Taurine is a sulphur-containing acid present in large amounts in skeletal muscle, the brain, the heart, and certain areas of the eye. It is thought to benefit many different conditions, including heart problems, poor memory, weak muscles, epilepsy, and poor vision. For these reasons, taurine supplements are popular dietary aids, and these supplements may include protein drinks or bars, energy drinks, or individual tablets.
This molecule is structurally similar to an amino acid, which is a molecule that the body uses to make proteins. Although taurine is not a true amino acid because it lacks some amino acid-associated chemical structures, it is often referred to as an amino acid because it is actually incorporated into some human proteins. Taurine can be found naturally in products like meat, eggs, and some fish. It is also a product of sulphur metabolism and can be produced by the body.
Although taurine supplements have been the subject of various human and animal research studies, the overall verdict on whether taurine actually benefits specific medical conditions is still mixed. One of the best-studied areas of taurine is its effect on heart problems. Several studies suggest that taurine supplements might protect the heart from damage after a traumatic event like a heart attack or heart surgery. Other studies suggest that taurine may lower blood pressure, decrease abnormal heart rhythms, and increase the strength of heart contractions in people with weak hearts.
Another area of study is the ability of taurine to reverse diabetic induced retina damage. Most of this information comes from studies in cats. Cats cannot synthesize taurine, so they must obtain it from the diet. Studies showed that giving taurine to cats could stop and sometimes even reverse retinal damage, and could also help with problems arising from an enlarged and weakened heart. Because of these findings, taurine is now an essential ingredient in cat food. It is not known how applicable this is to humans, although many manufacturers of taurine supplements claim that improved vision is a benefit.
Taurine supplements also appear to help control epileptic seizures, which may be due to the apparent ability of this molecule to interact with certain brain receptors and improve their function. This may also be due to taurine’s supposed ability to enhance nerve impulses. Due to these brain-associated actions, taurine supplements are also thought to aid memory and energy levels. For this reason, taurine is a popular additive in energy drinks.
Finally, a study in mice showed that very low levels of taurine led to skeletal muscle weakness. Although a similar connection between taurine levels and skeletal muscle has never been conclusively shown in humans, this molecule is a major component of many bodybuilding supplements. These supplements are especially popular among weight lifters.