Taurine, one of the main ingredients in popular energy drinks, is an amino acid that exists as a free-floating protein in your tissues and bloodstream. This amino acid is a major structural constituent of the bile, which is needed to breakdown dietary fats. Taurine also helps to regulate your neurotransmitters and can affect growth and development, muscle contraction as well as physical performance. Therefore, a greater amount of taurine is found in your brain, liver, muscles and heart.
Sources of Taurine
You body can synthesize this taurine from the precursor cysteine, but usually supplemental intake through diet is beneficial. Taurine usually exists in all animal products, but meat and seafood are your main providers. Beef, ox testicles, oysters and mussels have even more impressive taurine contents. Taurine is also found in some plant sources like fungi and seaweed.
There are also large amount of taurine in human breast milk. Most infant formulas are fortified with taurine to promote brain, muscle and retinoid development in newborns. Premature babies cannot synthesize taurine immediately after birth, and therefore it is critical to feed them taurine-fortified formula to prevent under develops.
One of the most important functions of taurine is to allow the breakdown of dietary fat and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins during digestion. Low taurine levels significantly reduce your bile acid production, causing an increased risk of fat accumulation in the liver. Conversely, increased intake of taurine can increase the efficiency of fat metabolism, preventing weight gain and the development of fatty liver.
On the same note, taurine’s ability to prevent fat deposit in the liver is applied to counteract the consequences of alcoholism. There is evidence that having an energy drink the morning after can effectively alleviate the pounding headache and disorientation from a night of heavy drinking.
Taurine has been found to reduce both blood pressure and blood cholesterol. Studies have shown that having 3 to 5 grams of additional taurine supplement can effectively reduce the risk of congestive heart failure. Taurine also affects heart muscle contraction. In Japan, taurine is used to treat cardiac arrhythmia and ischemic heart disease.
Taurine’s antioxidant property helps to protect the pancreas from free radical attacks in type I diabetes. Animal studies have shown that extra taurine supplementation can prevent weight gain and reduce blood sugar in diabetic rats. Though human studies have found no significant changes in blood insulin level after taurine administration, there are evidence that taurine can help prevent microvascular injury and nerve cell damage caused by diabetes. Taurine has been found effective in treating diabetic neuropathy.
Better Physical Performance
Taurine is needed to maintain proper musculature and strength. It can also reduce the level of oxidative stress during strenuous exercise. Having an energy drink prior to your workout can reduce your muscle soreness and increase your physical stamina. There is also evidence that taurine can help reduce the level of inflammation and promote faster muscle recovery.