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Cut Through The Marketing Hype And Taurine Can Still Be Of Great Benefit

Dec 4, 2007
Taurine is one of those perhaps lesser known amino acids which are known to medicine as "non-essential". But "non-essential" in this context simply means that it is not essential to ensure a daily intake from diet, because the compound can be manufactured by the body, albeit in fairly small quantities. It should not be taken as lessening the importance of taurine or the other non-essential amino acids in any way.

Much publicity has recently been given to taurine as a way of preventing hangovers and slowing or even reversing the liver damage caused by long term excess alcohol consumption. So taurine is commonly added with caffeine to the energy drinks increasingly sold as mixers to take with alcoholic drinks. Whilst it has to be said that the "jury's still out" on some of the wilder claims made in this regard, there is evidence that taurine may be beneficial not just for the liver but for the heart, kidneys and other organs which may become subject to inflammation or the accumulation of fluid or fat.

Complementary medical practitioners are particularly enthusiastic in using taurine supplements as therapy for conditions including hypertension, macular degeneration of the eyes, congestive heart failure, fluid retention and asthma. Although these conditions may appear diverse, if there is a common factor it is probably an imbalance in body chemistry, particularly perhaps the relative concentrations of potassium, magnesium and sodium within the cells. And there is some good research evidence to suggest that taurine's effect in restoring proper fluid balance may be very effective in reducing blood pressure and tackling congestive heart failure.

When taken in conjunction with magnesium, taurine may help maintain good heart rhythm, and it is also an anti-oxidant which helps protect against atherosclerosis and the formation of potentially dangerous blood clots.

As a fat soluble anti-oxidant, taurine is also invaluable in protecting the light sensitive cells of the retina, which contain a very high concentration of fats, from the free radical damage which can lead to loss of vision through macular degeneration. Taurine's role as an anti-oxidant has also been highlighted as a possible protector of the lungs against free radical attack, with potentially particularly valuable implications for sufferers from asthma.

Finally, although it remains a matter of some controversy, taurine's role in balancing cell chemistry is also believed by some nutritionists to protect against epileptic and other types of brain seizure. It is also found in very high concentrations in the white blood cells which are the key to a healthy immune system, and is believed to help stabilise blood sugar levels.

To manufacture sufficient taurine within the body a good supply of the essential amino acids is required, particularly methionine. By far the best sources of these are the so-called "first-class" protein foods, called first-class precisely because they contain all of the essential amino acids. Meat, poultry, fish and dairy products are all within this group, and for the purposes of taurine, shellfish are a particularly rich source.

A diet providing normal quantities of these food groups will usually be adequate to prevent taurine deficiency, but not necessarily to secure the maximum benefits for sufferers from the conditions mentioned above. Those following a vegetarian diet will also have to take particular care to combine foods correctly in order to obtain an adequate supply of the essential amino acids; methionine especially.

Fortunately, however, there appear to be no toxicity issues with taurine supplementation, except for sufferers from excess stomach acidity or ulcers. So some nutritional therapists commonly recommend therapeutic doses of up to 4,000 mg a day, particularly when treating the heart and cardiovascular conditions detailed above, with no reports of ill-effects. It's worth noting, however, that some minor gastro-intestinal disturbances have been observed when even higher doses have been applied.

But as always, when considering any program of supplementation, it needs to be remembered that the body is a holistically functioning organism, and that no one nutrient can function 100% effectively in the absence of an adequate supply of all the others. Taking individual supplements of amino acids can create an imbalance, and is not therefore recommended except in the short term, and is in any case best accompanied by a comprehensive multi-vitamin and multi-mineral regime. In the case of taurine, however, it is also worth pointing out that its action seems to be particularly dependent on good supplies of vitamin B6 and the essential mineral, zinc.
About the Author
Steve Smith is a freelance copywriter specializing in direct marketing and with a particular interest in health products. Find out more at http://www.sisyphuspublicationsonline.com/LiquidNutrition/Taurine.htm
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