fatigue and depression.