What is Taurine Used For?

You must have heard of taurine being added to energy drinks and wondered what it does to you. Read ahead to find out what is taurine used for and what this compound exactly is.
Let's put the what is it used for part behind for some time and find out exactly what taurine is. Well, taurine is an organic, carbon based compound which has acidic properties. It is a naturally occurring organic acid belonging to the sulfonic acid group of organic compounds that contain sulfur. It is often referred to as an amino acid although technically it is not due to the absence of a carboxyl group. Taurine is a derivative of the sulfur based amino acid cysteine. Taurine is one of the various chemical constituents of bile and this organic acid is synthesized in the pancreas. The biological functions of naturally occurring taurine include inducing membrane stabilizing effects, regulation of adipose tissue, aiding in the metabolism and digestion of fats and absorption of fat soluble vitamins, help prevent epileptic seizures, promoting musculoskeletal health, etc. Various studies have also shown taurine to be an important nutrient essential for ocular health of cats and infants. Now, let's shift our focus towards what is taurine used for.

Uses of Taurine

Besides playing an important role in human and animal nutrition, taurine has lately found its way into the commercial spotlight for being used as an active ingredient in energy drinks and cosmetic products. Why is taurine used in energy drinks? Well, the manufacturers of these drinks claim that the taurine content is added to act as a nutritional fortification of the musculoskeletal system and to provide antioxidant benefits to the drinkers. Although taurine does help in maintaining the health of muscles and bones and it also has antioxidant properties, there is much debate regarding its addition to energy drinks. Various experts say that the quantity of taurine added to energy drinks is not sufficient enough to impart any taurine-specific benefits to the consumer. However, as far as taurine's role in fat metabolism and fat soluble vitamins' absorption is concerned, there seems to be some amount of agreement regarding the metabolism boosting properties of drinks containing taurine.

You see, the metabolism of fats gives us energy and if this metabolic activity is enhanced a little, you are likely to feel more energized after sipping a taurine-containing energy drink than a simple cup of tea or coffee. While the latter helps you stay awake by keeping your mind alert (an effect of caffeine), the former drives you more towards physical action as a result of enabling your body to turn more fats into fuel (energy) faster.

As far as its use in cosmetics is concerned, taurine is a well-known antifibrotic agent. Its introduction in various skin creams and ointments are believed to fade and remove scars on the skin, which manifest when excess fibrous connective tissues form on the skin as a means to repair a dermal wound in order to hide the inner tissues from exposure and further damage. Taurine is also believed to help skin retain moisture and due to its moisture retaining properties, it is often an active ingredient in certain contact lens solutions. A small amount of taurine is often added in infant food formulas and these are especially beneficial for feeding prematurely born infants as they are often taurine deficient. Taurine based medical supplements are often recommended to people who suffer from high blood pressure and certain other cardiovascular conditions.

Too much of anything is bad - a boon may become a bane if bestowed in excess. This universal axiom applies to taurine as well. An overdose of taurine may adversely affect the hypothalamus and this might result in changes in the functions and normal activities of the neuroendocrinal cells, which may lead to a hormonal imbalance in the body. The primary concern here is that you are likely to absorb more taurine from beverages than food - hence, regulating your taurine-containing-energy-drink intake is strongly advised. Although any supplemental intake over 3000 milligrams is excreted by the kidneys, it is still desirable to ensure moderation.
By Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
Published: 3/31/2011
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