Taurine, a Sulphur containing amino acid whose chemical name is 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is one of the most abundant intracellular amino acid in humans. It has diverse cytoprotective activity and it is implicated in numerous biological and physiological functions.
Interest in taurine’s physiological functions has grown because research has shown that taurine regulates fundamental events in cells, these findings have provided impetus for the use of taurine in infant formula, nutritional supplements, and energy drinks. It is also available in IV therapies.
Taurine is considered a conditionally essential nutrient. Because it can be produced in the body, the average healthy adult doesn’t need to be concerned about overt symptoms of taurine deficiency.
However, low plasma taurine levels are associated with various conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, these then allow for the intake of taurine supplements.
Today, taurine has been approved in the treatment of congestive heart failure and shows promise in the treatment of several other diseases. In addition, taurine is extremely effective in the treatment of the mitochondrial disease, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS).
It also offers a new approach to the treatment of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, and inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis.
Taurine has important functions in the heart and brain. It helps support nerve growth.
The combination of one or more of these cytoprotective effects of taurine act to diminish the pathology and symptoms of a host of diseases ranging from those of the CNS, cardiovascular system, skeletal muscle and defective metabolism.
It helps prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol and reducing blood pressure. People take taurine for congestive heart failure (CHF). It benefits people with heart failure by lowering blood pressure and calming the nervous system. This helps prevent heart failure from becoming worse. It is also used for obesity, athletic performance, fatigue, diabetes, and many other conditions.
Your body relies on taurine for many functions. Taurine hydration helps balance fluid and electrolyte levels. This supplement also supports the immune and nervous systems, and helps guard against vision problems, among other functions.
It also aids metabolism—taurine helps stomach acids properly digest fats by assisting the liver in producing bile salts involved in the process of eliminating cholesterol by the liver.
Considered as a neurotransmitter, taurine is known for its beneficial effects both on cardiac functions – it reinforces the contractility of the heart – and on muscular functions. In addition, during heavy physical efforts, taurine has a detoxifying effect by promoting the elimination of toxins produced by the metabolism of sugars and fats.
For athletes and those looking to get into shape, taurine benefits exercise performance by reducing fatigue, increasing stamina, and helping your muscles work harder for longer.
Taurine is a common component of energy drinks, for multiple reasons. It is believed that taurine may support fat burning for energy during physical activity, promote optimal muscle movement, and reduce lactic acid buildup after workouts, which causes muscle soreness. Having healthy levels of taurine is important to reduce fatigue and to ensure muscles work optimally. When lactic acid is produced in the muscles during a workout or run, one may experience cramps and pain. Taurine has been found to remove lactic acid from muscles.
Taurine has antioxidant properties. That means it helps diminish the oxidative stress on the body caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress left unchecked damages cells and DNA, speeds the signs of aging, and can increase the risk of disease.
People also take taurine for anxiety because it plays a role in producing the neurotransmitter Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA has a relaxing effect on the brain, and low levels of GABA have been associated with anxiety disorders.
Taurine may enhance your well-being by protecting cells throughout the body—including the heart, brain, nervous system, and retinas—so they stay strong.
Taurine is named after the Latin taurus, which means bull, as it was first isolated from ox bile in 1827 by Austrian scientists Friedrich Tiedemann and Leopold Gmelin. It was discovered in human bile in 1846 by Edmund Ronalds, it is a major constituent of bile.
It is often called an amino acid, even in scientific literature, but as it lacks a carboxyl group it is not strictly an amino acid. It does contain a sulfonate group and may be called an amino sulfonic acid. Taurine is a derivative of the sulfur-containing (sulfhydryl) amino acid, cysteine. Taurine is the only known naturally occurring sulfonic acid.
Taurine has the systematic name 2-aminoethanesulfonicacid, synonym: 2-aminoethylsulfonic acid, with the molecular structure H2NCH2CH2SO3H (formula C2H7NO3S) and a molecular mass of 125.1427 g/mol. Its standardized abbreviation is Tau.
