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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Taurine

What is taurine? Why do we need it?

Taurine is a non-essential amino acid produced by the body through the synthesis of two other amino acids (methionine and cysteine). It is an important component of bile acids, which are used to absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

It also regulates heartbeat; maintains the stability of cell membranes; transports potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium in and out of cells; and regulates the activity of brain cells. As an antioxidant, it detoxifies toxic substances, retinoids and environmental toxins.

Taurine is believed to play a role in treating a number of conditions, including congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, gallstones, diabetes, and nervous system disorders.

How much taurine should I take?

Because taurine is produced by the body, most people do not need taurine supplements. Depending on the condition, many practitioners typically recommend two grams TID for a total of six grams per day.

What are some good sources of taurine? What forms are available?

Taurine is found in human milk and most infant formulas; however, the amount in these substances is considered inadequate for infants. Good sources of taurine include brewer's yeast, eggs and other dairy products, fish and red meat.

What can happen if I don't get enough taurine? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

Taurine is produced by a combination of cysteine, methionine and vitamin C; low amounts of these substances can in turn lead to taurine deficiency. Low amounts of taurine may cause anxiety, epilepsy, hyperactivity and poor brain function. As of this writing, there are no known toxicity levels for taurine; however, excessive levels may cause diarrhea and peptic ulcers.

Taurine may interact with certain chemotherapy medications. Be sure to consult with a qualified health care provider before taking taurine supplements.

References

  • Birdsall T. Therapeutic applications of taurine. Alt Med Rev 1998;3(2):128-136.
  • Franconi F, Bennardini F, Mattana A, et al. Plasma and platelet taurine are reduced in subjects with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: effects of taurine supplementation. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61:1115—9.
  • Haas E. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992.
  • Tenney L. Today’s Herbal Health. Pleasant Grove, UT: Woodland Publishing, 2000.
  • Wright J, Gaby A. The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing. Rocklin, CA: Prima Health, 1999.

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