What is taurine?

Taurine is not only a component of energy drinks, but also of the human organism. There, taurine contributes to fat digestion, among other things.

Taurine gained notoriety as an additive in energy drinks such as Red Bull ® : The substance is said to increase the effect of the caffeine also contained in the drinks and help to improve performance. However, taurine also occurs as a natural compound in the body. Read here what exactly taurine is, what it does in the body and what side effects it can have in energy drinks.

What is taurine made of?

Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid and is a breakdown product of the  amino acids  methionine and cysteine. The human body produces taurine itself, so the organic substance does not necessarily have to be ingested through food.

The production of taurine in the human organism

The word taurine comes from the Greek word tauros for bull, but the substance is by no means obtained from bull testicles, as is often claimed. Instead, the taurine found in food is artificially produced in the laboratory.

However, taurine also occurs naturally in the human organism: in adults, the substance is formed in the liver and brain with the participation of  vitamin B6  . Taurine is particularly concentrated in the muscle cells, in the brain, in the heart, in the blood and in the eyes.

The body produces up to 125 milligrams of taurine every day. There are also up to 400 milligrams that we  absorb through food  . A healthy person weighing 70 kilograms has up to 70 grams of taurine in their body. Thus, taurine is present in the human organism at approximately one gram per kilogram of body weight.

taurine in breast milk

Since newborns are not yet able to produce taurine in their bodies, babies are initially supplied with the organic acid through their mother’s milk. Breast milk contains between 25 and 50 milligrams of taurine per liter.

Which foods contain taurine?

Taurine also occurs naturally in our food, exclusively in  animal foods  or in animal  protein . Examples of foods containing taurine include:

What does taurine do?

Taurine takes on some important functions in the body, although not all biochemical effects have been researched. One of the proven effects of taurine is the formation of so-called bile acid conjugations.

Taurine is therefore involved in  fat digestion  : the substance is coupled to the bile acids produced in the liver and thus improves their solubility. The dissolved bile acids bind with dietary fats in the small intestine so that they can be absorbed into the blood.

Taurine also has the following effect in the body:

  • Taurine plays a role in the  development of the central nervous system  and in signaling in the brain.
  • Taurine makes a significant contribution to the development and  functionality of the eyes  – more precisely the retina.
  • It also contributes to  heart function  , as taurine has an antiarrhythmic effect. This means that taurine regulates the heartbeat and thus ensures that the heart beats regularly.
  • Taurine also has an  antioxidant  effect  because it protects the tissue from cell-damaging free radicals.
  • In animal experiments, an  anti-inflammatory effect  of taurine was also found.
  • Studies 1 also indicate  that taurine   lowers blood sugar  and  cholesterol levels . However, this has not yet been clearly clarified.
  • Taurine does not have a stimulating or stimulating effect on the body, as is often assumed. On the contrary: in high doses, the substance has a  calming and antispasmodic  effect.

Consequences of a taurine deficiency

A taurine deficiency is very rare, but can, for example, result from a long-term  vegan  diet or from a limited availability of cysteine, methionine or vitamin B6.

A low taurine level can lead to disorders of the immune system. In addition, a low concentration of taurine in the muscles is typical of  chronic kidney failure . A lack of taurine can also cause inflammation in the tissue.

Taurine as a dietary supplement

If there is a medical need, taurine can be supplied externally over the long term.

In the form of  dietary supplements  , the substance is taken as a capsule or tablet or as a powder to be stirred into liquid. Taurine is available as a monosupplement, but also in combination with other substances in dietary supplements. Taurine supplements can be purchased at pharmacies or online. Since the taurine used here is synthetically produced, it is vegan.

Taurine is also often included in  parental nutrition  – i.e. artificial nutrition via nutrient infusions. Taurine is administered in infusions, especially to premature babies whose liver is not yet able to produce the substance on its own and who need artificial nutrition. In particular, the focus here is on the full development of the eyes, in which taurine plays a role.

Taurine: dosage

The maximum amount of taurine per day that the body should be supplied with through food, dietary supplements or energy drinks cannot be answered. Studies on the recommended daily dose are still pending. It is estimated that humans consume between 40 and 400 milligrams of taurine every day.

The average dosage of taurine in supplements is between 500 and 2,000 milligrams per day. But doses of over 3,000 milligrams also seem to be unproblematic. So far, there are no known cases of  taurine overdose  .

However, it should be kept in mind that the body produces taurine itself and we also consume more taurine through food, so that a healthy person does not in principle need an additional supply of the substance.

Taurin in Energydrinks

Artificially produced taurine is added to almost all energy drinks. The reason is the alleged increase in physical and mental performance. However, this effect could not be clearly demonstrated in studies 2  .