Most of taurine’s benefits are thought to be derived from its role as a cell-protecting agent. It regulates cell volume, calcium homeostasis, energy metabolism and membrane stabilization.
It attenuates endoplasmic reticular (ER) stress which is an important regulatory mechanism designed to restore ER function and re-establish a balance between protein degradation and protein biosynthesis/folding. It regulates gene expression; taurine also acts as an inhibitory neuromodulator in the CNS. Taurine serves as a weak agonist of the GABA [dominant inhibitory neurotransmitters], glycine and NMDA receptors.
Taurine also regulates quality control processes, such as the ubiquitin-proteasome system and autophagy. These processes either rejuvenate damaged cells and subcellular organelles or eliminate them through degradation or cell death.
Taurine exerts antioxidant effects. The primary mechanism by which taurine acts as an antioxidant is unclear. Taurine may have the ability to directly scavenge free radicals, but it’s more likely that taurine works by regulating antioxidant enzymes and inhibiting generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species[ROS].
Taurine regulates calcium volume. Excessive accumulation of Ca2+ by the heart and brain during a myocardial infarction or stroke is cytotoxic. Taurine protects the cell by diminishing Calcium overload.
Taurine’s cardio protective effects occurs by decreasing oxidative stress and a few other mechanisms. It can modify blood lipids by binding to bile acids and facilitating the breakdown and excretion of cholesterol. Additionally, it reduces blood pressure by enhancing vasodilation (i.e., a relaxation of blood vessels, leading to an increase in blood flow). Taurine also reduces blood pressure by reducing production of angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor within the renin-angiotensin system.
Muscle contraction is triggered by the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Taurine improves physical performance by increasing the calcium-storing ability of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, as well as increasing the sensitivity of force-generating proteins (i.e., actin and myosin) to calcium, thus increasing muscle force.
With special reference to endurance exercise, taurine may aid performance by increasing the use of fat for fuel and reducing the contribution from glycogen, as well as improving the function of mitochondria.
FIG: Taurine mediated protection against disease and pathology.
Stroke, whose incidence is on the rise, is presently a leading cause of death and disability. Under pathological conditions, such as ischemic stroke and hypo-osmotic stress, taurine is released from various cells in the central nervous system (CNS) and function as a neuroprotective agent.
A major cause of cellular damage and death during stroke is the release of large amounts of glutamate, which over-stimulate glutamate receptors, resulting in hyper-excitability. Among the damaging events associated with glutamate toxicity are calcium overload, oxidative stress, ATP depletion and mitochondrial dysfunction. The release of taurine helps counteract the adverse effects of glutamate.
The neurodegenerative diseases share many of the pathological features of stroke caused by glutamate-mediated activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) inotropic glutamate receptors and metabotropic glutamate receptors. The release of taurine helps counteract the adverse effects of glutamate.
It has recently been reported that reduced plasma taurine content is associated with motor severity in Parkinson’s disease. A single blind, randomized, controlled study of 47 patients with Parkinson’s disease revealed effectiveness in reducing excessive sleepiness upon treatment with the taurine analog homotaurine.
Imbalances between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters underlie the mechanism of seizures. Taurine is an abundant amino acid in the brain, where it serves as an inhibitory neuromodulator. Although taurine levels can suppress specific types of seizures, taurine deficiency is not required for initiation of seizures.
The dominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain is GABA, therefore, regulation of neuroexcitability by GABA plays a prominent role in preventing neuronal hyper excitability and seizures. Taurine serves as an agonist of the GABA receptor, this action inhibits its hyper excitability. Suppression of kainic acid, isoniazid and picrotoxin-mediated seizures has been attributed to the actions of taurine on the GABAergic system
Taurine has been approved for the treatment of congestive heart failure in Japan. Like other heart failure medication, taurine not only diminishes the common symptoms of congestive heart failure (breathlessness on exertion and edema) but also eliminates or decreases the need for administering other heart failure medication, such as digoxin.
