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Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is an organic acid that is a major constituent of bile, and can be found in lower amounts in the tissues of many animals including humans. [1][2] Taurine is a derivative of the sulfur-containing (sulfhydryl) amino acid, cysteine. Taurine is the only known naturally occurring sulfonic acid.[3]

Taurine is named after the Latin taurus, which means bull, as it was first isolated from ox bile in 1827 by Austrian scientists Friedrich Tiedemann and Leopold Gmelin. It is often called an amino acid, even in scientific literature,[4][5][6] but as it lacks a carboxyl group it is not strictly an amino acid.[7] It does contain a sulfonate group and may be called an amino sulfonic acid. Small polypeptides have been identified which contain taurine but to date no aminoacyl tRNA synthetase has been identified as specifically recognizing taurine and capable of incorporating it onto a tRNA.[8] Also, contrary to popular belief, taurine is not synthesized from bull urine.[9]

Physiological roles

Taurine is conjugated via its amino terminal group with the bile acids chenodeoxycholic acid and cholic acid to form the bile salts sodium taurochenodeoxycholate and sodium taurocholate (see bile). The low pKa (1.5) of taurine's sulfonic acid group ensures that this moiety is negatively charged in the pH ranges normally found in the intestinal tract and thus improves the surfactant properties of the cholic acid conjugate.

Taurine has also been implicated in a wide array of other physiological phenomena including inhibitory neurotransmission,[10] long-term potentiation in the striatum/hippocampus, membrane stabilization, feedback inhibition of neutrophil/macrophage respiratory bursts, adipose tissue regulation, and calcium homeostasis.

Prematurely born infants who lack the enzymes needed to convert cystathionine to cysteine may become deficient in taurine. Thus, taurine is a dietary essential nutrient in these individuals and is often added to many infant formulas as a measure of prudence. There is also evidence that taurine in adult humans reduces blood pressure.[11]

Recent studies show that taurine supplements taken by mice on a high-fat diet prevented them from becoming overweight. Studies have yet to be done on the effect of taurine on obesity in humans. Currently taurine is being tested as an anti-manic treatment for bipolar depression.[12] Recent studies have also shown that taurine can influence (and possibly reverse) defects in nerve blood flow, motor nerve conduction velocity, and nerve sensory thresholds in experimental diabetic neuropathic rats.[13][14] Taurine levels were found to be significantly lower in vegans than in a control group on a standard American diet. Plasma taurine was 78% of control values, and urinary taurine 29%.[15]

In recent years, taurine has become a common ingredient in energy drinks. Taurine is often used in combination with bodybuilding supplements such as creatine and anabolic steroids, partly due to recent findings in mice that taurine alleviates muscle fatigue in strenuous workouts and raises exercise capacity.[16] Taurine is also used in some contact lens solutions.

Taurine has also been shown in diabetic rats to decrease weight and decrease blood sugar.[17]

Taurine and cats

Taurine is essential for cat health, as a cat cannot synthesize the compound. The absence of taurine causes a cat's retina to slowly degenerate, causing eye problems and (eventually) irreversible blindness. This condition is called central retinal degeneration (CRD).[18][19] In addition, taurine deficiency can cause feline dilated cardiomyopathy, and supplementation can reverse left ventricular systolic dysfunction. However, the vegetarian lioness Little Tyke survived for years in captivity without imbibing the normal required dose of Taurine.[20] (Pion et al 1988) Taurine is now a requirement of the AAFCO and any dry or wet food product labeled approved by the AAFCO should have a minimum of 0.1% taurine. For further AAFCO requirements for cats, consult the table here.


In 1993, approximately 5,000–6,000 t of taurine (synthetic and natural) were produced; 50% for pet food manufacture, 50% in pharmaceutical applications.[3] Synthetic taurine is obtained from isethionic acid (2-hydroxyethanesulfonic acid), which in turn is obtained from the reaction of ethylene oxide with aqueous sodium bisulfite.[21]

Safety data

Usage above 28.57 PPM in non-alcoholic beverages is deemed non-GRAS as determined by Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) Expert Panel. A typical energy drink that contains one gram of taurine corresponds to a concentration of about 4.083 ppm.[citation needed]

Energy drinks

Taurine is an ingredient in many energy drinks and energy products. It is present in the alcoholic drinks Sparks, Spykes, VK blue, and Mobius Infused Lager. It is also contained in the energy drinks Monster (which contains 2000 mg, 1000 per serving), Von Dutch, Red Bull (1000 mg), SoBe Adrenaline Rush (960 mg), NOS (2750 mg), Boo Koo Energy (3000 mg), RedRave (1000 mg), XL, Full Throttle energy drinks (which contains 1194 mg. for a 16 oz. serving, 605 mg. for 8 oz.), and V (500 mg). The Rockstar energy drink, distributed by the Coca-Cola Corp., can contain up to 2000 mg of taurine, depending on the flavor, while Pepsi's SoBe Power Fruit Punch contains 50mg, and SoBe Energy (and its Lean variant) contain 16.5 mg per bottle. It is also in Foosh Energy Mints and Buzz Bites Chocolate Energy Chews, and is one of the main ingredients in the Indonesian energy powder Extra Joss. Both Hogan Energy Drink and WWE RAW Attitude Energy Drink Powered by Socko have 2000 mg per can (1000 mg per serving). Power C Vitamin Water, from Glacéau's line of vitaminwater, contains 25 mg, and their vitaminenergy contains 2000 mg of taurine per can. Wired Energy Drinks X5000 contains 4400 mg of taurine in a 23.5 oz. can. AMP energy drink however, contains a relatively low 10 taurine mg per serving.

