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Taurine

Common Name(s): 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, Bos taurus, Tau, Taurine

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 1, 2018.

Clinical Overview

Use

Supplemental taurine has been evaluated for use in cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, and for its CNS effects. Large quality clinical trials that might establish a definitive place for taurine in therapy are lacking, and results from animal studies have yet to be translated to the clinical setting.

Dosing

Taurine has been studied in doses of 1 to 6 g/day. Chronic hepatitis: Taurine 2 g 3 times daily for 3 months. Exercise: Various dosages and treatment durations of taurine, either alone or as part of a combination energy product, have been evaluated for effects on exercise. Hypertension: Supplemental taurine 3 to 6 g/day (treatment duration range, 1 to 8 weeks). Portal hypertension: Taurine 6 g/day for 1 month.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding supplementation above normal requirements is lacking, and caution is warranted. Taurine passes to the developing fetus through maternal circulation during pregnancy and to the newborn via breast milk. It may be protective against neural tube defects. It is also an ingredient in many baby formulas.

Interactions

Taurine inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP-450) 2E1, and any drugs that are substrates of this isoenzyme may be impacted with coadministration. See Drug Interactions section.

Adverse Reactions

No adverse events have been noted for dosages up to 3 g/day.

Toxicology

Cardiovascular events have been reported following excessive consumption of energy drinks; however, it is difficult to attribute these events directly to taurine because the drinks contain multiple ingredients and energy drink consumption is often accompanied by excessive alcohol intake or physical activity. A proposed safe level of taurine consumption is 3 g/day; however, taurine has been tested in doses as high as 10 g/day for 6 months. Information regarding the safety of long-term taurine supplementation is lacking.

Source

Taurine is an organic acid that occurs naturally in food, especially in shellfish (eg, scallops, mussels, clams) and in the dark meat of turkey and chicken, as well as in other meats and eggs.Froger 2014 It does not appear to be destroyed through cooking. A strict vegan diet is likely to have a very limited intake of taurine; however, taurine can be manufactured in the body. Energy drinks can contain taurine 1 to 3 g per serving, in addition to other ingredients.Abebe 2011, De Carvalho 2017, Eudy 2013 Typical taurine consumption in the American diet is 123 to 178 mg daily.Caine 2016 Additionally, taurine is found in abundance in the human body, up to 1 g/kg of body weight. Higher concentrations occur in the brain, leukocytes, heart, and retina.Caine 2016, Chen 2013, Ripps 2012

History

Taurine was first isolated from ox bile in 1827 by German scientists Friedrich Tiedemann and Leopold Gmelin. Its name derives from the Latin word Bos taurus, meaning "ox" or "bull."Eudy 2013, Ripps 2012

Chemistry

Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is a derivative of cysteine with high water solubility. It is not a typical amino acid because it has no carboxyl group and is more accurately described as an aminosulfonic acid. Taurine can be made endogenously in the body from methionine and cysteine in the presence of vitamin B6, and is a major constituent of bile.Abebe 2011, Sarkar 2017, Wójcik 2010 It plays a role in the modulation of intracellular free calcium levels.Ripps 2012 Despite taurine's highly polar nature, it crosses the blood-brain barrier.Sarkar 2017

Uses and Pharmacology

Taurine is absorbed via the small intestine and transported to the liver before being released into circulation. It can enter cells via an active transporter, which then responds to the intracellular concentration. A high taurine concentration downregulates the taurine transporter and taurine is excreted by the kidneys; reabsorption into the renal tubules occurs if taurine concentration is low.Wójcik 2010 Taurine plays an important role for normal development in humans, particularly in brain and retinal development.Ripps 2012, Sarkar 2017

Animal and in vitro studies confirm that taurine possesses antioxidant activity, which may be one of the mechanisms by which taurine exerts its therapeutic actions. In these studies, taurine protected against renal and liver injury. One study in particular found taurine exerts hepatotoxic effects in parenchymal hepatocytes exposed to sumatriptan.Khalili 2016 In animal studies in which diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and metal and other toxicities were induced, oxidative stress biomarkers improved with use of taurine.Abebe 2011, Chen 2012, Das 2012, Espe 2013, Silva 2011, Zinellu 2012 Other mechanisms described include modulation of synaptic transmission at gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and modulation of calcium channels in the heart.Ito 2012

Anti-inflammatory effects

Animal and in vitro data

In some in vitro studies, a positive effect of taurine against allergic inflammation was demonstrated.Nam 2017

