What is Taurine?
Taurine is an ‘amino sulfonic acid’ which is involved in a number of critical cellular and metabolic processes. Amino acids are the ‘blocking blocks’ of other more complex proteins. However, taurine has its own unique function within the body. Instead of being used to build protein, taurine regulates a number of other functions, including:
Retinal and eye function
Cellular hydration and electrolyte balance
Cellular calcium levels, with is particularly important for neuronal communication
Central nervous system function and nerve growth
Protecting neurons from extracellular stress
Aiding central nervous system development
Immune system and antioxidant function
Digestion and the production of bile salts
Our bodies can produce some taurine and it is available in foods such as fish, meat and dairy. However, many people can benefit from dietary supplement of taurine.
Taurine deficiency has been linked with cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscles), kidney failure, developmental abnormalities and damage to the eye-sight via retinal neurons.
In recent years, mounting evidence has pointed toward body-wide benefits of taurine supplementation. The strongest evidence suggests taurine is effective in improving heart conditions (such as congestive heart failure) and inflammatory disorders.
Taurine is also being extensively trialled as an anti-diabetic compound; early indications show taurine may help to control blood sugar and some types of insulin resistance.
More recent research shows that taurine may be an important player in brain health.
Brain Benefits and Mode of Action
Taurine is present throughout the body, but is enriched in the brain. So far, every brain region which has been tested contains taurine, this includes the hypothalamus, striatum, cerebellum and pineal gland.
In the brain, taurine deficiency can lead to reduced levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which may increase anxiety and depression. More recently, neuroscience has become interested in taurine due to its potential therapeutic benefits for conditions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s a summary of strongest findings about taurine’s function in the brain so far:
Vital in brain development
Prevents mitochondrial, the cellular ‘powerhouse’ for energy production, dysfunction and damage in neurons
Reduces inflammation and protects neurons from environmental damage
Important for long term memory formation
Supports GABA function which reduces excitotoxicity
May prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases
Now let’s dig into the powerful nootropic effects of taurine supplementation…
Taurine protects neurons from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can be caused by a host of factors. This includes, pollution, pesticides and chemicals, smoking, poor diet, alcohol consumption and certain medications. Oxidative stress damages neurons and can destroy the synapses they use to communicate with each other. This neuronal damage can lead to various brain disorders. Taurine has a powerful protective effect which keeps neurons healthy.
Taurine protects cells from oxidative stress by improving mitochondrial function and inhibiting the damage from reactive oxygen species (also known as ‘free radicals’).
Taurine has also been shown to be protective against environmental hazards, such as pesticides and heavy metals. These substances are linked to neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. Taurine helps to prevent against this damage by regulating mitochondria and cellular calcium levels.
Taurine may also fight damage caused by the classical Alzheimer’s related Amyloid-β plaque accumulation. This can help to prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Mode of action:By binding to the cellular lipid membrane, taurine can exert its protection against extracellular free radicals. Taurine can also regulate enzymes which protect against cellular and mitochondrial damage.
Taurine is able to modulate neuronal communication in a similar way to other neurotransmitters, such as GABA.
Taurine can bind both GABA (inhibitory) and glycine (excitatory) receptors in the brain, meaning that it can modulate excitatory-inhibitory activity. This modulation promotes relaxation and boosts mood. In fact, there are studies which have shown taurine supplementation effectively supports cellular signalling cascades which relate to depression.
There are many reports that taurine can act a mood booster in situations of high stress. This may be because stress dysregulates a variety of neurotransmitters. Taurine may be able to ‘stabilise’ excitatory-inhibitory activity which keeps the brain and mood balanced.
Others studies show that taurine may be effective in the treatment of anxiety disorder.
Mode of action:Taurine can bind to multiple GABA and glycine receptor subunits, meaning the molecule can modulate excitation and inhibition within neural networks.
Enhances Memory and Promotes Neurogenesis
Other have found that taurine uptake by neurons induces protein synthesis which is critical for ‘long-term potentiation’. Long term potentiation is the process by which synapses are strengthened and long-term memories are made.
Some studies have found that taurine may actually help with the creation of new neurons and survival of old ones. Research suggests that taurine may be able to activate the birth of new neurons. So far, this has been shown in human neurons cultured in a petri dish. Researchers found that taurine supplementation could fast-track stem-cells into becoming neurons. There were also higher neuronal health and survival rates in neurons which were supplemented with taurine.
If this effect also happens in the living brain, taurine’s brain-boosting effects may include improvements to memory and protection against neurodegenerative disorders.
Mode of action:Taurine helps to synthesise proteins which are vital to forming long term memory. With long-term supplementation, taurine is able to help stem cells transform into new neurons. The exact mechanisms underlying this remain unknown!
How to use taurine
Taurine supplements are small molecules which are highly bioavailable via oral administration. These are taken orally as capsules or powders. Taurine is absorbed quickly and the effects are rapidly onset.
Importantly for neurological benefits, taurine can cross the blood-brain barrier. This means molecules can easily access neuronal cells and exert their beneficial effects.
Taurine is well tolerated and safe for most people. The supplement shouldn’t cause any side effects.
As with any supplement, it’s important to ensure there no interaction with any current medications. In this case, taurine may have a moderate interaction with the uptake of lithium, often used to treat bipolar disorder.
Recommended Dose: 500mg – 2gm per day
The safe upper limit for taurine is 3mg. However, the scientific consensus is that 2mg is adequate for daily supplementation.
Since taurine is rapidly absorbed and used by the body and brain. Hence, long-term supplementation is important in order to feel benefits.
Aim to take taurine in powder of capsule form. Taurine gained from high-sugar energy drinks will notprovide the same benefits since many of these drinks contain ingredients which contribute to poor health.
Since taurine deficiency can be so damaging to the health of the body and brain, it’s well worth adding to your supplementation routine.
We’ve classified taurine as beneficial for memory.
The protective and growth enhancing effects that taurine can have in the brain means it can provide powerful benefits to our memory. Taurine is known to be a key player in the formation of long-term memory. With long term supplementation, taurine can help boost and protect your memory.
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