The health benefits of Taurine.

Taurine is a type of amino acid that gets its name from the Latin term Taurus, which means Bull. This is because it was first extracted from the bile of bulls, and bull semen. It is found in large amounts in the brain, retina, heart, and blood. The best food sources of taurine are meat and fish, but taurine can be taken as a supplement. Taurine is now made synthetically. It's become a popular supplement and ingredient in energy drinks in recent years.

Taurine is undoubtedly one of the most essential substances in the body.

  • Taurine prevents bile acids from damaging your cells.
  • Taurine is critical for photoreceptors in the retina, and stops damage from glutamate.
  • Taurine has a sedative role in the body. It takes the edge off the stimulants in energy drinks, which is why it was probably included.
  • Taurine slows the absorption of glucose into the blood, reducing the spike of glucose and insulin.
  • Taurine stabilises cell membranes and regulates cell volume.  It also maintains constant cell chloride concentration.
  • Taurine plays a significant role in overcoming insulin resistance.
  • Taurine is found in high concentrations in the nasal membrane, and it could improve the sense of taste and smell.

Taurine in food and drinks.

The best foods for taurine are scallops, mussels, squid, and clams. Meats have a good content, particularly dark turkey and chicken meat. Eggs do not contain taurine, and taurine is not found in nuts and vegetables.

All these are eclipsed by Red Bull which has 1000mg of taurine in one 250ml can. The Thai version, called Red Bull Theoplex-L Formula, contains different quantities of ingredients.

  • Red Bull 400mg/100g, (or 1000mg per can).
  • Thai Red Bull Theoplex-L Formula 850mg/100g,
  • Beef 43mg/100g
  • Dark chicken meat 83mg/100g
  • White chicken meat 17mg/100g
  • Dark turkey meat 11mg/100g
  • Dark turkey meat 299mg/100g
  • Pork 43mg/100g
  • Ham 43mg/100g
  • Scallop 827mg/100g
  • Mussels 655mg/100g
  • Squid & octopus 357mg/100g
  • Clams 240-500mg/100g
  • Shrimp  10-100mg/100g
  • Oysters 70-400mg/100g
  • White fish 113mg/100g

Should you supplement with taurine or drink a Red Bull?

Humans have around 70g of taurine in their tissues, (approximately 1g per kilo). The RDA for taurine is not stated, but most common diets would provide up to 0.4g per day. A safe level of taurine intake is probably 3g. The main source of taurine is food, but smaller amounts are also synthesised in the liver from methionine and cysteine. By comparison, a Red Bull can, contains 1g of taurine.

Taurine from food or supplements is transported to the liver and released into circulation. We have a taurine transporter called TauT, which responds to the concentration of taurine in cells. When taurine is too high, it's excreted from the body in urine. When taurine concentration is low, it's reabsorbed through the kidneys. People who have a low intake, especially vegetarians and vegans, would benefit from supplementing with taurine.

The occasional Red Bull would help, but you have to offset this benefit with the sugar content and caffeine. Whilst the caffeine amount is similar to a cup of coffee, a 250ml can of red bull contains 27g of sugar. Red Bull was invented by Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya in 1981. The sugary caffeine-rich drink soon became popular in Thailand with truck drivers, farmers, students and those working long hours. Taurine is a key ingredient in Red Bull, and a 250mg has 1g of taurine. For someone with an active and busy life, the occasional Red Bull during the day, before exercise, wouldn't hurt.

Red Bull gets bad press for being a sugary drink, but it's not bad compared to other alcohol mixers. Here you can see some popular mixers. Having one or two vodka Red Bulls instead of vodka cola makes no difference in terms of sugar, but you get a big taurine boost.  It's not the optimal way to get taurine, but if you are a spirit drinker, it's a good alternative to the various sugar waters. Red Bull also contains the water-soluble B-group vitamins B3, B5, B6 and vitamin B12.

Taurine is available as a supplement in capsule or bulk form. It has a slightly bitter taste, but can easily be combined with other great amino acids, such as glycine, to offset the taste. Interestingly, taurine’s bioavailability is improved on an empty stomach. A kilo of taurine powder costs under £10. See the description in this video for some good sources.

The differences between Thai Red Bull, Theoplex-L, and Western Red Bull.

We need to maximise the taurine, and minimise the sugar consumed. The Thai version of Red Bull comes in a 100ml bottle, whilst the Western version comes in a 250ml can. Drinking the Thai version is best, as it gives you 850mg of taurine, whilst consuming half the sugar of a western can and way less caffeine. The Thai version is very generous in B vitamins, with the exception of B12. Thai Red Bull is uncarbonated and is used by Muay Thai fighters to give them an energy boost.

There is also a new version in Thailand called "Krating Daeng Extra", 150ml. This new red cap version contains vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2 and choline. However, you are consuming 28g of sugar in one bottle as opposed to the old Theoplex-L version which had 14g. Realistically, it's all about getting the taurine without tonnes of sugar, so the 100ml Theoplex-L Red Bull is the winner.

The specific benefits of taurine.

Bile production.

Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. To prevent bile acids from damaging your cells, they combine with glycine or taurine before they get sent to your gall bladder for storage. Bile is rich in taurine and is essential to digestion by breaking down fats into fatty acids.

Taurine and eye health.

The eyes contain a lot of taurine, especially in the retina. Taurine is necessary for retinal cell survival and prevents photoreceptor degeneration, especially S-cone degeneration. Taurine also prevents the development of cataracts and dry eye, through its regulation of osmosis. Taurine intake is therefore a major factor in eye health.

Taurine helps with diabetes.

Taurine is beneficial in reducing markers of diabetes, such as HbA1c, Fasting Blood Sugar, and insulin resistance. Taurine has a protective role in the progression of diabetes. Multiple studies have found that high taurine concentrations lower fasting blood sugar and gave less diabetic complications. Taurine protects the cells in the pancreas, which is the organ that produces insulin.

The concentration of taurine in diabetic patients is less than that in healthy individuals. So it can be concluded that taurine plays a significant role in many metabolic processes.

Taurine helps prevent heart disease.

Taurine has been shown to reduce blood pressure and act as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory in the body. This would suggest that taurine may be protective against coronary heart disease.

The big problem occurs when we have a taurine deficiency, as this causes a lowering of mitochondrial activity. The mitochondria in our cells are the powerhouses that produce all of the energy that our cells need. As we age, our mitochondria don't produce the energy that our cells need and can be overcome by oxidative damage that can damage our DNA. This is especially dangerous in the heart, as the heart tissue is high in taurine. Taurine consumption is a big factor associated with rates of heart disease.

Taurine also decreases platelet aggregation, lowers cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides.

Taurine prevents oxidative stress.

Taurine is a major antioxidant that scavenges reactive oxygen species and protects organs, including the brain, from oxidative stress. It has neuroprotective effects and has been shown in animal studies to prevent neurotoxic damage caused by alcohol, ammonia, lead, and other substances.

Taurine and sleep.

Taurine is considered to be a modulator of brain activity, and like melatonin, is a trigger for sleep. It can activate GABA receptors in the thalamus, a region of the brain known to regulate sleep. Taurine is involved in the creation of melatonin in the pineal gland.  The pineal glands convert tryptophan to N-acetylserotonin and melatonin. Taurine increases the rate of production of these compounds 40- and 25-fold respectively. A 1-2g dose of Taurine daily before sleep, would help you get into a deep sleep. This would have to come from a dry supplement, and certainly not a stimulating energy drink.


  • (diabetes)
  •  (heart)