Taurine is an amino acid which plays a major role in the brain as an "inhibitory" neurotransmitter & neuromodulator. It is similiar in structure to the amino acids GABA & L-Glycine, which are also neuroinhibitory. This means it helps to calm or stabilize an excited brain.
Taurine stabilizes nerve cell membranes thus depressing the firing of brain cells & dampening the nerve cell action of the excitatory amino acids, glutamate, aspartate, & quinolinate.
Taurine acts by regulating the sodium & potassium concentration in the cells & the magnesium level between the cells. This has everything to do with the electrical activity of the cells & subsequent communication between cells.
By this mechanism, it has anti-anxiety & anti-convulsant activity. It has also been found useful in some cases of migraine, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, irritability, alcoholism, obsessions, depression, hypomania/mania.
Dosage is from 500 mg twice daily to a total of 5000 mg daily in 3-4 divided doses, though I rarely recommend that high a dose. The total ideal body pool of taurine for adults is 12,000- 18,000 mg.
Since taurine also affects the hypothalamus to help regulate body temperature, a higher dose can decrease your temperature & give chilliness, so be aware of that.
Taurine also plays a role in memory & increases the level of a memory neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, in the brain (in animal studies).
Taurine is highly concentrated in animal & fish protein or organ meats. Strict vegetarians can be at risk for taurine deficiency. Your body can make taurine in the liver & brain from the amino acids, L-Cysteine, & L-Methionine. Three enzymes are involved in the conversion, all requiring the pyridoxal-5-phosphate form of Vitamin B6 for this conversion. For more see http://www.thewayup.com/products/0004.htm A B6 deficiency can thus cause a taurine deficiency.
Some studies suggest humans are dependent upon dietary taurine to maintain "adequate" taurine reserves. Females tend toward lower taurine levels than males as their production pathways don't work as efficiently.
Taurine is closely bound to zinc & manganese so deficiencies of either of these can interfere with its' utilization. Likewise, zinc & manganese enhance the effects of taurine.
Taurine is the amino acid present in highest concentration of all amino acids in the fetal & newborn brain, which is the most dependent upon taurine & the least able to synthesize it.. The developing infant must derive taurine from the placenta, the newborn, from breast milk or taurine fortified formula. It is low in cow's milk. Taurine is essential for proper development of the central nervous system & the eyes. Nursing mothers especially need taurine as it stimulates prolactin to promote lactation, which is an interesting twist of nature, since infants need it so much. ( We could speculate that a mother unable to lactate may be taurine deficient, among other possibilites, & the infant is thus protected from receiving taurine deficient breast milk) Premature infants are especially prone to taurine deficiency.
MSG can decrease taurine. Trauma, surgery, radiation therapy, burns, muscle diseases, steroid use, intestinal dysfunction with bacterial overgrowth of the small bowel can all lead to excess loss of taurine in the urine & subsequent deficiency.
The medications Thorazine (a major tranquilizer) & Chloroquine (an antimalarial) can reduce taurine levels. Some depressed patients have decreased taurine.
EYES: It is in high concentration in the eyes where it has multiple functions to maintain normal retinal structure & function. Depletion leads to degeneration of the photoreceptor cells. Degenerative changes in the retinas of taurine deficient cats & dogs resemble retinitis pigmentosa. Taurine may be helpful in preventing cataracts. Age related macular degeneration has responded favorably to "injected" taurine as reported by American Biologics Mexico Hospital.
CARDIOVASCULAR: Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the heart, a particularly electrically excitable tissue, as are the brain & eye. Since taurine participates in electrical stabilization of the cell membranes & the normal regulation of nerve-muscle interaction, it is useful in heart irregularities & mitral valve prolapse, acting similarly to a calcium channel blocker (a class of drugs used in CV Disease) Taurine also helps control high blood pressure & is useful in congestive heart failure.
DIABETES: Taurine affects carbohydrate metabolism. It potentiates the effect of insulin, enhances glucose utilization & glycogen (stored glucose) synthesis.
FAT METABOLISM: Taurine reduces cholesterol by forming bile acids which are the end products of cholesterol breakdown & are the only route for eliminating cholesterol from the body. This action requires a functioning gall bladder. Taurine has an inhibitory effect on the formation of cholesterol gall stones. It is required for efficient fat absorption & solubilization. It is helpful in states of fat malabsorption such as with cystic fibrosis & other pancreatic deficiency syndromes.
DETOXIFICATION: Taurine conjugates & detoxifies various internal & external toxic compounds & may help chemical sensitivities.
ANTIOXIDANT: Taurine plays a major role in protecting cell membranes from oxidative attack.
STRESS: It can inhibit the release of adrenalin & thus help with anxiety in this way, as well as protecting from other adverse effects of too much adrenalin.
MISC: Acts as an immune stimulant to increase Natural Killer Cell Activity & Interleukin 2. Controls cell volume & osmolality. Is involved in the regulation of iron metabolism. Modulates levels of serum copper.
TAURINE CAN ALSO STIMULATE RELEASE OF STOMACH ACID SO YOU SHOULD AVOID IF YOU HAVE ULCERS OR GASTRITIS.