In a rat model of intracerebral hemorrhage, taurine 50 mg/kg given intravenously exerted anti-inflammatory effects, upregulated hydrogen sulfide content, and reduced P2X7 receptor expression.Zhao 2018

Cardiovascular effects

Animal data

Many animal studies have been conducted using varying methodologies to demonstrate the hypotensive effect of taurine, and reviews of these studies have been published.Abebe 2011, Rahman 2011 The proposed mechanisms of action include effects on catecholamines, increased diuresis/natriuresis, normalization of cation transport, modulation of the renin-angiotensin system, and suppression of vasoactive mediators.Abebe 2011 In a study of rats, short-term intravenous administration reduced systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressures. However, long-term taurine supplementation for a period of 4 weeks caused hypertensive effects in female rats but not in male rats. All rats experienced tachycardia.El Idrissi 2013 Findings in another study in rats suggest taurine supplementation may protect against the increase in blood pressure associated with long-term (ie, 2 and 3 months) administration of anabolic androgenic steroids.Rosca 2016

Animal studies also support a beneficial effect of taurine in cardiac injury and heart failure.Beyranvand 2011, Soukoulis 2009 In a rat model of myocardial infarction, taurine combined with selenium improved contractility and normalized lactate dehydrogenase, creatinine kinase-MB, and brain natriuretic peptide levels better than either agent alone.Dallak 2017

In a rat model of atrial fibrillation, administration of taurine 99 mg/kg inhibited atrial restructure modeling by reducing inflammatory and fibrogenic mediators such as interleukin 6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, angiotensin II, and matrix metalloproteinase 9.Yang 2017

In a murine model, taurine exerted cardioprotective effects against cisplatin-induced cardiotoxicity.Chowdhury 2016

Clinical data

Limited clinical studies have demonstrated a positive effect of taurine in hypertension. Studies used supplemental taurine 3 to 6 g/day (treatment duration range, 1 to 8 weeks).Abebe 2011, Wójcik 2010, Yamori 2010 Limited studies with small numbers of participants have shown potential benefit with taurine supplementation in heart failure, with increased ejection fraction, increased exercise time, and antiatherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects observed.Ahmadian 2017, Beyranvand 2011, Soukoulis 2009 In one study, 500 mg of taurine given 3 times daily for 2 weeks to patients with heart failure resulted in a reduction in QT segments and an increase in PR segments following exercise. Additionally, systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and rate-pressure product were all reduced with taurine supplementation.Ahmadian 2017 Potential for use as an antiatherosclerotic and antihypercholesterolemic agent has also been postulated based on limited clinical data.Murakami 2014, Wójcik 2010

CNS effects

Taurine is structurally similar to GABA and is a partial agonist of the GABAA receptor.Santora 2013 Levels of taurine increase in the brain when under stress, suggesting a potential neuroprotective role.El Idrissi 2013

Animal and in vitro data

Studies in rodents have evaluated effect of taurine on learning and memory, as well as physical performance. In one study, taurine improved learning and memory impairment via enhanced antioxidant capacities and reduced inflammation.Tu 2018 In another study, taurine improved muscular strength and memory performance in rats.Sajid 2017 In a study in mice, taurine regulated motor learning behavior; mice receiving long-term taurine supplementation exhibited motor learning deficits.Santora 2013 An increased ability to learn was demonstrated in a study in aged rats, while in another study, intracerebral, but not oral, administration resulted in improved learning and memory.Ito 2012 Long-term supplementation of taurine improved age-related decline in spatial memory acquisition and retention in a murine model. Additionally, taurine increased levels of both GABA and glutamate.El Idrissi 2013 Caffeine combined with taurine improved memory and attention in rats, while energy drinks improved only attention and no other parameters.Valle 2017 In a rodent model of maternal alcohol consumption, maternal taurine supplementation was associated with neuroprotective effects and preserved learning and memory processes in offspring; however, supplementation given exclusively to affected adult offspring later in life did not result in protective effects.Ananchaipatana-Auitragoon 2015

Taurine prevented cocaine-induced addiction through suppression of locomotor sensitization and conditioned place preference in one study. In the same study, taurine demonstrated analgesic effects.Banerjee 2013 An antidepressant-like effect was demonstrated in rats receiving a high-taurine diet for 4 weeks, but was not noted in rats fed a low-taurine diet for 2 weeks.Toyoda 2013 Taurine demonstrated mixed results against epilepsy in animal models; benefit in seizures has been speculated due to hyperpolarization of neurons and inhibition of their firing. Taurine is also believed to protect neurons from glutamate-induced neuronal excitotoxicity.Oja 2013

