L-taurine is an amino acid your body requires to perform basic functions, and supplementing with it can help stabilize blood sugar and improve exercise performance. Impressively, l-taurine supplementation can help lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. It works by supporting heart and blood vessel function, extending the lifespan of brain neurons and stimulating the growth of new brain cells. It also increases insulin sensitivity, which is required to keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent the spikes and drops diabetics experience.
L-taurine, or simply taurine, is an amino acid found in foods and is an active ingredient in some energy drinks. Its name comes from the Latin word “taurus,” which means “ox,” as it was originally isolated from ox bile. While most amino acids are “essential amino acids,” l-taurine is a “conditionally essential” amino acid because the body can usually synthesize it. However, there are several groups of individuals at risk of low l-taurine production. It’s required by the brain, and plays a role in processes involving your cardiovascular and nervous systems.
L-taurine has been widely studied for its ability as a dietary supplement to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes and to boost exercise performance. It’s considered safe, with no known side effects when taken at recommended doses. You can increase your intake of l-taurine through food or with the use of supplements. Food sources include fish, meat and dairy. Getting a full spectrum of essential amino acids also helps your body synthesize l-taurine on its own .
1. Helps Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease
L-taurine is a key player in cardiovascular health, and several studies point to its ability to help lower your risk of heart disease. The main ways it benefits your heart is by lowering blood pressure and inflammation–both of which are factors that play a role in your risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease . It also helps improve the function of your heart’s left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to be delivered by blood vessels throughout your body. It also helps the heart by calming the nervous system . One study even found that taurine supplementation improved heart function in patients with heart failure .
2. Helps Prevent and Treat Parkinson’s Disease
Scientists have known for a while that taurine supports brain health, but new research has linked low levels of l-taurine to Parkinson’s disease . Taurine has the special ability to help regenerate brain cells by stimulating stem cells and extending the lifespan of neurons. Taurine increases the creation of new brain cells in the hippocampus, which is the brain’s memory center. It also reduces inflammation in the brain–a known contributor to the development of neurodegenerative diseases .
Since the body produces less and less taurine as you get older, it’s more difficult to maintain levels of new brain cells required to preserve the brain’s health. Therefore, taurine deficiency may play a role in the development of brain disorders such as Parkinson’s .
3. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar and Prevent Diabetes
L-taurine acts in a way that is similar to insulin, which is the hormone responsible for the absorption of glucose into cells where they’re used for energy. Through this mechanism, l-taurine helps lower glucose levels in the bloodstream and prevents sudden blood sugar spikes. Long-term taurine supplementation is shown to help lower fasting blood sugar levels with no changes in diet or exercise. As a result, taurine supplementation could help prevent diabetes and manage symptoms of prediabetes and diabetes .
4. Prevents Diabetic Neuropathy
L-taurine strengthens the nervous system, which helps prevent diabetic neuropathy in diabetics. In addition to blood sugar spikes and drops, people with diabetes are also susceptible to pain and numbness in their limbs, known as peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes can also cause autonomic neuropathy, characterized mainly by bladder and gastrointestinal problems. Retinopathy, which results in glaucoma and even blindness, can also occur. Taurine supplementation shows promise in preventing these complications of diabetes not only by stabilizing blood sugar but also by improving nerve function that has been affected by blood sugar instability .
5. Prevents and Reduces Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is the term that describes a combination of conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and extra fat around the waistline. People with metabolic syndrome have a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Research suggests taurine can help fight the abnormalities that lead to metabolic syndrome, such as insulin resistance. By increasing insulin sensitivity, taurine helps the body regulate glucose. With less sugar building up outside the cells, there’s a decrease in fat buildup at the waistline and a reduction in triglyceride and cholesterol levels .
6. Improves Athletic Performance and Muscle Growth
Taurine is probably most famously used to improve sports performance in athletes. There’s evidence supporting its use as an exercise performance enhancer and its ability to help improve muscle recovery. In a study on runners, taking 1,000 mg of taurine 2 hours before a race improved speed in 90 percent of participants . Meanwhile, in a study on mice, taurine was shown to lower levels of lactic acid after exercise. Lactic acid builds up during exercise and is responsible for muscle soreness afterward. The mice that took taurine also had less muscle damage compared to the ones that did not. Less muscle damage and lower levels of lactic acid equate to faster recovery times, and in turn, faster gains in performance, muscle strength and weight loss .
7. Assists Weight Loss Efforts
In addition to improving muscle growth by reducing muscle damage and speeding up exercise recovery time, taurine can also help improve weight loss efforts by increasing fat burning. A study on cyclists supplementing with taurine showed that taking 1.66 grams of taurine an hour before exercise boosted fat burning by 16 percent . Taurine is shown to lower levels of fat in the bloodstream by bringing more glucose inside the cells where they can be used for fuel instead of stored as fat deposits .
8. Taurine and Mental Functioning
Scientists have conducted studies with taurine to determine its effects on mental functioning. In 2008, a scientist from the College of Staten Island analyzed the effects of taurine on the brains of aging animals. The results of the study, which were published in Neuroscience Letters, showed that supplementation with taurine slowed the age-related memory decline typically seen in mice. The study author also commented that taurine has previously demonstrated an ability to increase levels of GABA and glutamate, two important neurotransmitters that tend to decrease with age . Based on the results of this study, taurine can benefit cognitive functioning by slowing age-related changes in the brain.
Taurine protects the brain from age-related declines, and it could also be protective in cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology conducted a study with taurine for publication in a 2014 edition of Scientific Reports, analyzing its effects on the brains and cognitive functioning of mice with Alzheimer’s disease. They found that when mice consumed taurine in their drinking water, it reversed the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s and weakened some of the brain damage associated with this condition . Taurine could, therefore, be beneficial for people suffering from or at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Taurine could also serve as a treatment for traumatic brain injury. A 2014 study in the journal Neuroscience, led by researchers from China, found that taurine facilitated recovery from traumatic brain injury. It also reduced the amount of water in the brain after traumatic brain injury and decreased inflammation . Taurine seems to be protective of the brain.
Do You Need More L-Taurine?
Some people create insufficient amounts of taurine. Taurine production decreases with age, putting older people at risk of taurine deficiency. Food sources of taurine only include meat, fish and dairy, which means vegans don’t get taurine from food. Also, a lack of essential amino acids can prevent taurine from being synthesized in the body. People with diabetes and people with kidney, liver or heart failure can have lower levels of taurine. Taurine supplementation comes in liquid and pill form and can shore up any taurine deficiency while providing the health benefits of this necessary amino acid.