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Taurine 101: what it is and how it can benefit you

Taurine 101: what it is and how it can benefit you
It’s a “smart” world in 2019, and everyone’s looking for a way to get ahead of the pack.

In recent years, nootropics have burst on the scene with a litany of promising claims and benefits. Many of these nootropics are advertised as cognitive performance enhancers.

Manufacturers assert that these supplements and substances can improve memory, creativity, cognitive function, improve energy, and much more.

One of these substances is taurine.

Often linked to its potential protective effects on coronary heart disease, taurine is thought to enhance physical performance, and includes several other exciting benefits.

Understanding the Basics of Taurine

To get to the origin of taurine, we must travel back to 1827, where a pair of German scientists named Leopold Gmelin and Friedrich Tiedemann first discovered its presence in the bile of an ox. You may have already made the connection that taurine comes from the term Taurus, which is Latin for “bull” or “ox.”

Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid that our bodies carry significant amounts of in our hearts, brains, retinas, and blood cells. The primary functions of this critical amino acid are as follows:

  • Maintaining electrolyte balance and hydration in cells
  • Supporting eyes and general CNS function
  • Regulation of cell minerals
  • Aiding in the production of bile salts; which play a vital role in digestion
  • Regulating antioxidant function and immune system health

You’ll commonly find taurine in meat and fish, but may be more familiar with its presence in energy drinks such as Red Bull, where it is claimed to improve cardiac health and improve endurance.

How Taurine Can Benefit You

Two of the more familiar associations made with Taurine are its potential effects on congestive heart failure and overall athletic performance. However, researchers have conducted several studies to determine the impact of taurine on different bodily functions and conditions.

Although much of the research remains in its relative infancy and is often deemed inconclusive, there are some seriously promising results in which we can find excitement and hope.

Cardiovascular Disease and Congestive Heart Failure     

The majority of CHF (congestive heart failure) patients are malnourished and deficient in taurine.

One of the most promising potential benefits of taurine is the positive effect it may have on CHF.

One double-blind, placebo-controlled study took a group of 14 patients and added taurine to their conventional treatment regimens over a 4-week period. The findings were exciting.

The New York Heart Association functional class, chest film abnormalities, and pulmonary crackles showed significant improvement when compared to the placebo group.

Better yet, none of the patients worsened during taurine administration, nor did any side effects appear in the study group. In the end, the study provided encouraging evidence that not only is the addition of taurine to conventional therapy safe, but it also appears to be effective.

Another clinical trial administered 3g of taurine and 30mg of CoQ10 to a group of 17 patients with CHF.

After six weeks, researchers observed an improvement of the systolic left ventricular function in the taurine-treated group while the same development did not occur in the CoQ10 group.

Though it is unclear as to exactly how to define the responsible mechanisms, the findings were once again encouraging and illustrated a positive correlation between taurine and CHF treatment.

Endurance and Athletic Performance

Red Bull’s marketing team have been telling us for years that their product can give us wings. Not to be taken literally, of course. But with taurine being one of the main active ingredients (and no, it is not derived from bulls), many of us have wondered how effective it is or what role it plays.

Does a taurine-infused energy drink like Red Bull actually improve athletic performance, or are these nothing more than overambitious, unsubstantiated claims?

Researchers sought out to answer this question by conducting a study on the effect of taurine on performance in 10 upper-echelon athletes. The study had the athletes perform three trials and used a different test drink for each trial.

Drink 1 – Red Bull without taurine or glucuronolactone
Drink 2 – Red Bull without taurine, glucuronolactone, or caffeine
Drink 3 – Red Bull original drink with taurine, glucuronolactone, and caffeine

The most interesting result of the study revealed that the original drink containing taurine was responsible for “significantly longer” endurance time compared to performance after consuming the other two. The increase in performance after consuming the drink with taurine is particularly encouraging and shows that the benefits are palpable.

Cognitive Function and Brain Health

Heart function and physical performance aren’t the only interesting potential benefits of taurine. Researchers’ interests have also become increasingly piqued at the way taurine affects the brain and our overall cognitive function.

One of the more important findings that have opened the door to better-understanding taurine’s effect on the brain revolves around GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in brain development and is the key inhibitory transmitter in the brain.

A team of Cornell researchers discovered taurine to be a strong activator of GABA receptors in the thalamus. Because taurine shares a receptor with GABA, it may also play a role in neurological development.

Taurine and its Effect on Anxiety

To piggyback off the connection between taurine and GABA, another potentially interesting and exciting benefit of taurine is its calming effect on anxiety.

Several potential factors can play a role in low GABA levels. Some examples are:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Physical overexertion
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Blood sugar imbalance

Because taurine stimulates the formation and release of GABA, it can aid in promoting relaxation and can help maximize GABA’s benefits.

The question becomes, why not just supplement with GABA?

There’s a lot of conflicting information on the ability of GABA to cross the blood-brain barrier. In some cases, researchers believed that GABA couldn’t cross the blood-brain barrier at all. But a more commonly accepted theory is that it can pass through; it just does so in small amounts and eliminates quickly.  

Because taurine is generally considered to be safe and relatively inexpensive at dosages between 500-3,000mg per day, it seems like a potentially useful way of combating anxiety. Of course, additional research is ongoing, and the relationship between taurine and anxiety is not yet entirely proven or understood.

How to Incorporate Taurine into Your Daily Routine

As we touched on earlier, taurine is found naturally in foods we regularly consume, such as meat, dairy, and fish. But the levels of taurine in each of these food groups alone are on the lower end of the spectrum and likely aren’t enough to afford us many of the potential benefits it can bring.

For a higher, more concentrated dosing, taurine is available in tablet and powder forms at reasonably low prices. Taurine tablets or powders can cost as little as $6 for approximately 50 doses.

Better yet, some companies are finding exciting ways to integrate taurine into coffee. Noocaf smart coffee, for example, is not only enriched with taurine, but also includes each of the following:

  • L-theanine
  • L-tyrosine
  • Alpha GPC
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12

The result is an energized, alert feeling without all of the jitters, nervousness, or anxiety that are sometimes associated with caffeine intake.

The Final Word

Simply put, taurine is exciting.

The potential benefits researchers are unearthing are incredibly encouraging.

While it’s important to understand that a lot of studies surrounding the short and long-term effects of nootropics is still in its relative infancy, it’s easy to incorporate taurine into a daily routine and find out if it works for you. Taurine is proven to be safe within the suggested dosing parameters, so those interested in trying it can rest-assured.

Whether you’re struggling with cardiovascular health, looking for a boost in athletic performance and cognitive function, or are seeking asylum from anxiety that is holding you back, taurine is a safe and worthwhile supplement to consider.

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