In a murine model of chronic unpredictable mild stress–induced depression (exposure from day 1 to 28), pretreatment with taurine (administered daily 1 week prior to induced depression and continued through day 28) produced antidepressant activity and prevented the dysregulation of hormones and neurotransmitters.Wu 2017

Taurine exerted protection against stroke-induced neuronal injury as demonstrated by protection in human neuroblastoma cells under hypoxic conditions.Chen 2013

Clinical data

Limited quality clinical studies exist for taurine alone. A review of the literature suggests that taurine alleviates seizures in about one-third of patients; however, effects appear to diminish with time, likely due to the body adapting to the increase in taurine supply by enhancing urinary excretion of taurine.Oja 2013

In a phase 2, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, taurine 4 g/day for 12 weeks in addition to low-dose antipsychotics improved psychotic symptoms but not cognition in patients with first-episode psychosis.O'Donnell 2016

A study assessing taurine as a biomarker for autistic spectrum disorder found that 32% of study children with autistic spectrum disorder had low taurine levels, suggesting further research is needed to explore taurine's connection with autism.Park 2017

Diabetes

Taurine has been studied for its glucose-lowering effects and insulin-like action. Its hypoglycemic effects occur through enhanced insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, stimulation of insulin secretion, and reduced oxidative stress.Sarkar 2017

Animal data

Decreased insulin resistance and improved glucose tolerance have been demonstrated in many rodent studies.Batista 2013, Borck 2018, Ito 2012, Kim 2012, Lee 2011, Ribeiro 2012 Taurine exerted nephroprotective effects in a model of streptozotocin-induced diabetes in rats.Pandya 2013 Also, the addition of taurine to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor therapy or ACE inhibitor plus metformin therapy may confer additional renal protection based on a study of diabetes-induced nephrotoxicity in rats.Pandya 2017 The addition of taurine to drinking water beginning 4 months after induction of diabetes in rats suppressed the increase in excretion of urinary proteins, suggesting a potential renal protective role.Higo 2008 In a model of rats with diabetic erectile dysfunction, taurine ameliorated erectile response and reduced penile fibrosis.Ruan 2016 Similarly, another study found taurine improved sexual function in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes by reducing blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels, enhancing libido, and improving erection.Yang 2017 Taurine also improved testicular steroidogenesis, increased sperm count and motility, and reduced sperm abnormality in rats with streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetes.Liu 2017 In diabetic rats, taurine reduced reactive oxygen species, DNA damage, and inflammatory cytokines.Caletti 2018 Given taurine's beneficial effects on the retina, it may have a role in diabetic retinopathy.Sarkar 2017

Clinical data

Patients with diabetes showed decreased circulating taurine levels, and an association between fetal taurine malnutrition and insulin resistance later in life has been suggested.Ito 2012, Lee 2011 However, despite suggested effects based on animal study data, only a limited number of clinical trials have been conducted, with the majority demonstrating no effect on glucose or insulin.Ito 2012 There is also a lack of evidence to support taurine as a fat burner.Jeukendrup 2011 Taurine may exert protective effects against complications of diabetes, such as endothelial dysfunction, retinopathy, and neuropathy; however, these effects have not been conclusively established.Ito 2012, Moloney 2010

Emphysema

Animal data

Taurine ameliorated particulate matter-induced emphysema in rats.Li 2017

Exercise parameters

Animal data

In studies in rodents, reductions in markers of oxidative stress due to exercise with the use of supplemental taurine were observed.Eudy 2013, Silva 2011 Prevention of muscle atrophy and modulation of skeletal muscle calcium homeostasis have also been observed with administration of taurine in hindlimb-unloaded rats.Pierno 2012

Clinical data

Limited clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate taurine alone compared with energy drinks that contain taurine. Small trials of athletes and cyclists have shown equivocal effects, and study designs and dosages have differed widely (single dose of 1 to 2 g of taurine, to up to 6 g daily over 7 days). Some effects on time to exhaustion and maximal workload have been demonstrated in some, but not all, studies.Eudy 2013, Rutherford 2010, Waldron 2018 In a study investigating effects of taurine on repeated sprint exercise, taurine lowered preexercise heart rate and improved incremental end-test power output, with subsequent detrimental effects on sprint performance, independent of cadence. Short endurance performance can be acutely enhanced after taurine ingestion, but this effect might not be maintained across longer periods of exercise or induce the need for longer recovery periods.Waldron 2018 Taurine 3 g administered after exercise for 8 weeks did not improve aerobic parameters in triathletes; however, it did decrease markers of oxidative stress.De Carvalho 2017 In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover, randomized trial, a beverage containing taurine 1,000 mg did not improve cardiorespiratory fitness indices, power, concentration, or immediate memory in adult soldiers when given 45 minutes before exercise.Kammerer 2014

