Taurine is an amino acid, a chemical that is a required building block of protein. Taurine is found in large amounts in the brain, retina, heart, and blood cells called platelets. The best food sources are meat and fish.
You may see taurine referred to as “a conditional amino acid,” to distinguish it from “an essential amino acid.” A “conditional amino acid” can be manufactured by the body, but an “essential amino acid” cannot be made by the body and must be provided by the diet. People who, for one reason or another, cannot make taurine, must get all the taurine they need from their diet or supplements. For example, supplementation is necessary in infants who are not breastfed because their ability to make taurine is not yet developed and cow's milk does not provide enough taurine. So taurine is often added to infant formulas. People who are being tube-fed often need taurine as well, so it is added to the nutritional products that they use. Excess taurine is excreted by the kidneys.
Some people take taurine supplements as medicine to treat congestive heart failure (CHF), high blood pressure, liver disease (hepatitis), high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), and cystic fibrosis. Other uses include seizure disorders (epilepsy), autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eye problems (disorders of the retina), diabetes, and alcoholism. It is also used to improve mental performance and as an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells of the body from damage that results from certain chemical reactions involving oxygen (oxidation).
How does it work?
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why taurine seems to help congestive heart failure (CHF). There is some evidence that it improves the function of the left ventricle, one of the chambers of the heart. Taurine might also improve heart failure because it seems to lower blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is often too active in people with high blood pressure and CHF. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that responds to stress.