What is taurine?
Taurine, or aminoethanesulfonic acid, is a very abundant amino acid in the human body, especially in the retina, brain, skeletal muscle tissue, and myocardium. The name aminoetasulfonic acid is due to the fact that the carboxylic group (COOH) typical of amino acids is replaced by a sulfonate group (SOOOH).
Taurine, as well as in numerous tissues, is also found in bile, and it is precisely from bull bile that it was first isolated in 1827 by two German scientists, Friedrich Tiedemann and Leopold Gmelin. Despite its abundance in the human body, taurine is not an amino acid included in the protein structure.
The greatest production of taurine occurs from the amino acids cysteine and methionine.
Functions and properties of taurine
The functions of taurine are numerous, some very important are the role played:
- At the level of the central nervous system, where it has a cytoprotective function (protects cells from harmful agents) and is essential, especially for young people, for the correct development of this apparatus.
- In all the structures that make up the eye, very rich in taurine. In the retina it plays a fundamental role in the development of photoreceptors.
- In the heart, where a lack of taurine is associated with the onset of cardiomyopathy.
- In the protection from free radicals. The overproduction of free radicals - whether caused by endogenous factors such as intense sporting activity, or by exogenous factors, such as cigarette smoking - has proved to be a factor capable of damaging the cardiovascular system, worsening the state of kidney problems due to type 2 diabetes, to promote the negative effect of inflammatory diseases and to worsen some of the major diseases of the central nervous system. Taurine, thanks to its antioxidant properties, has made it possible to attenuate the aforementioned harmful effects from free radicals.
- In muscle and skeletal tissue. Taurine plays a very important role in modulating the concentration of intracellular calcium.
Taurine in sports
The effects of taurine on sports performance and training, both on animals and on humans are different. The best known is certainly to increase the ability to produce force due to the increase in muscle contraction capacity.
Taurine and resilience
Some studies have shown improved resilience in subjects taking taurine after performing exercises involving eccentric contractions. Specifically, a study has shown how the intake of taurine in the post-exercise stages in doses of 0.1 g per kg of body weight can accelerate recovery and mitigate the damage caused by eccentric contractions of the brachial biceps muscle. The greater speed of recovery has been attributed to the ability of taurine to reduce damage induced by inflammation and to its antioxidant properties.
Taurine and reduction of DOMS
Even a further study, which saw the administration of taurine and branched-chain amino acids, showed that this supplementation reduced the DOMS caused by very intense eccentric contractions. This suggests that the integration of taurine and branched-chain amino acids in the appropriate doses is a strategy to be evaluated for the attenuation of DOMS.
Taurine and lipid oxidation
Another important effect of taurine supplementation is the increased lipid oxidation in post cardiovascular exercise performed at moderate intensity (60% VO2max) and fasting. It has been seen how a dose of taurine between 3 and 6 grams per day can stimulate lipolysis and increase lipid oxidation when combined with exercise based on aerobic metabolism (oxidative system).
Taurine in food
The average taurine consumption, for adults who do not follow exclusively plant-based diets, has been estimated between 40 and 400 mg per day. Let's see in which foods there are high levels of this amino acid.
- Clams. High levels of taurine have been found in shellfish, especially mussels, clams, and scallops.
- Meat. In addition to shellfish, a high taurine content is also found in meats. In particular, beef (which boasts the highest content), dark chicken meat, and white chicken meat. When we refer to white meat and dark chicken meat, we are talking about meat derived from different parts of the animal. Usually, the “white” chicken meat is the breast and the wings, while the “dark” meats, with a darker color after cooking, are the thighs and the upper thighs.
It is important to note that cooking food is not a factor capable of significantly changing the amount of taurine.
Possible side effects
As for the side effects due to the abuse of this substance, it is important to highlight the correlation between the consumption of energy drinks and taurine.
The presence of taurine in the quantities used for energy drinks has been considered safe, different is the discourse relating to the safety of the energy drinks themselves, whose tendency to excessive consumption is a matter of concern, especially for the young population. Acute and chronic side effects of excessive taurine intake have not been well documented.
Curiosities and urban legends
- A common misconception is that taurine is an energizer. This is due to the fact that it is often used as an ingredient along with caffeine in the preparation of energy drinks. This statement is not true, taurine has in fact the many properties listed above, but it does not have an energizing function like caffeine.
- It is not uncommon to hear that the taurine found in some well-known energy drinks comes from the testicles of bulls. This fact is absolutely not true. The taurine used to prepare drinks or supplements is obtained through synthetic processes that allow us to offer maximum safety and quality to consumers.
The properties of taurine certainly make it a very important amino acid and demonstrate, once again, how a healthy diet and, if necessary, the rational use of food supplements, are the main pillars in building aptitudes such as to improve the lifestyle, both of both professional athlete and non.
- Review: Taurine: A “very essential” amino acid
- Taurine, Caffeine, and Energy Drinks: Reviewing the Risks to the Adolescent Brain
- The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease
- The Effect of Taurine on the Recovery from EccentricExercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Males
- Taurine Supplementation Increases Post-ExerciseLipid Oxidation at Moderate Intensity in Fasted Healthy Males
- The combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise