Taurine is a semi-essential amino acid also called 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid. Although scientists have known about it for more than two centuries, its health benefits have only recently become clear. Taurine supplements are nontoxic, inexpensive, and freely available. Read on to learn why taurine’s bad reputation is unearned.
What is Taurine?
Taurine (L-Taurine or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) is a sulfur-containing amino acid [1, 2].
Taurine is present in almost any tissue in the body and concentrated in key areas such as the heart, brain, and retina of the eye. A taurine-rich diet can protect the body and promote longevity. Yet taurine has a bad reputation because it’s a popular ingredient in unhealthy energy drinks.
Taurine plays various important roles in the body including regulation of water status in our cells, preventing oxidation in the body, and supporting calcium signaling in key organs. Through calcium regulation properties, it helps to improve the function of cardiac, nervous and musculoskeletal tissue.
While taurine is semi-essential and undeniably beneficial, it cannot and should not be used to replace any therapies or strategies your doctor recommends. If you believe that you may be deficient in taurine, talk to your doctor to determine whether supplementation is right for you.
Possibly Effective For
1) Cardiovascular Health
Heart and blood vessels cells contain the taurine transporter, suggesting that taurine is important for heart function .
A taurine-deficient diet-induced heart disease in several animal studies [4, 5, 6].
The risk of chronic heart disease is lower in individuals with a high urinary output of taurine .
In a study of 22 healthy middle-aged women, 3g daily taurine supplementation for 4 weeks lowered homocysteine levels. Since homocysteine is correlated with heart disease, taurine may help prevent heart attacks or high cholesterol .
Studies show taurine may have a role in preventing abnormal heartbeat (AFib) though supporting the ion transport system of calcium and sodium channels necessary for electrical activity of the heart .
Taurine supplementation is effective in treating the hardening and narrowing of blood arteries in animals .
Though the evidence is not large-scale yet, there is a growing number of studies linking taurine to lower blood pressure. Some studies show low taurine levels are associated with increased blood pressure .
Oral taurine supplementation is potentially a very safe and convenient regimen for the control of high blood pressure in the presence of an overactive sympathetic nervous system.
Consumption of 3 g taurine daily for 2 months in hypertension patients reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure .
It also plays a protective role in the heart and kidneys in rats with hypertension [13, 14].
Taurine shows an ability to breakdown cholesterol, however there is no evidence to suggest it will lower blood cholesterol levels other than in animals fed a high-fat diet .
Taurine supplementation can enhance bile secretion and activity, and improve the breakdown of cholesterol by the body .
It is also essential for the formation of bile salts, and as such, plays an important role in fat and cholesterol absorption and breakdown .
Iron Deficiency Anemia
In a single study of 51 young women with iron deficiency anemia, taurine and iron supplementation helped restore the markers of iron sufficiency better than iron supplements alone .
2) Liver Health
It is very likely that taurine plays an important role in liver health, but the clinical significance is still unknown. The most promising correlation is that taurine may lower the pressure in the main vein leading into the liver, the portal vein. Because of this it may help those with liver cirrhosis. Here are some studies that are promising linking taurine and liver function.
Dietary taurine supplementation with doses greater than 500 mg daily for 3 months reduced liver injury in 24 chronic hepatitis patients .
In rats, dietary taurine protected their livers from heavy metal and oxidized fat related damage [19, 20, 21].
The availability of taurine in the body is low in various forms of liver cirrhosis. In 35 liver cirrhosis patients, daily taurine supplementation increased taurine levels and also reduced painful muscle cramps that are associated with cirrhosis .
In animal models, taurine is effective in preventing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It reduced oxidative stress, cell death, and fat accumulation in the liver [23, 24].
Taurine supplementation also prevented alcoholic fatty liver disease in animals by decreasing alcohol-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. It also increased the production of proteins associated with the fat breakdown in the liver .
Animal studies suggest that taurine prevents long-term liver damage and helps liver cells recover faster from alcoholic fatty liver disease [26, 24].
Insufficient Evidence For
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of taurine for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking taurine supplements, and never use them in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.
