Is Taurine Vegan? How Important Is It For You And How To Get More Of It!

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The use of protein and amino acid supplements are apparently a thing now especially if you’re working out for extreme fitness.

For vegans, however, scrutiny is a must before choosing which pill to pop. Well, whether you are vegan or not, finding out where your supplements come from is important.

In this day and age, a lot of people take taurine (a popular amino acid that is often found in foods and energy drinks) as a supplement to improve athletic performance.

According to Dr. Axe, taurine doesn’t just help improve athletic performance, it also fights gum disease, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, reduces cardiovascular disease, and more.  

With the health benefits to get from it, wouldn’t you want to get your hands on it, too?

But hold up, is taurine vegan?

Short answer: It depends on the source. Let’s get deeper into the subject…

Taurine And Its Nutritional Importance

Do you love chugging bottles of energy drink to fuel your most active days of the week? Then I’m sure you’re already familiar with taurine.

Although often referred to as an amino acid, taurine is technically an amino sulfonic acid. To be more specific, it is the byproduct of the amino acids cysteine and methionine, which you can find in protein.

The human body produces its own taurine, as it only needs a little, which makes it a non-essential (or conditionally essential) nutrient. However, there are individuals who want to get more of it through supplementation.

Known as the “wonder molecule” among scientists, taurine is seen to play a role in lengthening lifespans.

In terms of biological function, taurine has several roles:

  • Antioxidant protects cells from harmful free radicals that can cause cellular damage
  • Osmoregulator and osmolyte – maintains cellular hydration and isotonicity (balances electrolytes and osmotic pressure)
  • Mineral regulator – maintains balance in the use of minerals within the cells, especially with calcium
  • Neurotransmitter and neuromodulator – through its involvement in calcium signaling pathways, taurine helps cells to communicate with each other
  • CNS development – helps to maintain the integrity of the structure of cellular membranes
  • Neuroprotectant – functions in favor of cell survival through stress reduction
  • Eye function supporterprotects the retina and maintains its optimum function; also prevents vision loss in old age
  • Immune system regulator – aside from regulating inflammation, most cells of the immune system such as leukocytes and phagocytes require taurine to do its job efficiently. Killing pathogens or disease-causing microbes, that is.
  • Muscle aidtaurine improves muscle contractility and enhances its resistance against fatigue. It can also protect the muscle against possible damage from contraction.
  • Bile salt precursor – the conjugation of taurine with bile acids in the liver is what creates bile salts, which is necessary for digestion.
  • Insulin modulator – taurine also plays a role in stimulating and regulating insulin secretion. This function is also how taurine can help in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

Although often referred to as an amino acid, taurine is technically an amino sulfonic acid. To be more specific, it is the byproduct of the amino acids cysteine and methionine, which you can find in protein.

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Organs And Cells With High Concentrations Of Taurine

While it’s true that our body only needs a little taurine, its function is actually more extensive than you think. Even with its tiny amount, its aid in many physiologic and immunologic processes is vital to health.

These organs and cells, specifically, require more taurine than other parts of the body:

  • Heart – for cardiac contraction and regulation of heart rhythm
  • Retina – protects the retina against damage and early degeneration
  • Muscles – enhances muscle strength and recovery
  • Liver – protects liver cells against damage from oxidative stress. The liver is also responsible in the biosynthesis of taurine.
  • Kidneys – regulates kidney cell cycles and protects it against disease
  • Brain – increases nerve cell activity and supports normal brain development
  • Immune cells – aids in the formation of neutrophils, phagocytes, and leukocytes. This is why lack of taurine can also decrease one’s immune function.
  • Platelets – stabilizes platelet activity by inhibiting aggregation or blood clots

While it’s true that our body only needs a little taurine, its function is actually more extensive than you think. Even with its tiny amount, its aid in many physiologic and immunologic processes is vital to health.

Health Benefits Of Taurine

With all the important functions of taurine in the human body, the amount of benefits it can offer is no surprise.

Adequate levels of taurine in the body are known to have a multitude of beneficial effects on health. Here are the most notable actions and benefits of taurine.

  • Fights against inflammatory disease
  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Cholesterol and blood pressure reduction
  • Prevention of obesity
  • Treatment of diabetes through glucose control
  • Reversal of tinnitus
  • Relief of stress and anxiety

Taurine Deficiency

Currently, there is no given RDA for taurine. However, in terms of supplementation, daily doses of 500 to 2000 mg are seen as adequate. It’s upper limit is at 3000 mg, although some people can take this amount in short term without any problems.