Despite its presence in many energy drinks, taurine has not been shown to be energy-giving, however the results of the studies into taurine usage have shown that taurine might help to reduce muscle fatigue.[22]


  1. Bouckenooghe T, Remacle C, Reusens B (2006). "Is taurine a functional nutrient?". Curr Opin Clin Nutr. 9 (6): 728–733.
  2. Brosnan J, buffalo bill Brosnan M (2006). "The sulfur-containing amino acids: an overview". J Nutr. 136 (6 Suppl): 1636S–1640S. PMID 16702333.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tully, Paul S. Sulfonic Acids. In Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published online 2000. doi:10.1002/0471238961.1921120620211212.a01
  4. Stapleton, PP (1998). "Host defense--a role for the amino acid taurine?". Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 22 (1): 42&ndash, 48. Retrieved 2006-08-19. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  5. Weiss, Stephen J. (1982). "Chlorination of Taurine by Human Neutrophils". Journal of Clinical Investigation. 70 (3): 598&ndash, 607. Retrieved 2006-08-19. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  6. Kirk, Kiaran (1993). "Volume-regulatory taurine release from a human heart cancer cell line". FEBS Letters. 336 (1): 153&ndash, 158. doi:10.1016/0014-5793(93)81630-I. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  7. Carey, Francis A. (2006) [1987]. Organic Chemistry (6th ed. ed.). New York: McGraw Hill. p. 1149. ISBN 0-07-282837-4. Amino acids are carboxylic acids that contain an amine function.
  8. Lahdesmaki, P (1987). "Biosynthesis of taurine peptides in brain cytoplasmic fraction in vitro". Int J Neuroscience. 37 (1–2): 79&ndash, 84.
  9. "Does Taurine (like in drinks) come from bile or bull urine or neither.?". Yahoo Answers. Yahoo!. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  10. Olive MF. Interactions between taurine and ethanol in the central nervous system. Amino Acids 2002;23(4):345-57
  11. Militante, J. D. (2002). "Treatment of hypertension with oral taurine: experimental and clinical studies". Amino Acids. 23 (4): 381–393. doi:10.1007/s00726-002-0212-0. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  12. Tsuboyama-Kasaoka, Nobuyo (2006). "Taurine (2-Aminoethanesulfonic Acid) Deficiency Creates a Vicious Circle Promoting Obesity". Endocrinology. 147 (7): 3276–3284. doi:10.1210/en.2005-1007. Retrieved 2006-08-22. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  13. Li F, Abatan OI, Kim H, Burnett D, Larkin D, Obrosova IG, Stevens MJ (2006 Jun). "Taurine reverses neurological and neurovascular deficits in Zucker diabetic fatty rats". Neurobiology of Disease. 22 (3): 669-676. PMID 16624563. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  14. Pop-Busui R, Sullivan KA, Van Huysen C, Bayer L, Cao X, Towns R, Stevens MJ (2001 Apr). "Depletion of taurine in experimental diabetic neuropathy: implications for nerve metabolic, vascular, and functional deficits". Exp Neurol. 168 (2): 259-272. PMID 11259114. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  15. Laidlaw S, Shultz T, Cecchino J, Kopple J (1988) "Plasma and urine taurine levels in vegans." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 47, pp. 660-663.
  16. U. Warskulat, U. Flogel, C. Jacoby, H.-G. Hartwig, M. Thewissen, M. W. Merx, A. Molojavyi, B. Heller-Stilb, J. Schrader and D. Haussinger (2004). "Taurine transporter knockout depletes muscle taurine levels and results in severe skeletal muscle impairment but leaves cardiac function uncompromised". FASEB J.: 03–0496fje. doi:10.1096/fj.03-0496fje.
  17. Yutaka Nakaya, Asako Minami, Nagakatsu Harada, Sadaichi Sakamoto, Yasuharu Niwa and Masaharu Ohnaka. "Taurine improves insulin sensitivity in the Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty rat, a model of spontaneous type 2 diabetes". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 71 (1): 54–58. Text "date January 2000 " ignored (help)
  18. "Taurine And Its Importance In Cat Foods". Iams Cat Nutrition Library. 2004. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
  19. "Nutrient Requirements of Cats". Nutrient Requirements of Cats, Revised Edition, 1986. 1986. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
  20. "The Vegetarian Lioness".
  21. Kurt Kosswig. Sulfonic Acids, Aliphatic. in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Wiley-VCH, 2000. doi:10.1002/14356007.a25_503
  22. U. Warskulat, U. Flogel, C. Jacoby, H.-G. Hartwig, M. Thewissen, M. W. Merx, A. Molojavyi, B. Heller-Stilb, J. Schrader and D. Haussinger (2004). "Taurine transporter knockout depletes muscle taurine levels and results in severe skeletal muscle impairment but leaves cardiac function uncompromised". FASEB J.: 03–0496fje. doi:10.1096/fj.03-0496fje.

External links

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