(NaturalHealth365) Taurine, an amino acid-like substance essential to health, is an ‘unsung hero’ within the nutritional world. But, its importance is almost beyond belief.
So under-recognized is taurine, in fact, that scientists and researchers refer to it as “the best amino acid you’ve never heard of.” Today, we intend to shine a light on this potent amino acid.
Exciting research reveals how taurine can help to protect the brain from cognitive changes associated with environmental toxins, thereby reducing memory loss and slowing brain aging – while helping to stimulate production of new, healthy brain cells.
Taurine is a neurotransmitter, antioxidant and detoxifying agent
When it comes to promoting life and health, taurine truly “wears many hats.” In fact, many researchers believe that the famously long-lived citizens of Okinawa, Japan, owe their longevity primarily to their high dietary intake of taurine.
This indispensable nutrient, which is produced by the amino acids cysteine and methionine, helps to regulate heartbeat and protect the brain from over-activity. In addition, it promotes immune system health, aids in the elimination of toxins and also helps eliminate cholesterol through bile.
But one of the most important benefits of taurine is its ability to preserve and protect memory and cognition.
How does taurine slow brain aging and protect brain health?
Brain aging and shrinkage can be influenced by a variety of factors, including normal aging, chronic exposure to environmental toxins, high blood sugar, uncontrolled high blood pressure, deposits of proteins in the brain, and disruptions in circulation.
Not only does taurine work against these factors – helping to control both blood pressure and blood sugar, while inhibiting formation of beta amyloid protein – but it actually helps create new brain cells and connections, something scientists previously thought impossible.
By stimulating the production of new neurons essential to learning and memory, taurine can help to mitigate age-related losses of memory and impairments in learning functions. Keep in mind (no pun intended), healthy neurons are vital for promoting the formation and retention of new memories.
Is there supporting research for these claims?
The short answer is yes! In animal studies, middle-aged mice that were given taurine experienced rapid growth in stem cells in the brain, along with enhanced differentiation into adult brain cells.
And this result was not just limited to mice – researchers were able to repeat the result with human brain cells.
And, a recent study showed that six weeks of taurine supplementation prevented cognitive impairments from developing in mice with an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study published in 2013 in Environmental Pharmacology and Toxicology, rats were exposed to either an organosphosphate pesticide (chlorpyrifos), a heavy metal (lead acetate), or both. All showed visible degeneration and deterioration of brain tissue as a result of the toxins.
However, when taurine was administered at the same time as the toxins, researchers found that the damage was completely prevented.
Taurine protects our health in a variety of ways
For example, did you know that taurine can help stabilize mood and ease anxiety? Research has shown that it enhances the effects of the “calming” neurotransmitter GABA – while increasing levels of glutamic acid decarboxylase, a GABA precursor.
By protecting brain cells from excitotoxicty – the effects of overstimulated brain cells – taurine can potentially reduce the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures. And, there is evidence that taurine can protect brain cells from oxidative damage that occurs after a stroke.
In addition to helping regulate blood pressure, taurine is thought to increase insulin secretion and action – helping to manage the brain’s control of glucose.
WARNING: Low taurine levels can cause a host of illnesses
Low taurine levels are associated with high blood pressure, mood disorders, hypothyroidism, autism, obesity and kidney failure.
Symptoms of taurine deficiency can include anxiety, depression and insomnia. Migraines, irritability, restlessness and obsessive thinking can also be “red flags” indicating a taurine deficiency.
Taurine levels can fall due to a normal aging process. But, obesity, smoking, having heart disease and Candida overgrowth can also deplete taurine in the body and increase the odds of a deficiency.
Because plant-based foods contain little taurine, keeping a vegetarian or vegan diet can put you at risk for low taurine. In addition, foods heavy in MSG can reduce taurine’s bioavailability.
Bottom line: a simple blood test can help to determine if you’re low in taurine.
How can I use taurine to protect brain health?
The best dietary source of taurine is protein from organic, grass-fed meat, seafood and free-range eggs. Brewer’s yeast is also a good source.
Most non-vegetarians ingest around 43 to 76 mg of taurine a day; vegetarians may consume less. Successful clinical studies have used high dosages of 1500 to 3000 mg – difficult to achieve simply from diet.
To ensure adequate levels of taurine, supplementation may be a wise choice – especially if you are middle-aged or older. Most integrative physicians suggest dosages ranging from 500 mg to 3 grams per day.
If you think taurine supplementation is right for you, first get the go-ahead from a trusted doctor, who can advise you on the proper amount.
No doubt, with the ever-growing population of older people, the need for natural methods to protect brain health is an urgent matter. Inexpensive, safe and easily obtainable, taurine supplementation is poised to emerge as an intelligent strategy to avoid dementia.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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