There is reason to believe that taurine might prolong lifespan of heart failure patients because it elevates high energy phosphate content of the heart, which is an important determinant of mortality among patients suffering from congestive heart failure
Katakawa attributed the beneficial effects of taurine therapy against hypertension in humans to improved endothelial function secondary to a decline in oxidative stress.
Supplementation with taurine prevents the development of hypertension
Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of pathology in stroke, myocardial infarction and peripheral artery disease. The process of atherosclerosis is complex, involving multiple factors and steps). One of the key steps in the initiation of atherosclerosis is the uptake of the cholesterol-enriched lipoprotein, LDL, by the intima of the arterial wall.
Also recruited in the arterial wall are monocytes, which normally exhibit little adhesion to endothelial cells and are not readily accumulated by smooth muscle. However, upon exposure to inflammatory factors and chemoattractant (chemokines), monocytes begin to adhere to endothelial cells, where they are taken up by the intima of the arterial wall.
Upon exposure to factors, such as macrophage-colony factor, most of the monocytes in the early atheromata are differentiated into macrophages. Within the intima, LDL can undergo oxidation and glycation, which individually enhance the uptake of the lipoprotein by macrophages.
The epidemiological WHO-CARDIAC study showed that dietary taurine intake is correlated with reduced mortality of ischemic heart disease. Taurine enhances the beneficial effects of n-3 fatty acid supplementation on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
There is diminished risk of atherogenesis in humans maintained on a diet supplemented with taurine and magnesium due to reductions in oxidative stress and improvement in endothelial function. These studies have revealed the importance of taurine supplementation in human health.
A remarkable similarity exists between the symptoms of taurine deficiency and that of the mitochondrial disease, MELAS. Indeed, the characteristic symptoms of MELAS (myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes) are also present in taurine deficiency. This is not surprising, as the pathophysiology of the two conditions is similar.
Patients with MELAS respond favorably to taurine therapy because of the direct link between taurine content and the development of MELAS. Also corrected by taurine therapy was lactic acidosis. Taurine therapy not only abolishes stroke-like episodes in MELAS patients but also restores normal mitochondrial respiratory function.
Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by elevated blood glucose and either a decrease in plasma insulin (type 1 diabetes) or resistance to the actions of insulin (type 2 diabetes). Diabetes is associated with multiple complications, including cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, nephropathy, retinopathy, foot ulcers, skin lesions and hearing impairment.
Although restrictions in the degree of hyperglycemia are central to the control of these complications, several downstream factors can contribute to the severity of the complications. One of the most important of these factors is ROS.
There is overwhelming evidence that taurine therapy reduces pathology associated with diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Several mechanisms may contribute to the regulation of hyperglycemia in diabetes. First, taurine improves respiratory function and increases ATP production, effects that should improve pancreatic β-cell function and insulin secretion.
Second, hyperglycemia and lipidemia are associated with elevations in mitochondrial ROS generation. In pancreatic β-cells, fatty acid-mediated ROS generation appears to decrease insulin secretion, an effect attenuated by taurine treatment.
Third, mitochondrial dysfunction can provoke insulin resistance. Taurine treatment therefore prevents hyperglycemia-induced insulin resistance and oxidative stress. Together, these findings indicate that taurine protects against type 2 diabetes mediated complications.
Taurine deficiency leads to impaired contractile function of both cardiac and skeletal muscle.
There are abundant reports that taurine administration enhances exercise performance of humans
Taurine administration was found to increase the time until exhaustion, reduce exercise- induced fatigue and diminish damage from intense exercise. When taurine is administered prior to heavy exercise, the levels of pro-inflammatory factors are reduced and exercising muscle is protected.
Taurine can be given as an intravenous solution or bolus. It is used to treat the bank.
Serious adverse effects have not been reported with taurine supplementation. Based on the available evidence, it’s suggested that 3 grams per day can be consumed indefinitely without risk of side effects.
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