Research & Education

Unlock the Power of Taurine for Metabolic Health

Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid that supports overall metabolic health. As the endogenous synthesis of taurine can be relatively low, dietary intake is the primary way to maintain healthy taurine status. However, taurine only occurs naturally in animal-based foods like dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood. While plant-based diets are recognized to help promote metabolic health, vegetarians and vegans are commonly at risk of having suboptimal taurine intake. Epidemiological studies reveal that a low dietary intake of taurine is associated with higher cardiovascular risks. Consequently, taurine supplementation may benefit the general population, particularly those adhering to a primarily plant-based diet.

Taurine has been shown to promote metabolic health by regulating glucose and lipid metabolism, energy production, and potentially supporting exercise performance. Taurine also displays antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it is required for calcium homeostasis, osmoregulation, cell membrane stabilization, and bile acid conjugation

Many animal models demonstrate that taurine can help promote normal cholesterol and triglycerides status, blood glucose metabolism, and healthy blood pressure. Due to taurine’s widespread function in metabolic homeostasis, recent research has examined the potential clinical benefits of taurine in supporting those with metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes

A worldwide epidemiological WHO-CARDIAC study surveyed 3,960 individuals from 41 populations. The survey results concluded that the dietary intake of taurine had a significantly inverse relationship to the values of body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, total cholesterol, and atherogenic index – all of which are risk factors in metabolic conditions. Other studies have observed that patients with type 2 diabetes have significantly lower plasma taurine levels compared to non-diabetic patients, where one study observed a 25% decrease. Moreover, a small clinal study looking at 24 women observed that those with obesity had 41% lower plasma taurine levels than women in a normal weight range. 

Furthermore, a meta-analysis of 12 peer-reviewed studies concluded that patients with liver or metabolic dysfunction (diabetes, hepatitis, fatty liver, obesity, cystic fibrosis, chronic alcoholism, and cardiac surgery) who received taurine supplementation for 15 days to six months displayed significantly lower systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. Interestingly, taurine supplementation did not affect fasting blood glucose, body weight, or BMI. 

A systematic review and meta-analysis found beneficial results regarding taurine’s effect on supporting healthy glucose metabolism. The researchers analyzed five randomized clinical trials with 209 patients with diabetes. Compared to the control groups, the experimental groups who received taurine supplementation exhibited significantly reduced hemoglobin A1C, fasting blood sugar, and HOMA-IR (homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance). However, further studies are warranted due to the small number of trials and small sample sizes. 

One proposed way taurine may promote optimal glucose regulation is through its demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. High glucose levels or hyperglycemia are associated with increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can play a vital role in the adverse consequences of diabetes. Rodent models reveal that taurine can help mitigate the effects of oxidative stress by reducing ROS production and activity. This is likely due to taurine’s role in increasing the antioxidant activity of superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase and helping mitigate lipid peroxidation. Likewise, inflammation plays a role in the development of diabetes. Taurine has been shown to promote healthy inflammatory responses by helping reduce the secretion of inflammatory mediators like tumor necrosis factor, prostaglandin E2, and interleukin-6.

Taurine has a potential role in promoting metabolic health through various means. As a result, supporting optimal taurine status through animal-based food or supplementation may help promote healthy aging and cardiovascular health

By Danielle Moyer Male, MS, CNS, LDN