3) Antioxidant Activity
Tissues exposed to oxidative damage have been found in the laboratory to have particularly high concentrations of taurine .
Like other antioxidants, taurine, directly and indirectly, eliminates harmful oxidants to minimize tissue damage .
Through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, taurine helps protect our bodies from unnecessary cell death and tissue damage .
White blood cells produce oxidants such as hypochlorous acid (HOCL) and hypobromous acid (HOBr) to destroy invading microorganisms and fight infections. However, these oxidants can also harm the body’s cells .
Taurine can scavenge these oxidants to form the much less toxic ‘taurine chloramine’ (TauCl) and ‘taurine bromamine’ (TauBr) .
TauCl and TauBr are able to reduce the generation of oxidants by white blood cells 
Taurine also increases the production and activity of other antioxidants found in the body .
Taurine’s antioxidant activity may be able to protect the lungs from damage caused by exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke .
Hamsters fed taurine are able to resist lung damage caused by air pollutant exposure .
Maintenance of tissue taurine levels is critical for the prevention of oxidant-induced lung injury in rats [33, 35].
In sheep, the taurine derivative taurolidine (which turns into taurine in the body) prevents lung damage caused by bacterial toxins .
The antioxidant action of taurine produces taurine chloramine (TauCl) and bromamine (TauBr), which also have anti-inflammatory properties .
Taurine supplementation enhances the formation of TauCl and TauBr in the body and may be effective against inflammatory conditions .
Taurine is very effective in treating acute inflammation (which is caused by infection, irritants, damaged cells, or cancer). However, its role in the progression of inflammatory diseases (such as arthritis) is not as clear .
Diminished TauCl generation in the body may worsen inflammation-related joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis .
TauCl injections improved arthritis symptoms in various experimental animal models [39, 29].
The gene for the taurine transporter (TauT) has also been linked to the inflammatory response .
TauCl promotes cell death via apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Because dead cells are immediately consumed by white blood cells and not left to release toxins (as damaged cells can), inflammation can be reduced .
TauCl can also turn on genes that reduce inflammation .
In human cells, high concentrations of TauCl reduced inflammatory cytokine (IL-1B and IL-6) production .
Antioxidants, such as taurine, are low in diabetic individuals. This increases the risk of oxidative damage .
Diabetes lowers the body’s ability to absorb taurine [43, 44].
Diabetic complications such as heart, kidney, and nerve damage can be attributed to high oxidative damage resulting from low taurine levels .
In a study of 39 type 1 diabetic patients, oral supplementation with 500 mg taurine three times a day for 3 months restored taurine levels in the blood. Taurine supplementation also prevented blood cells from clotting together, decreasing heart attack risk .
In rats, taurine also reduced blood glucose by interacting with insulin receptors in cells .
Taurine’s role in protecting the kidneys from damage in diabetes is well documented in animal models and in human cells [48, 49].
One and a half grams of taurine daily for two weeks improved early heart abnormalities in a study (DB-RCT) of nine type 1 diabetic patients .
6) Muscle & Exercise Performance
Taurine is essential for the normal functioning of muscles .
In a study (single-blinded RCT) of 29 elderly individuals suffering from heart failure, 500 mg of taurine 3 times daily for two weeks increased exercise performance .
Muscle function is severely impaired in mice that lack the taurine transporter .
Taurine supplementation improved physical endurance in rats .
Taurine supplementation can be used to restore taurine levels in the muscle that are decreased after exercise [54, 55].
The mechanisms of action of taurine in muscles may include alteration of protein production and will probably vary from species to species .
Taurine protects cells of the retina from damage caused by oxidants and bright light .
In a study of 62 patients, a combination of taurine, diltiazem, and vitamin E helped prevent vision loss by protecting against oxidative damage .
Low taurine levels are associated with cataract formation in humans .
In cats, taurine deprivation causes vision loss .
In rats, the antiepileptic drug vigabatrin depletes taurine from the retina. As a result, prolonged use of this drug can result in irreversible loss of vision .
Taurine is required for correct functioning of the eye, but it’s unclear to what extent taurine supplementation could prevent vision loss or diseases of the eye.
