Most of the 20 amino acids that our bodies depend on to work properly link together to create protein chains. Taurine is one of the few amino acids that functions on its own, and not as a component of proteins. It’s called a “non-essential” or “conditionally essential” amino acid because it can be produced by our bodies when other amino acids join together.
Yet because it plays such an important role in the development, nutrition and survival of cells, scientists in fact say that taurine is one of the most essential substances in the human body. It’s a molecule that researchers say deserves much more attention than it has previously received.
What are the potential health benefits of Taurine?
Named by German scientists who first identified taurine in ox bile in 1827, taurine functions in the brain and spinal cord, heart and muscle cells, the retina, and almost every tissue throughout the body. Without a sufficient amount of the molecule, the body’s cells will inevitably weaken. As one of the body’s most abundant amino acids, many believe that taurine can treat a number of conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy and heart disease.
Taurine and Diabetes: Recent studies suggest that taurine plays a significant role in helping the body to accept insulin. Animal tests have shown that it reduces the risk of kidney disease that results when years of high blood glucose levels have damaged the organs.
Taurine and Epilepsy: Other animal tests show that taurine has the potential to treat brain damage that occurs after an epileptic seizure. That’s because taurine stabilizes the activity of the brain cells and prevents the kind of excessive activity that can cause a seizure.
Taurine and Heart Disease: Taurine can also regulate the heartbeat and improve the function of the heart’s left chamber. Tests suggest that the amino acid may prevent or treat cardiovascular disease because it helps to move important nutrients, like potassium, magnesium and calcium, in and out of your heart’s cells.
Most studies that involve taurine have been based on tests that use animals. That means that taurine’s distinct role in various diseases that affect humans has yet to be proven.
Where does Taurine come from?
Even though your body can produce taurine on its own, the major source of the amino acid comes from foods like eggs, dairy products, fish and red meat.
Many tests show that a taurine deficiency can negatively impact the human body. While more research is needed to determine its lasting effects, ample evidence shows that we ought to ensure our bodies receive enough of the valuable amino acid.
There is no set required daily allowance for taurine, but some scientists suggest a daily supplemental intake of 400mg is needed to maintain your health.
Sources for this article included:
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501277/ (Essential Amino Acid)
2. http://www.whathealth.com/taurine/ (1827 German discovery)
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12514918 (Heart Disease)