The Antioxidants Section
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Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is manufactured in the body from the aminos methionine and cysteine. It helps regulate the nervous system and the muscles, and plays an important part in keeping the brain and heart healthy.
Taurine helps move potassium, magnesium, and sodium, three nutrients that are key to brain and heart function, into the cell membranes. Taurine is known to provide support for neurotransmitters and to have a protective effect on the brain. Some studies have shown that taking L-taurine supplements can help strengthen the heart muscles, and thus regulate blood pressure and prevent heart failure and arrhythmias.
Because taurine plays such an important role in muscle maintenance, it is thought that taurine supplementation may be beneficial to body builders. One study showed that a taurine deficiency leads to a decrease in nitric oxide production, which in turn causes a decrease in blood (and oxygen) flow to the muscles. People that interested in bodybuilding may want to take taurine supplements, although many supplements and protein drinks aimed at serious body builders already contain this substance.
Taurine is also important to the body’s metabolism of fats. It is a key component of bile, and is needed to help absorb fat-soluble vitamins and regulate serum cholesterol levels, and at least one study has linked taurine to the regulation of insulin in the body as well. Taurine seems to offer the body some antioxidant protection--studies have shown that it protects the eyes by reducing the oxidative damage caused by sunlight, and stimulates the body's immune system. Taurine has also been suggested as a potential treatment for epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, alcoholism, cystic fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s.
Taurine is found in eggs, fish, meat, and milk. There are no official Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for taurine. Adults are able to manufacture taurine in the body, but newborns can’t make it themselves, and have to get it from outside sources—if you are feeding your infant formula, make sure it is fortified with L-taurine.
Taurine comes in a liquid form for better absorption, and is also available in capsules. There have been no toxic side effects reported so far, although some studies have shown that taurine may have a depressing effect on your nervous system.
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