Taurine may have a role in reducing body weight in overweight and obese patients, possibly due to its role in bile synthesis and fat absorption and breakdown .
In a study of 30 obese college students, 3 g of taurine daily for a week was able to significantly improve fat profiles and reduce weight. It also improved markers of fat breakdown in people of a healthy weight .
In experimental animals fed high-cholesterol or high-fat diets, taurine improved fat breakdown [62, 63].
9) Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition that affects many organs in the body such as the lungs, kidneys, pancreas, and intestines. One of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis is fatty stools .
Taurine supplementation can help manage fat absorption in cystic fibrosis patients .
In a small study of 19 children with cystic fibrosis, daily taurine supplementation for 6 months had a positive effect. Taurine was able to significantly improve fat reabsorption in these individuals .
Vitamin E deficiencies resulting from malnourishment in cystic fibrosis patients may also be improved with taurine supplementation .
Taurine may heighten and mimic GABA activity in the brain. It can calm the brain and nervous system in patients with epilepsy and seizures [68, 69].
Taurine levels are lower in individuals suffering from epilepsy .
In nine patients with intractable epilepsy, the seizures disappeared in five patients when they received 1.5 – 7.5 g of oral taurine daily for two weeks .
However, on average, only about one-third of patients have shown significant alleviation of seizures .
Unfortunately, high doses of taurine in certain instances have the potential to cause seizures. It can cause amino acid levels to become unbalanced and have negative effects instead. Talk to your doctor before supplementing with taurine if you are at risk of seizures .
11) Alcohol Withdrawal
In a study of 22 patients, daily dietary supplementation with 1g of taurine reduced the numbers of psychotic episodes in individuals undergoing alcohol withdrawal .
Taurine supplementation in rats undergoing alcohol withdrawal was able to completely reverse alcoholic fatty liver disease .
Some of the benefits of taurine during alcohol withdrawal may stem from its inhibitory action in the brain and nervous system .
There is mounting evidence that increased consumption of taurine-rich seafood by Japanese people contributes to their longevity by reducing the risk of heart disease. However, additional research is required to confirm causation [75, 76].
In a study of 121 young adults with psychosis, taurine supplementation alongside conventional antipsychotic medication produced fewer pathological symptoms than medication alone .
Autism is associated with increased oxidative stress to the brain and nervous system. Taurine is believed to have the potential to improve symptoms of autism due to its antioxidative properties .
Children with autism have low taurine levels. Taurine supplementation may, in theory, help elevate levels of taurine, but this has yet to be confirmed .
Animal & Cell Research (Lacking Evidence)
No clinical evidence supports the use of taurine for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
15) Antimicrobial Activity
Some researchers believe that, in the acidic environment of inflammation, taurine’s products (TauCl and TauBr) could have significant antimicrobial activity, but this has not yet been confirmed in animal or human models .
TauCl and TauBr are able to kill a wide spectrum of bacteria, fungi (yeast and molds), viruses, and parasites directly exposed in cell studies [80, 81].
Because of this property, both TauCl and TauBr are under investigation as potential treatments for infections such as chronic sinusitis, otitis media (swimmers ear), acne vulgaris, and gum diseases [29, 82].
TauCl and TauBr rapidly break down in our bodies and are only effective if used topically, not supplemented. However, taurine supplementation may increase the production of these compounds in our bodies .
According to an animal study looking at the white blood cell level of mice with lung cancer, taurine’s role as an antioxidant is also important for the protection of cells in our immune system after chemotherapy .
Another animal study showed the white blood cells (neutrophils) of rats supplemented with taurine have an increased ability to destroy invading bacteria .
16) Kidney Function
Multiple animal studies have found that taurine appears to protect the kidneys from oxidative damage and interrupted blood supply. Taurine’s potential role in any kind of kidney disease in humans is unknown .
17) Bone Health
Although bone cells contain taurine, scientists are unsure of taurine’s function in bone. However, they do think that it helps with bone formation and balance (homeostasis) .
In rats, dietary taurine and arginine supplementation helped to increase bone mineral density. This helps improve bone health and protects them from fractures .
18) Skin Health
In mice, topical taurine treatment helped heal wounds by improving cell strength [88, 89].
