Taurine has an important role in fat absorption in pre-term and possibly term infants and in children with cystic fibrosis. Because taurine-conjugated bile acids are better emulsifiers of fat than glycine-conjugated bile acids, the dietary (or TPN) intake has a direct influence on absorption of lipids.
Taurine is a non-essential amino acid and is found in high concentrations in the white blood cells, skeletal muscles, central nervous system as well as the heart muscles. In adults, but not children, this nutrient can be manufactured from methionine in the body and from cysteine in the liver, but vitamin B6 must be present.
Taurine comprises over 50 percent of the total free amino acid pool of the heart. It has a positive inotropic action on cardiac tissue, and has been shown in some studies to lower blood pressure. In part, the cardiac effects of taurine are probably due to its ability to protect the heart from the adverse effects of either excessive or inadequate calcium ion (Ca2+) levels. The consequence of Ca2+ excess is the accumulation of intracellular calcium, ultimately leading to cellular death. Taurine may both directly and indirectly help regulate intracellular Ca2+ ion levels by modulating the activity of the voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels, and by regulation of Na+ channels. Taurine also acts on many other ion channels and transporters. Therefore, its action can be quite non-specific. When an adequate amount of taurine is present, calcium-induced myocardial damage is significantly reduced, perhaps by interaction between taurine and membrane proteins.
Although it is readily apparent that taurine is important in conjugating bile acids to form water-soluble bile salts, only a fraction of available taurine is used for this function. Taurine is also involved in a number of other crucially important processes, including calcium ion flux, membrane stabilization, and detoxification.
Sources of taurine
Taurine is mostly found in meat and fish, and the adult body can manufacture it.
Benefits of taurine
Taurine is used to help absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins as well as to regulate the heartbeat, maintain cell membrane stability, and prevent brain cell over-activity.
It is also believed to be useful in protecting against congestive heart failure.
Taurine appears to have a role in infants, children, and even adults in the prevention of granulation of the retina and electroencephalographic changes.
Taurine has also been reported to improve maturation of auditory-evoked responses in pre-term infants, although this point is not fully established.
It is a key ingredient of bile, which in turn is needed for fat digestion, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins as well as the control of cholesterol serum levels in the body. (It is incorporated in the bile acid chenodeoxychloic acid, which emulsify the dietary fats)
This nutrient is also used in the proper use of potassium, calcium as well as sodium in the body, and for maintaining cell membrane integrity.
It is thought to be helpful with anxiety, hyperactivity, poor brain function and epilepsy as well as hydrating the brain. Taurine, together with zinc is also required for proper eye health and vision.
Clinically, taurine has been used with varying degrees of success in the treatment of a wide variety of conditions, including: cardiovascular diseases, hypercholesterolemia, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, hepatic disorders, alcoholism, and cystic fibrosis.
Deficiency symptoms of taurine
A deficiency may impair vision and problems with fat metabolism may appear, and a theory exists that it may also be involved in epilepsy developing.
Cats suffering from taurine deficiency experience a number of abnormalities including retinal degeneration, dilated cardiomyopath, and platelet function abnormalities. Following the discovery of the effects of taurine deficiency in cats, it was also observed that infants fed baby formula lacking proper amounts of taurine had lower plasma levels than infants who were breast fed. In pre-term and term infants, taurine insufficiency results in impaired fat absorption, bile acid secretion, retinal function, and hepatic function, all of which can be reversed by taurine supplementation.
Symptoms of high intake
No toxicity has been determined and most people would not require a supplement and even small children derive enough of it through human milk, or infant formulas.
Taurine used in quantity to treat epilepsy has only one known side effect, peptic ulcers, which clear up when taurine is discontinued.
When more is needed
Vegetarians who consume no eggs or dairy products ingest virtually no taurine through their diets, but normally have enough since the body can manufacture the requirements.
Children with Down’s syndrome may benefit from taurine, and women being treated for breast cancer as well as people with metabolic disorders, since metabolic disorders can cause loss of this nutrient via urine.
Diabetics may also benefit from this nutrient, since this disease increase the need for this nutrient.
For use in connection with a variety of conditions, physicians usually recommend 1.5 grams to as much as 6 grams per day.