Taurine; An Amino Sulfonic Acid
Taurine is a unique compound in the body and is often referred to as an amino acid although it technically isn’t; it is actually a by product of the amino acids cysteine and methionine. Taurine is what is known as an amino sulfonic acid as it does not contain a carboxy group (a carbon double bonded to an oxygen and single-bonded to an OH) but contains a sulfur molecule instead making it more acidic. Taurine is found in many places throughout the body and contributes to vital functional processes. Some of the roles taurine plays is as an antioxidant, an osmoregulator to keep cells hydrated and isotonic, and it is involved in calcium signaling pathways which is an important mechanism for cells to “talk” to each other and also for muscle contractions. Taurine is vital and found in the highest concentrations within your heart, skeletal muscle tissue, retinas, and central nervous system. While the science behind how it exactly works is not very well understood, supplementation with taurine has shown to improve performance especially as levels have been seen to decline due to strenuous exercise. It was researched as a performance enhancer as the levels of taurine in your body decline as you grow older and low levels are also linked to crippling diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Where Taurine Plays a Major Role
Taurine is the amino sulfonic acid with the highest concentration in the heart and accounts for 50% of the entire pool of free amino acids within it. It is linked to having anti-arrhythmic and positive inotropic effects, meaning that it strengths and regulates the contractions of the heart. While this helps regulate blood pressure, taurine also aids in lowering cholesterol levels as it acts to stimulate the gall bladder.
A deficiency in taurine can also result in the disruption of the electron transport chain (which we went over in the cellular respiration blog). This step is the most vital in the energy producing process as it generates the most ATP. If taurine levels are low and the process is disrupted, less ATP is produced and can lead to heart problems or failure from the lack of ATP.
Controlling Blood Glucose Levels
Lower levels of taurine are found among diabetics and this has lead research to be performed and conclude that taurine is linked to the regulating blood glucose levels and aiding inulin sensitivity. When glucose makes up a large part of your diet, your cells can become resistant to insulin, which is the hormone needed to allow the glucose to enter cells. This is when type II diabetes occurs but can be controlled with the supplementation of Taurine.
Central Nervous System
One of the reasons Taurine is most notably known as a performance enhancing compound is due to it’s ability to act on the nervous system, especially when combined with caffeine. Research has showed that taurine can actually have a protective effect on the brain, with studies showing it can significantly reduce anxiety while improving focus and having an ability to act on receptors located deep in the brain in the area known as the thalamus. Taurine’s focus boosting power is believed to come from the fact that it acts in the calcium signaling pathway, boosting electrical impulses the nervous system relies on. It also has the ability to stimulate stem cells to repair damaged ones and enahnce neurites , which are tiny projections on nerve cells in the brain that help cells communicate.
Taurine is the second most abundant organic compound found in muscle cells behind glutamine. Like glutamine, decreased taurine levels can result from strenuous exercise and lead to muscle wasting. Taurine’s main function on muscle tissue comes from it’s ability to act as an osmoregulator, drawing water into the cell for increased cellular absorption of nutrients. This is coupled with it’s insulin sensitivity regulation greatly enhancing absorption as both pathways work synergistically.
While the exact biological actions of taurine are mostly not fully understood and the ones that are require great detail, these are the main reasons we choose to formulate with Taurine. Taurine time and time proves its ability to elevate overall health, combat aging, and increase performance.