Taurine Deficiency: Overview
Did you know that Japan has the highest life expectancy of any major country in the world? Okinawa, commonly known as Japan’s famous “Island of Longevity,” may have the world’s highest percentage of people who are over 100 years old.
Evidence shows that inhabitants of this island have one thing in common: a high dietary intake of an amino sulfonic acid called taurine. Some health experts even promote taurine as the nutritional factor for the longevity of the Japanese population!
So what is taurine—and why is it strongly associated with living a long life?Ad
What Is Taurine Deficiency?
Taurine is a nutrient that is commonly referred to as an amino acid—a required building block for protein. Taurine can be made in our bodies. Large amounts of taurine can be found in the heart, the brain, the retina, and blood cells called platelets. Taurine is also common in animal-based foods, such as seafood and meat. It helps with a variety of bodily functions, including regulating fluids and minerals in the blood as well as supporting the functioning of the heart, muscles, nerves, and eyesight.
Many people have never heard of taurine—or its benefits—but they have likely heard of the symptoms and causes associated with taurine deficiency.
Causes of Taurine Deficiency
- Many people don’t regularly produce high levels of an enzyme needed to produce taurine, called cysteinsulfinic decarboxylase. If you’re low on this enzyme, you will have to depend on dietary sources (i.e. eggs, fish, and meat) to increase your taurine levels.
- Food sources that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG)—a food additive that is used to intensify the flavor of processed foods—can degrade taurine and lead to a taurine deficiency. Food labeling regulations don’t require MSG to be labeled, which means that it can even be hidden in the foods you eat.
- Your body may not make enough taurine due to a deficiency in cysteine and methionine—amino acids that make taurine in your body. A deficiency in zinc, vitamin A, and pyridoxal-5-phosphate (an active form of vitamin B6) may also contribute to a taurine deficiency.
- Candida (a fungal infection caused by yeast) produces an amino acid called beta-alanine. This competes with taurine for reabsorption in the kidney and can result in taurine loss through your urine.
How Does Taurine Help the Body?
According to a 2012 review published in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Vision, taurine is one of the most essential substances of the body! Let’s take a look at a few reasons as to why taurine is so important:
Taurine treats and prevents liver disease:
Evidence suggests that taurine can help treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD occurs when excess fat accumulates in the liver—it is usually caused by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. This can eventually lead to liver failure and liver cirrhosis. Studies have indicated that taurine will defend liver cells against free radicals and toxins, which will help reduce the severity of oxidative stress-induced liver injury (the inability of the body to detoxify the harmful effects of toxins).
A 2008 study published in Amino Acids demonstrated the impact of taurine on liver disease. When 24 patients with chronic hepatitis consumed two grams of taurine three times a day for three months, serum markers of liver damage and oxidative stress decreased—as did their elevated cholesterol levels.
Taurine helps reverse tinnitus (ringing of the ears):
Studies show that taurine can actually help reverse the processes behind hearing loss—it can even eliminate that annoying ringing in the ears linked with tinnitus! According to a study published in Practitioner, researchers discovered that 12% of people who suffered from tinnitus responded to taurine supplementation.
Keep in mind that hearing damage mainly occurs in the nerve cells that transform sound waves into electrical energy that our brains perceive—these cells depend on the flow of calcium ions into and out of the cell. Taurine promotes calcium ion flow in hearing cells.
Taurine provides retina protection:
Adequate levels of taurine may help prevent age-related vision loss, while low levels of taurine can contribute to vision problems. High levels of taurine can be found in the retina, which can help fight oxidative stress and restore deficient levels of nerve growth factors needed for maintaining retinal health.
When taurine levels are deficient, vision problems, such as retinal dysfunction, can occur. Certain drugs can lower the levels of taurine in the body, including the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide as well as the anti-epileptic drug vigabatrin. The good news is that taurine supplementation can restore taurine levels and protect the retina.
Taurine reverses cardiovascular disease factors:
People who have higher levels of taurine have a lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease. They also have lower blood pressure and lower body mass indexes. A study published in the American Heart Journal looked at the correlation between taurine and patients who needed coronary bypass surgery. Researchers found that patients who consumed a liquid drink concoction containing three grams of taurine, three grams of carnitine, 150 milligrams of CoQ10, and basic multivitamin nutrients experienced a reduced left-sided ventricular volume in the heart’s resting phase.
This is important because left-sided ventricular is the greatest predictor of death in patients requiring bypass—so taurine is an essential part of the diet for these patients.
Taurine prevents obesity:
Research shows that consuming three grams of taurine per day over a seven-week period can help reduce body weight significantly for adults. In a 2004 study published in Amino Acids, participants saw a decline in their serum triglycerides (fats moving through the bloodstream to the body’s tissue) and atherogenic index—cholesterol components that help predict the risk of artery disease.
Taurine promotes a good night’s sleep:
Combining magnesium and taurine can help get rid of stress, calm your nerves, and help you sleep better.
Taurine treats diabetes and promotes glucose control:
Taurine concentrations are lower among diabetics than they are in healthy individuals. Animal studies have found that adequate doses of taurine help control diabetes by reducing glucose and restoring insulin sensitivity.
What Expecting Mothers Should Know
Expecting mothers should be aware that Candida, elevated levels of mercury, or bacterial imbalance can lead to taurine deficiency for both the mother and the baby. Taurine is essential for developing fetuses, mainly because they are unable to produce it themselves.
Foods Rich in Taurine
- Shellfish: Shellfish is a great source of taurine. You can find high levels of it in clams, shrimp, and scallops. Keep in mind that taurine is heat-sensitive, which means that it is often destroyed when cooked. Try to purchase the freshest seafood, as it will reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.
- Fish: Many types of fish are very good sources of taurine, specifically cold-water varieties like tuna, salmon, and sardines. Most cold-water fish contains between 30 and 40 milligrams of taurine.
- Human breast milk (for infants): Infants require a daily intake of taurine for good health. Taurine is essential in the development of the eyes and brain, so baby formula manufacturers have begun adding it to artificial baby milk.
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