Taurine: Your Most Abundant and Maybe Important Amino Acid
Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, like different beads on a necklace. It is highest in your brain and your heart, but is everywhere else as well. It contains a sulfur atom, which is the key to its powerful and beneficial effects. All mammals have this balance, which is what leads animal products to being slightly “acidic” when they are digested and broken down: all the sulfur is turned into acid. When it’s in is though, it’s a huge benefit.
How does that benefit play out? Well, the hear it from the makers of sports energy drinks, who add a bit of taurine to their mix, it helps your brain be sharper. That it does, but the sugar and excess caffeine, from which there have been documented deaths by cardiac arrhythmia, perhaps not helpful enough.
The benefits of taurine are becoming increasingly manifest. The foundation of those benefits is likely the delicate dance with glutamate, another amino acid, and its sulfur atom. Glutamate is an excitatory signal in many cells. Too much glutamate and you have unbridled excitation. How this plays out is in atrial fibrillation where studies show that the balance of glutamate to taurine is out of whack. As we age, our glutamate rises and our taurine falls. By age 80, 15% of us are in atrial fibrillation (where the upper chambers are fluttering spastically and you lose 15-20% of your pumping ability).
The same process of glutamate toxicity happens in your brain. And again, taurine may ride to the rescue. It reduces the imbalance that occurs with aging, and leads to greater loss of hippocampus cells (memory) and increasing accumulation of beta amyloid. Other benefits in the brain include: protecting brain cells against environmental toxins including lead and organic pesticides, preventing mitochondrial dysfunction within brain cells, protecting brain cells against glutamate excitotoxicity, enhancing the inhibitory systems driven by the “relaxing” neurotransmitter GABA, which directly opposes excitotoxic effects, reducing brain inflammatory processes active in production of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, stimulating proliferation and new neuron formation to sustain learning and memory, protecting brain cells against destruction following a stroke, softening the damage caused by beta amyloid protein, a major contributing factor in Alzheimer’s disease. Isn’t that a nice list!
The sulfur atom picks up extra electrons from reactive oxygen species. That makes taurine a pretty good detoxing drug too. More taurine and you have an easier time of making glutathione, getting rid of bile acids…..
I could go on. But you get the gist. You should know about taurine. If you have heart failure or concerns about brain dysfunction, you might consider adding it as a supplement. Just not in the form of high sugar energy drinks.
WWW.What will work for me. I’ve just really learned about taurine and I want to find more. I first focused on it 5 years ago when I read an article about micronutrient in heart failure. When I have a dear friend get hospitalized with atrial fibrillation and heart failure, I took a second look. I’m buying some for her today.
1. Taurine is the name of a constellation in the southern sky. T or F
False, You were in LaLaland and not reading the article. It’s your bodies most abundant amino acid and maybe its most beneficial
2. Taurine plays a role of balancing too much glutamate. T or F
Exactly right. This is certainly true in the brain and the heart.
3. Taurine helps balance the effects of heavy metals. T or F
True. Suggesting that if you are worried about heavy metals, you might benefit from a supplement of extra. Give it try.
4. Taurine may also play a role in helping Alzheimer’s. T or F
Yup, it’s been shown to reduce beta amyloid and help memory in animal models.
5. Taurine’s benefit may come for it’s containing a sulfur atom. T or F
It may be that simple. Yes.