Topically applied taurine also prevented dry and scaly skin by reducing inflammation and toxicity in human skin cells .
Dietary taurine supplementation eliminated tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) in rats. Higher amounts (4 mg/mL vs 1 mg/mL) and frequencies of taurine supplementation yielded better results .
The GABA like calming action of taurine in the brain auditory circuits may be responsible for this improvement, but much more research is needed .
Taurine is one of the most abundant free amino acids in the male reproductive system and can be synthesized by male reproductive organs .
Dietary taurine supplementation increased the motion and survival of sperm in rats .
Taurine may act as an antioxidant in the testicles and improve sperm quality, especially in aged animals .
The protective effects of taurine on sperm cells may also result from its role in controlling cell volume .
Taurine is found in high concentrations in the female reproductive system as well .
It can protect gametes and growing embryos in the womb from oxidative damage .
There is a positive correlation between taurine levels and thyroid function. Hyperthyroidism patients had lower taurine levels in their blood samples compared to healthy patients .
In rats, taurine supplementation protected against oxidative stress that was caused by hyperthyroidism .
Taurine supplementation had anti-anxiety effects in rats. It interacts with the calming neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which could help with anxiety control [98, 99, 100].
In rats, taurine helped alleviate depression by changing the activity of the hippocampus in the brain .
Taurine pretreatment in rats also helped prevent depression and anxiety symptoms after stress exposure .
In rats, taurine’s antidepressant activity could be due to its ability to :
- Prevent hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction
- Promotion nerve cell formation, survival, growth in the hippocampus
- Prevent the decreases of 5-hydroxytryptamine, dopamine, and noradrenaline
- Stop the increase of glutamate and corticosterone
24) Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is associated with over-excitation of neurons due to the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Taurine has the ability to block some of these excitatory signals in the brain and treat Alzheimer’s .
Taurine achieves this by its GABA-like action in calming the nervous system .
In human cells, taurine reduced the neurotoxicity of glutamate .
In mice with the animal model of Alzheimer’s, drinking taurine (from their water) helped recover memory and learning .
Due to the aging process, the brain becomes less efficient at producing and responding to GABA (a neurotransmitter) .
Since taurine functions similarly to GABA in the brain, taurine supplementation may reverse some of these effects .
Taurine supplementation in aged mice showed a significant improvement in memory formation and retention .
Young mice showed no improvement in learning and retention after taurine supplementation. However, taurine induced several biochemical changes in these mice that may promote better aging .
The cell protective effects of taurine could also contribute to the improvement of cognitive functions observed after chronic supplementation with taurine .
Long-term continuous taurine supplementation is likely more effective than short-term dosing since brain levels of taurine were not significantly altered after a single dose .
Taurine, through its anti-inflammatory action, reduced ADHD like behaviors such as hyperactivity in rats .
Although it helps reduce anxiety, there is not much evidence in regards to treating ADHD in human children .
Taurolidine, a derivative of taurine that turns into taurine within the body, increased cancer survival rates in animal models [112, 113].
Taurolidine also blocked the growth of colorectal cancer in rats .
Chemotherapy Nausea & Toxicity
Cancer patients have depleted taurine levels. Surgery and chemotherapy decrease taurine levels even further and may compound taurine decreases in cancer patients. Some researchers therefore believe that taurine supplementation may be greatly beneficial to cancer patients .
In a study of 40 chemotherapy patients, taurine supplementation decreased the incidence of nausea and vomiting after treatment .
Much more research is required to determine the true role of taurine in cancer therapy.
There are few clinical studies on taurine’s many health benefits. Therefore, further studies are needed to identify mechanisms and the most effective treatment program for humans.
Scientists also do not clearly understand the effects, drug interactions, and benefits of taurine. Always talk to your doctor before supplementing.
Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid which is required for the normal function of the human body. Its clearest benefit is to the heart and liver, while other human studies indicate potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and anti-obesity benefits. Some researchers also believe that taurine may help with epilepsy, eyesight, exercise performance, and some mental health concerns. Animal research is also currently ongoing into cancer applications and a number of other possible uses.