Gingivitis

In vitro data

Taurine has been used topically as an antioxidant membrane in gingivitis.Gültekin 2012

Immune function

Animal data

Taurine enhanced immune system in mice with induced T-cell lymphoma. The addition of taurine to chemotherapy exerted an antitumor effect.Dong 2017

Liver effects

Animal and in vitro data

Taurine has been investigated in lipopolysaccharide-induced liver injury and fatty liver disease in vitro and in animal models.Abd Elwahab 2017, Gentile 2011, Liu 2017 Taurine alleviated hepatocyte injury and exerted antioxidant activity in rats with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.Zhu 2017 Taurine may be beneficial in hepatic encephalopathy by preserving brain and liver mitochondrial function in the setting of increased ammonia.Niknahad 2017

Clinical data

Taurine has been investigated in the treatment of chronic hepatitis. In patients receiving 2 g of taurine 3 times daily for 3 months, reductions in cholesterol, triglycerides, and liver function enzymes were observed.Hu 2008 In a study of patients with portal hypertension, reductions in mean hepatic venous pressure gradient occurred in patients receiving taurine 6 g/day for 4 weeks, while hepatic venous pressure gradient increased in the placebo group.Schwarzer 2018

Musculoskeletal effects

Animal data

In an Achilles tendon–healing rat model, an injection (200 mg/mL) of taurine to the repair site was associated with greater tendon strength and reduced inflammation and edema compared with saline only.Akdemir 2015 Data from an MDX mouse model suggest that targeting taurine deficiencies may be a potential treatment option for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an X chromosome–linked muscular disease impacting boys.Terrill 2015

Taurine has been shown to facilitate musculotendinous wound healing in animal studies. It is likely to modulate this through enhanced antioxidant activity and collagen synthesis.Tack 2018

Clinical data

In a double-blind, crossover study of male long distance triathletes, 3 g of taurine given for 8 weeks was not associated with beneficial effects on physical performance, inflammatory markers, or parameters of muscle damage.Martinez Galan 2017

Nephrotoxicity

Animal data

Oral administration of taurine 50 mg/kg/day given 1 week prior to and for another 7 days concomitantly with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) ameliorated the nephrotoxic effects caused by 5-FU.Yousef 2017

Obesity effects

Taurine modulates lipid and glucose metabolism, enhances energy expenditure, suppresses inflammation, and inhibits appetite, all of which play a role in its antiobesity effects.Murakami 2017

Animal data

In a murine model, taurine deficiency and reduced cysteine dioxygenase expression in adipose tissue were noted in obese mice. Taurine administration prevented obesity and also increased resting energy expenditure; however, it did not impact food intake or physical activity levels.Tsuboyama-Kasaoka 2006 Taurine supplementation decreased fat accumulation in retroperitoneal and periepidydimal fat pad weights in obese mice.Nardelli 2011

Clinical data

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, effects of taurine 3 g/day or placebo for 8 weeks were evaluated in obese and nonobese women. Both treatment groups exhibited a reduction in weight, with no difference between groups; however, women in the taurine group had a reduction in inflammatory and lipid peroxidation markers. Taurine was also associated with an increase in adiponectin, an adipocyte-derived adipokine that is low in obese patients and suggested to be an indicator of metabolic conditions.Rosa 2014

Ocular effects

Data suggest that photoreceptors (cone photoreceptors more so than rod photoreceptors) in the retina are extremely sensitive to deficiencies in taurine. Susceptibility to light increases in the setting of taurine deficiency. It has been suggested that taurine deficiency is linked to retinal diseases with photoreceptor degeneration as well as those with retinal ganglion cell loss.Froger 2014

Animal and in vitro data

Cultured cells showed decreased retinal neurodegeneration with applied taurine.Froger 2012 Data suggest neuroprotection of retinal ganglion cells in rodent models of glaucoma.Froger 2014 In a model of diabetic retinopathy, taurine exerted anti-inflammatory and antiapoptotic activities. It also modulates the overproduction of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which causes retinal edema and angiogenesis.Froger 2014 In a rabbit model of dry eyes, taurine (combined with sodium hyaluronate) protected against oxidative damage to corneal epithelial cells. Additionally, the combination was found to improve signs of dry eye.Bucolo 2018

Clinical data

Deficiency of taurine in elderly patients has been associated with the development of cataracts.Froger 2014 A combination of taurine, diltiazem, and vitamin D slowed visual deficits in patients with retinitis pigmentosa.Pasantes-Morales 2002

Oxidative stress

Antioxidant enzyme activity was ameliorated with taurine administration in a rat subacute dichlorvos toxicity model.Akande 2017

School attitude assessment

Clinical data

Meals high in taurine and provided for 5 days improved academic self-perception, attitudes towards teachers, goal valuation, motivation/self-regulation, and overall total scores in Korean high school students.Park 2017

Stroke

In vitro data

A therapeutic role for taurine in mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes has been postulated.Niknahad 2017, Rikimaru 2012

Dosing

Taurine has been studied in doses of 1 to 6 g/day.

