Taurine is a non-essential non-protein forming amino acid. It is non-essential because it can be synthesised in humans from methionine and cysteine. Both methionine and cysteine contain a sulphur atom and so it is no surprised that taurine is also a sulphur containing amino acid. However, the sulphur atom in taurine replaces the carboxyl group normally present on amino acids and in this way is structurally distinct from most amino acids. Supplemental taurine has been researched with regard its blood pressure lowering effects. Initial studies on rodents showed that taurine had beneficial effects on the blood pressure of hypertensive rats. Later human studies confirmed the earlier rodent studies. In human studies, hypertensive subjects supplemented with 6 grams of taurine per day experienced significant reductions in blood pressure in as little as 7 days. Therefore taurine seems to produce blood pressure lowering effects in mammals, that are rapid and effective.
The reason that taurine is beneficial to hypertensive mammals is not fully understood. However, the beneficial effects may be dependent on an overactive sympathetic nervous system. The role of taurine in physiology is still being researched, but taurine is known to be critical in maintaining cell membrane potential and also in maintaining a regular heart beat. Interestingly, taurine may also benefit other cardiovascular problems, suggesting that it has more than one mechanism of action. In particular taurine can benefit congestive heart failure, and improve general heart function, and this likely relates to its ability to maintain membrane potential. A taurine rich diet can provide up to 2.5 grams of taurine per day. Cheese, cottage cheese, granola, pork, milk and wild game are good sources of taurine, but it is also available in supplements. Generally animal products are better sources of taurine that plant products. However, to get the cardiovascular benefits supplements are likely necessary.
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