By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Taurine, also known as aminoethane sulfonic acid, is a ubiquitous compound that is classified as an amino acid, although it is unable to form peptide bonds. It is involved in several physiological processes in the body and is thought to have significant effects on the cardiovascular system and central nervous system, in addition to other areas of the body.
Taurine is thought to play a vital role in the maintenance of the cardiac muscles and their normal function of contraction. This has been suggested due to the observation of cardiomyopathy upon the depletion of taurine in the body. Further research has supported this notion, showing that calcium ion transporters and modulation have an effect on the amino acid. Protein kinases and phosphatases in the cardiac muscle are also modulated by taurine.
Additionally, taurine is thought to play a role as a regulator of osmolality of the heart and oxidative stress. The mechanism for this regulation is not clear, however, and is questioned by some researchers. The stabilization of membranes may also be stabilized by the interaction of taurine with phospholipids.
Central Nervous System
Taurine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and is linked to several physiological function as a result of the way it interacts with the central nervous system.
It is an agonist of the regulatory gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter receptors in the thalamus of the brain, which activates inhibitory pathways. This has been suggested to carry a protective effect against excitotoxicity associated with high levels of glutamate.
Additionally, it has an effect on potentiation in the hippocampus, the stabilization of membranes and the inhibition of macrophage feedback. It also works as an anxiolytic and is thought to modulate the glycine receptor.
Defections in the blood flow to the nerves and the resulting conduction of nerve signaling may be influenced by taurine. This has been suggested by a study of neuropathic rats but has yet to be examined in a human population.
Taurine is needed for the normal function of skeletal muscle and a genetic deficiency in taurine has been associated with a depletion of skeletal and cardiac muscle. As a result of this, exercise capacity is also limited in individuals with low levels of taurine.
As an antioxidant, taurine is able to neutralize some harmful substances in the body, such as lead and cadmium, producing a protective effect. Additionally, taurine supplementation helps to reduce oxidative stress brought on by intensive exercise and training.
Taurine also interacts with sodium, potassium and magnesium ions, leading to the containing of potassium and magnesium inside the cell and preventing the entry of excessive sodium. As a result of this, it has a diuretic effect.
Glucose and Adipose Tissue Regulation
Some animal studies have shown a link between taurine and weight loss and blood glucose reductions. A study of rabbits showed that the serum glucose levels were lowered by 30% with taurine supplementation. However, no effect of insulin secretion or sensitivity has been evident in human studies to date. Nonetheless, it continues to be studied as a possible supplement in the management of diabetes and overweight individuals.
Last Updated: Sep 28, 2015