In some cases, doctors can recommend dosages of as much as 6000 mg for certain medical conditions.

The human body can produce its own taurine from cysteine and methionine. However, in rare cases, deficiency can occur. This can be brought about by the following causes:

  • Fungal disorders
  • Anaerobic bacteria infection
  • High MSG intake
  • Excessive vitamin B5
  • Poor protein intake
  • Lack of precursors such as vitamin A, B6, zinc, cysteine, and methionine
  • Diseases of the liver, kidneys, and heart

These causes either inhibit or prevent the formation or absorption of taurine in the body. Taurine deficiency is quite rare, but it can happen.

Now what can happen to the body when there is not enough taurine? Well, the organs that need it will have problems, right? Here are the more specific and common health issues from taurine deficiency:

  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney problems
  • Gout
  • Sterility
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Vision impairment
  • Weak physical endurance
  • Weight gain

Currently, there is no given RDA for taurine. However, in terms of supplementation, daily doses of 500 to 2000 mg are seen as adequate.

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Too Much Taurine

In a healthy human, the body simply excretes excessive taurine through the kidneys. However, this also means more work and stress on the kidneys. Additionally, this could be made worse by an existing kidney problem.

There are no clear studies about the direct effects of excessive taurine in the human body. This is also the reason why there is no specific RDA for taurine, because believe it or not, the experts still haven’t agreed on a number.

With excessive intake, here are the negative effects of taurine:

  • Thrombocytopenia (abnormally low platelet count)
  • Disruption of nitrogen balance (leading to decreased metabolic efficiency)
  • Kidney strain
  • Stunted growth in children

Now how does the body end up with too much taurine?

Quite predictably, with excessive intake from supplementations. This is often from a high dosage of dietary supplements and too much energy drinks.

If you do these both without setting a limit, then you are very much prone to taurine toxicity. To avoid this, try to limit your daily taurine below 3000 mg.

In a healthy human, the body simply excretes excessive taurine through the kidneys. However, this also means more work and stress on the kidneys. Additionally, this could be made worse by an existing kidney problem.

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Dietary Sources Of Taurine

Despite the human body’s ability to produce taurine, supplementation may be helpful in many ways. For people who feel they can use more taurine, there are 2 options: eating taurine-rich foods or taking taurine supplements.

What foods can give you more taurine?

Taurine is naturally found in the tissues of animals, so its best known natural sources are:

  • Meats  
  • Seafoods
  • Dairy products

For us vegans, this can be a problem, for obvious reasons. But let me tell you now that you don’t have to worry. Before I explain that, let me continue first on the topic of sources.

Another popular source of taurine is chemicals — specifically through artificial synthesis, which is more common for commercial use. This means that some supplements found on the market are also made from synthetic sources.

Synthetic Taurine Production

The artificial synthesis of taurine can be done with two types of chemical reactions:

  1. Ethylene oxide and sodium bisulfite – when these two chemicals react with each other, it creates isethionic acid, which can be the direct source of synthetic taurine.
  2. Aziridine and sulfurous acid – a single reaction from these two directly creates taurine.

The use of chemicals to produce artificial taurine is the result of the increase in its demand commercially. Have you seen how energy drinks are still popular these days? Well that’s just one of the many products that made contributions to that demand.

Taurine is quite popular in the world of health of fitness. More commonly, you’ll see athletes and people working out taking taurine supplements in some form.

Although taurine is not a stimulant, it is helpful in improving muscle endurance and recovery. Its function as a neurotransmitter can also help you keep your focus while training. Hence you’d hear people call it a brain food of some sort.

Although taurine is not a stimulant, it is helpful in improving muscle endurance and recovery. Its function as a neurotransmitter can also help you keep your focus while training. Hence you’d hear people call it a brain food of some sort.

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Taurine Supplementation

For a lot of people, using nutritional supplements can be the only way to guarantee sufficient daily nutrition. With the quality of foods these days and an often busy schedule, planning for a healthy diet can be quite a challenge.

Now if you’re looking at getting taurine supplements, there are many things you must consider first.

Just like other drug products, dietary supplements are not for everyone. It’s only wise to make sure it’s safe, first of all, right? Here are some criteria to find that out:

Who Needs Taurine Supplements?

