Two ideas to consider. Okinawa has the largest percentage of population over the age of 100. The dietary intake of Taurine is highest in the Japanese diet. See where I am going with this? Here are some clues as to why Taurine might just be the best supplement to include in your supplement regimen.
Some background facts
Taurine is an essential amino acid. It is also known as - get ready for it, this is a long one – 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid. Phew! This amino acid was first identified by two Germans – Tiedemann and Gmelin. They discovered Taurine in the bile of Ox - hence the name – which comes from Taurus, Latin for bull.
Taurine is found in huge amounts all over our bodies. It is in greatest concentration in the eyes, the central nervous system and skeletal muscles. It is also thought to have an effect on the cardiovascular system – as the heart muscle is strengthened in the presence of taurine – which leads to improved overall function. In an animal study, taurine protected against heart failure, reducing mortality by 80%. Scientists believe that this is one of the most essential substances in our bodies but is liable to decline with age. Hence why a lot of people might know of taurine as a method for increasing longevity – and hence the Japanese have the highest average life expectancy on the planet.
Taurine is present in a lot of foods loved by body builders: eggs, seafood and meat. This is not surprising, as amino acids are derived from protein diets. Vegans are most likely to have a low taurine level – as they do not take much in through their food. Taurine is also popular among athletes, as it can improve exercise capacity and physical strength.
We process proteins by turning it into amino acids – helping to rebuild our bodies – from the hair on our heads down to the toe nails on our feet. Amino acids also aid cell function and cell regeneration. It improves our formation of antibodies and in turn, improves our immune system. Amino Acids also help in the production of hormones and enzymes. Cats cannot produce taurine and so they need it from their food. If a cat turned vegan it would die pretty quickly!
The link to the liver?
Taurine is naturally synthesized in our body in the pancreas. It is also present in our food. Naturally synthesized taurine declines with age and with an increase in poor diets, the amount gained from food is reducing.
One of the most common forms of liver disease is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (or NAFLD). Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when too much fat accumulates in the liver. This is often caused by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Insulin is produced by the pancreas – therefore – promoting the efficiency of the pancreas should combat NAFLD. If not addressed over time, the end result is the loss of liver function, leading to cirrhosis.
The liver acts a detoxification machine. It screens our blood flow many times over each day for substances that can damage our bodies. Taurine is an integral part of the liver’s self-protective mechanisms. Some studies indicate that taurine helps to protect the liver cells against oxidative damage. This ensures that the liver cells efficiently remove harmful compounds. This is vital in both alcohol and non-alcohol fatty liver diseases, which can lead to eventual liver failure. Taurine also defends liver cells against free radicals and toxins. Free radicals enter our system often through foods. These free radicals stop cells from oxidizing and therefore lead to the increased chance of cancer. The defense against toxins also helps to reduce the severity of oxidative stress-induced liver injury. This is vitally important in alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, both of which can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure.
24 patients were tracked as part of a human trial. They all had chronic hepatitis. These patients took 2gms of taurine three times a day for three months. The results were spectacular, as serum markers of liver damage, as well as markers of oxidative stress, decreased significantly, as did their elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Researchers at the University of London’s School of Pharmacy believe that taurine can reverse liver damage caused by alcoholism or by heavy nights out binge-drinking – which cause more damage to the liver than extended use of moderate amounts of alcohol every day. As we drink, excess fat builds up in the liver, causing it to swell and reduce the blood flow through the organ. This means its ability to break down the toxins in alcohol are reduced and so fat congregates even more.
It is not just that taurine can prevent this build-up of fat in the liver, it can also reverse the accumulation. In one study, rats were given alcohol and taurine for a month. Scientists found that it prevented fat build-up in the liver. Even more surprisingly, when given to rats after they had drunk alcohol, taurine continued to reverse the liver damage. According to this study’s findings, it is possible that adding taurine to alcohol during drinking could help to minimize liver damage and ward off a hangover.
Why is this so important?
The two biggest health problems of the modern age are alcohol related and problems caused by obesity. Scientists in Ireland found children suffering from fatty liver due to obesity. 6% of alcoholics die from liver-related conditions. The obvious advice to people would be to stop drinking alcohol and to lose weight. However, at a time when over-indulgence is a scourge of modern life – it is unlikely that the message to abstain from calorific food and alcohol will be heard clearly. Therefore, if, as the scientists from Ireland hope, that taurine can reverse the impact on the liver, then this really is a crucial step forward.
Obesity impacts nearly every area of our bodies. Our abdominal fat stores are known to cause inflammation, which can lead to cardiovascular concerns. Taurine has the ability to significantly help lower lipid levels within the bloodstream and improves the body’s ability to cope with excess glucose in the bloodstream. Lipid lowering may help to protect against cardiovascular concerns whilst glucose tolerance is significant because many obese people go on to develop diabetes.
Where have I heard about Taurine before?
Taurine is an ingredient in some sports drinks. This is because it has proven the effect on muscle function and physical performance – which is why taurine has come under increased scientific review. The dosage for taurine in these drinks is upwards of 2000 – 3000mg. If people chose to drink these energy drinks three or four times a day, it is easy to see why there may be an increased likelihood of side effects. Much of the research seems to see these side effects as a result of the increased dosage of glucose and caffeine – as opposed to the taurine – which does make sense when the concern is for the significant damage that could be done to the body’s systems – most significantly the cardiovascular system – which taurine is shown to benefit not hinder.
The energy drink Red Bull went through some tricky times when some people died due to the intake of energy drinks. However, scientists have been particularly clear that the deaths in Sweden had nothing to do with taurine – despite that taurine was banned in Norway and France and made into a pharmaceutical in Japan. Ironically, since these early years of panic over energy drinks, scientists are strong in the belief that taurine can actually reverse the impact of alcohol on the liver. Therefore, many scientists had proffered the suggestion that putting taurine in alcohol as a matter of course is recommended. This means the Vodka and Red Bull at the next Christmas party might actually be the best medical advice for avoiding damage to your system --- and avoid the hangover!
Think about it – energy drinks often have the equivalent of 4 or 5 strong coffees per serving. If you are drinking in excess of 3 or 4 cans of energy drink a day – you will suffer heart palpations and at worse, as in the case of those in Sweden, heart failure. Glucose is a sugar that also has stimulatory effects. With the toxic levels of caffeine and the high levels of glucose – you are going to mix high blood sugar with increased heart rate and what would be the likely outcome? Seizure, jitters, heart palpitation, heart failure. Taurine will be doing its best to help your body fight these two agents – which will be received by the body as invading toxins at these levels.
Taurine is basically the most essential element in our body. This means that it helps in the maintenance of most systems in the body. This includes cardiovascular disease, cholesterol control, protection of the eyes and tinnitus.
As we age our body produces less taurine and we are faced with a choice. We should either increase our intake of fish, eggs and shellfish – or we take supplementation. It is likely that a mixture of both diet and supplement is a sound choice – especially if alcohol is a regular part of your life.
Share this post