Chronic hepatitis

Taurine 2 g 3 times daily for 3 months has been studied.Hu 2008

Exercise

Various dosages and treatment durations of taurine, either alone or as part of a combination energy product, have been evaluated for effects on exercise.De Carvalho 2017, Eudy 2013, Rutherford 2010

Hypertension

Supplemental taurine 3 to 6 g/day (treatment duration range, 1 to 8 weeks).Abebe 2011

Portal hypertension

Taurine 6 g/day for 1 month has been used in a randomized clinical study.Schwarzer 2018

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding taurine supplementation in amounts above normal requirements is lacking, and caution is warranted. Taurine passes to the developing fetus through maternal circulation during pregnancy and to the infant via breast milk. Mammalian fetuses and infants are dependent on taurine given maternally, either via the placenta or mother's milk; it is an important link in mother-fetus or mother-infant bonding.Tochitani 2017 Maternal taurine deficiency leads to impaired development in animal offspring.Aerts 2002, Caine 2016, Kilb 2017, Roysommuti 2014, Scabora 2015 Taurine may be protective against neural tube defects.Zhang 2017 A systematic review found that taurine was not associated with any effect on growth in low birth weight infants.Cao 2018 The Food and Drug Administration approved the inclusion of taurine in baby formulas in 1984 because taurine deficiency has been linked to reduced fat absorption and impaired bile acid secretion, retinal function, and hepatic function.Aerts 2002, Caine 2016

Interactions

Theoretical interactions include potentiation of anticoagulant therapy,Abebe 2011 increased taurine concentrations with concomitant antihypercholesterolemic agents,Zinellu 2012 and depletion of taurine due to therapy with vigabatrin.Jammoul 2009 Taurine inhibits CYP2E1, and any drugs that are substrates of this isoenzyme may be impacted with coadministration.Caine 2016

Agents with antiplatelet properties: Consider therapy modification. Herbs with anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of agents with antiplatelet properties. Bleeding may occur.Mousa 2010, Spolarich 2007, Stanger 2012, Ulbricht 2008

Anticoagulants: Consider therapy modification. Herbs with anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of anticoagulants. Bleeding may occur.Mousa 2010, Spolarich 2007, Stanger 2012, Ulbricht 2008

Herbs (anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties): Consider therapy modification. Herbs with anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of other herbs with anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties. Bleeding may occur.Mousa 2010, Spolarich 2007, Stanger 2012, Ulbricht 2008

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents: Consider therapy modification. Herbs with anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents. Bleeding may occur.Mousa 2010, Spolarich 2007, Stanger 2012, Ulbricht 2008

Salicylates: Consider therapy modification. Herbs with anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of salicylates. Bleeding may occur.Mousa 2010, Spolarich 2007, Stanger 2012, Ulbricht 2008

Thrombolytic agents: Consider therapy modification. Herbs with anticoagulant/antiplatelet properties may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of thrombolytic agents. Bleeding may occur.Mousa 2010, Spolarich 2007, Stanger 2012, Ulbricht 2008

Adverse Reactions

Reports of adverse events are limited. No adverse events have been noted for dosages up to 3 g/day.Eudy 2013, Ito 2012 In a small, open-label study, a transient increase in systolic blood pressure was noted following a single dose of a combination energy drink containing taurine.Franks 2012

Toxicology

Cardiovascular events have been reported following excessive consumption of energy drinks; however, it is difficult to attribute these events directly to taurine because the drinks contain multiple ingredients and their consumption is often accompanied with excessive alcohol intake or physical activity.EFSA 2009, Worthley 2010 A case report describes worsening of psoriasis in a patient who consumed excessive amounts of energy drinks containing taurine and glucose.Magnano 2017 A proposed safe level of taurine consumption is 3 g/day; however, taurine has been tested in doses as high as 10 g/day for 6 months.Caine 2016

Information on the long-term effects of taurine supplementation is lacking.

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