If you are:

  • In old age
  • Physically active
  • An athlete
  • Vegan (or in any plant-based diet)

Then a taurine supplement may help you.

Individuals in the younger age group may also be given taurine supplements, but in much lower amounts. In higher amounts, it can stunt a child’s growth.

Doctors also often prescribe taurine supplements to patients with hypertension, liver disease and certain heart problems. However, it is best to let your doctor make the decision when you have medical conditions to ensure safety.

Who Should Not Take Taurine Supplements?

If you are:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • A child under 18
  • Suffering from any kidney problems
  • Taking any medications or supplements that interact with taurine (e.g., medications for bipolar disorder)
  • Diagnosed with bipolar disorder
  • Have a usually low blood pressure

Then it’s best to avoid taking taurine supplements, unless your doctor specifically recommends it. If you are currently under any medications or taking other supplements, check with your doctor first about possible drug interactions.

Precautions When Taking Taurine Supplements

Now if you’re already taking taurine supplements, you have to watch out for a few things. Here are some precautions you must keep in mind:

  • Avoid too much caffeine. It often comes with taurine in most energy drinks, in high amounts. Current studies about the interaction between taurine and caffeine is not clear enough. However, there is an alarming rate of safety concerns about energy drinks that contain both caffeine and taurine.
  • Do not take taurine supplements with vitamin B5. In high amounts, pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 is known to block both the production and absorption of taurine.
  • If you are planning to take other supplements, make sure to check interactions first. Known drugs that interact with taurine are medications for hypertension, diuretics, and those that contain lithium.

BONUS: To learn more about how Taurine actually works, check out the video below!

So, Is Taurine Vegan?

To be clear, natural taurine is NOT vegan, but artificial or synthetic taurine IS vegan. Since natural taurine can only be found in animal products, there is no natural source that is vegan-friendly.

So for vegans who want to increase their taurine intake, using artificial taurine supplements is the way to go.

But what if you want natural taurine?

There’s an answer for that too, vegans! Boost your natural taurine!

To be clear, natural taurine is NOT vegan, but artificial or synthetic taurine IS vegan. Since natural taurine can only be found in animal products, there is no natural source that is vegan-friendly.

How To Enhance Your Body’s Natural Taurine Production

One of the many misconceptions about the vegan diet is the nutrient deficiencies that some believe to come with it. The truth is these nutrients in question occur naturally in the body. You just need to boost its production with the right food choices.

When your body produces enough taurine, you don’t have to worry about the need to get supplements.

So how do you boost your natural taurine? Simple, choose vegan foods with enzymes or amino acids that the body needs to produce taurine.

To be exact, you’ll need methionine and cysteine. These are the precursors of taurine synthesis.

Vegan Foods That Boost Taurine Production

  1. Methionine-rich vegan foods:
  • Soy and soy products
  • White beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Pink beans
  • Navy beans
  • Cranberry (Roman) beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachio
  • Cashew
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Watermelon seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  1. Cysteine-rich vegan foods:
  • Soy and soy products
  • Red peppers
  • Oats and oat bran
  • Wheat germ
  • Rice bran
  • Wheat bran
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Broccoli
  • Sprouted lentils
  • Brussels sprout
  • Pine nuts
  • Watermelon seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Chickpeas
  • White peas
  • Pink beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Yellow beans
  • Cranberry (Roman) beans
  • Broad (Fava) beans
  • Lentils

You may notice that a lot of the items on the list are recurring, like beans and seeds. This is because cysteine and methionine often come together when it comes to natural sources, usually within a protein.

Choose more of these food items that contain both so you can easily get your taurine fix!

So how do you boost your natural taurine? Simple, choose vegan foods with enzymes or amino acids that the body needs to produce taurine.

Vegan Taurine Supplement Brands

Are you still looking at taurine supplements? Well if you’re a vegan with quite a busy lifestyle, yes you might need that. So, here are some of the best vegan taurine brands I can recommend:

I wouldn’t recommend energy drinks though because they contain other substances and have raised numerous health concerns. If you need taurine, it’s best to stick to pure forms without any extra additives that you probably don’t need anyway.

Conclusion

All natural food sources of taurine are NOT vegan. So for vegans who need more taurine, using synthetic taurine supplements is the choice.

If you have a preference for all things natural, another option is to boost natural taurine production. To do this, you must consume foods rich in methionine and cysteine.

How do you get your taurine needs as a vegan? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.

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