It has also not been proven that taurine increases the effect of the caffeine contained in energy drinks and thus has a stimulating effect. Only the caffeine contained in the drinks and the sugar have a stimulating effect. As already mentioned, high doses of taurine tend to have a calming effect.

It is also unclear what effects taurine has in combination with other ingredients in energy drinks such as inositol,  guarana  and glucuronolactone.

In animal experiments, taurine influenced the insulin level and thus accelerated the  metabolism . This could be a possible explanation for the supposedly enhancing effect of taurine in energy drinks. However, this assumption could not be confirmed in humans.

According to the fruit juice and soft drink regulations, energy drinks may contain  a maximum of 4,000 milligrams of taurine per liter since 2013  . For example, a can of Red Bull ®  (250 milliliters) contains 1,000 milligrams of synthetic taurine.

Side Effects of Taurine

So far, there are no known side effects of taurine when taken from food or dietary supplements.

The situation is different with  taurine in energy drinks  . In general, the side effects of taurine in combination with the other ingredients in these drinks have not been sufficiently researched and it is unclear what happens if you consume too much taurine in energy drinks. Therefore, the substance should be viewed with a critical eye in the context of this use.

The combination of taurine and caffeine in particular is suspected of having health risks. Some side effects are suspected here, but they need further research. These possible side effects include:

Due to the uncertain effect, the above-mentioned maximum amount of taurine in energy drinks has been set. In addition, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends that  children, pregnant women and breastfeeding women  should not consume any energy drinks.

Dangerous mix: taurine, caffeine and alcohol

Mixtures of energy drinks with vodka or other alcohol are also popular. However, this mix likely poses significant health risks.

Because the combination of caffeine, alcohol and taurine could also harbor more serious risks such as  kidney failure  and  cardiac arrest  in addition to the side effects already mentioned . 3  Here, too, relevant research is still lacking.

Taurine for better performance in sports?

Some bodybuilders take taurine as a dietary supplement because the substance is said to help build muscle. So far, however, there is no scientific evidence for a promoting effect on athletic performance. Although taurine  was able to increase muscle growth in animal studies 4 , this could not be confirmed in humans 5  .

Auch das Trinken von Energydrinks in Verbindung mit Sport ist umstritten. Während einige Studien einen unterstützenden Effekt auf die sportliche Leistung beschreiben, können andere Studien dies nicht bestätigen und warnen vor den Drinks. Denn Energydrinks entziehen dem Körper Flüssigkeit und können ihn daher besonders bei körperlicher Belastung dehydrieren.

Wie gefährlich ist Taurin also?

Taurin als organische Säure im Körper und in Lebensmitteln ist nicht schädlich. Im Gegenteil – der Körper braucht es sogar, weshalb er es auch selbst produziert.

Bei einer übermäßigen Taurinaufnahme durch zum Beispiel Nahrungsergänzungsmittel wird das überschüssige Taurin über die Nieren ausgeschieden. Aus diesem Grund sollten Menschen mit Nierenproblemen auf eine zusätzliche Zufuhr von Taurin verzichten beziehungsweise Rücksprache mit ihrem Arzt halten.

Akute Gefahr besteht lediglich bei einem extremen Konsum von Energydrinks, vor allem (aber nicht nur) in Kombination mit Alkohol. Trinkt man zu viel davon, ist dies unter anderem höchstwahrscheinlich schädlich für das Herz.

Besonders bei Energyshots ist die Gefahr der Überdosierung groß, da man hier eine hohe Dosis Taurin und Koffein in einer geringen Menge an Flüssigkeit konsumiert.

Taurin als Medikament?

Möglicherweise kann Taurin in der Zukunft als Medikament bei verschiedenen Erkrankungen zum Einsatz kommen. Die entsprechende Forschung steht zwar noch an ihrem Anfang, jedoch wird vermutet, dass Taurin einen positiven Effekt auf bestimmte Augenerkrankungen6, Herzrhythmusprobleme, Bluthochdruck7 und Herzinsuffizienz haben könnte.

Darüber hinaus wirkt Taurin antioxidativ und beruhigend. Daher könnte die Substanz auch bei Krankheiten mit oxidativem Stress wie bei Diabetes oder Arteriosklerose verwendet werden.

Geschichte: Woher kommt Taurin?

Taurine was first discovered in 1827 by chemists Leopold Gmelin and Friedrich Tiedemann. While studying the digestive processes of cattle, they managed to extract a substance from the gallbladder of an ox. Accordingly, the scientists named the substance taurine – after the Greek word tauros for bull.

 

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