What Are Taurine Side Effects?

Taurine can increase heart rate.
Mental confusion is a possibly serious side effect of taurine.
Some potential taurine side effects include changes to heart rate or rhythm.
Energy drinks contain taurine.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: N. Madison
  • Revised By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Although research is ongoing, some potential taurine side effects include blood thinning, changes to heart rate or rhythm and extremely low blood sugar. Experts can point to at least two instances where it might have triggered mania and brain damage, although they can’t say for sure whether it was the culprit. Digestive problems and dehydration also might be a result of excess, and it can interact with drugs, particularly lithium. Doctors usually recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding women not take this substance as a supplement, just to be safe, as there isn’t enough research to show how it could affect an unborn baby or infant.

About Taurine

Taurine is a sulfur-based, non-essential (conditional) amino acid, meaning the human body is able to make it. The substance occurs in foods such as eggs, meats and fish, and in people, it appears in muscles, the bloodstream and the nervous system. It is connected to many physical functions, such as increasing blood flow to nerves, so it’s necessary to stay healthy. Many people take supplements for better physical and mental performance.

Blood Thinning

Doctors have discovered that taurine has multiple benefits for the heart, because it reduces the effects of hypertension and prevents plaque from building up in the arteries. It also lowers the amount of inflammation that sometimes happens with heart disease. Depending on a person’s exact physical makeup and other factors such as diet, this amino acid can reduce blood clotting by up to 10%.

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Although these results typically are positive, they are not beneficial for everybody. A person with hypotension, for example, might experience further blood pressure drops and subsequent problems such as dizziness. Similarly, a person who is already on blood thinners or who has a clotting disorder might be at increased risk of excessive bruising and bleeding.

Abnormal Heart Rate or Rhythm

This substance partially controls levels of important electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and calcium in the body. These connect to heart function and the regularity and strength of the heartbeat. Abnormal amounts in the body, therefore, potentially can cause heart and circulation disturbances.

Hypoglycemia

One role of taurine is keeping insulin and glucose well balanced. In general, it increases a person’s sensitivity to insulin, making it easier to handle increases in blood sugar. This makes it terrific for diabetics, but if levels are too high, in theory, the body can become too efficient with this process, and blood sugar levels can drop below normal. Dizziness and fainting might happen as a result.

Brain and Nervous System Damage

Taurine affects the nervous system and brain because it generates nerve impulses and increases blood flow to cells. Scientists tentatively have linked at least one case of brain damage to it. In this instance, a bodybuilder took 14 grams of the amino acid, hoping to prevent a breakdown in muscle and boost performance. This is well above the maximum recommended daily dose of 4 – 6 grams, such as is prescribed for heart or liver patients. It isn’t clear whether other substances he consumed — insulin and steroids — were the real source of the problem.

Mania

Taurine side effects might include mania, as it influences the brain and nervous system. An individual with bipolar disorder reportedly became manic after drinking energy drinks, which often use the amino acid as an ingredient. Experts still are not willing to say with certainty what caused this, however, because these beverages typically contain other brain- and nerve-affecting substances such as caffeine and inositol.

Digestive Problems

This substance triggers the stomach to make more acid. This is good for those who do not produce enough, but in many people, it can lead to upset stomach or even ulcers. People who already have ulcers or other problems such as acid reflux shouldn't take it for this reason, and experts recommend eating no more than half an hour after taking it to keep acid production in check.

Dehydration

A person’s body naturally tries to get rid of excess taurine by flushing it out with the urine. This takes water to do, so the more of this amino acid a person gets, the more often they usually have to visit the restroom. Over time, if an individual isn’t replacing the lost water by drinking more, he can become dehydrated. Mild symptoms include fatigue, constipation and dry skin, but over time, more serious side effects such as mental confusion, fever, rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure might develop.

Drug Interactions

Doctors know that this substance interacts with lithium, a drug commonly used to treat certain mental conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Specifically, it makes it harder for the body to get rid of the medication. A buildup or overdose can lead to nausea, muscle weakness, loss of coordination and other serious side effects.

Other Considerations

Doctors understand how this amino acid works in the body and, therefore, have a sense of what could go wrong if levels are off. Even so, much more research is needed before they can conclusively say when or how often taurine side effects might show up. They don’t have proof that it will have negative effects on unborn children or babies, but just to be safe, they recommend that those who are pregnant or nursing avoid it.

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Discuss this Article

anon350840
Post 7

This article is extending beyond taurine's direct side effects under recommended doses, which I find unnecessary. Giving data where taurine was present but not linked to the incident is kind of like a hypothesis.

anon347567
Post 6

The article says "They recommend those who are pregnant or nursing avoid it." However, taurine is added to infant formula because it is essential in development.

I take prescription blood pressure medication and have been able to significantly lower my dosage by taking taurine. I recommend monitoring your pressure once or twice a day if you add taurine and you are on prescription bp medication so that your pressure doesn't go too low.

anon345072
Post 5

I am an older woman who took Taurine in high doses for detox. I experienced severe bruising and didn't make the connection until a couple months later. Many energy drinks have Taurine, so I don't think kids should be allowed to drink them (unless you check every ingredient). I also think older people are more sensitive to them.

CopperPipe
Post 3

I have a question. I have been trying to find out more about the side effects of taurine, specifically on the long-term effects of taking it, and I'm having trouble finding information.

For instance, I'd really like to know whether taurine is a water or fat soluble substance. That would make a big difference, since if it's water soluble, extra taurine can pass out of the body pretty easily in urine, whereas if it's fat soluble, then it can build up and cause problems (that's why there are so many serious Vitamin D side effects.)

So can you tell me some more about this in more detail? I really liked this article a lot; it was a great overview, I'd just like some more information now.

Thanks.

lightning88
Post 2

Cool article -- I just would like to add a little more about all the taurine benefits.

Many people have recently turned to using taurine supplements for detoxing, and they have also been shown to be effective at treating heart disease. Taurine is an antioxidant, just like vitamin E is, and can help protect the body's tissues from premature degeneration.

Also, a recent study found that taking taurine supplements may be good for your mental health as well. It has shown good results as a treatment for bipolar disorder, and another study actually found that those who were detoxing from alcohol abuse actually experienced fewer psychotic episodes than those who did not take it.

Finally, taurine has a lot of benefits for development. Infants with taurine deficiency have impaired liver function, and much less bile acid, making digestion harder. It is also helpful for growth and development, which is why many infant food formulas are now supplemented with taurine.

So although there are a number of taurine supplements side effects, don't let that blind you to all the taurine benefits.

yournamehere
Post 1

Nice article -- I really like you guys' articles about supplements side effects because they're just so much more balanced than other articles on the subject.

I mean, if you take the whole thing about taurine, basically all the sites you find are either so for taurine that it's impossible to find out about it's downsides, or so much against it that that's all you can find out about.

You guys played it really nicely down the middle though. Good information, intelligently written but simply phrased.

Nice job.

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