Is Taurine a Conditionally Essential Amino Acid?

Taurine is the most abundant intracellular amino acid in humans, and this relates directly to its numerous physiological and biochemical functions. In the presence of pyridoxine (vitamin B6), taurine can be synthesised from methionine and cysteine. However, for most individuals, the diet is the main source of the amino acid. Some of the roles of taurine include bile conjugation and the prevention of cholestasis; an antiarrhythmic, chronotropic and inotropic effect (in effect stabilising the beating of the heart); central nervous system effect including neuromodulation; the development and protection of the retina; as well as endocrine and metabolic effects. There is also significant evidence that taurine can act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in humans. 

Taurine is present in breast milk, and this is an essential component for the growing infant as the infant cannot synthesise enough taurine for full physiological and biochemical needs. Certain adults may also be unable to synthesise enough taurine, particularly those who are ill, and these people may benefit from supplements. In addition, people on restricted diets may also not be able to obtain enough taurine in the diet, and so supplements may be necessary in such cases.  However, doses are not fully understood and so it is difficult to make individual general recommendations. Consideration of taurine as a conditionally essential nutrient should therefore be given but with care being taken to match intakes to individual needs.  

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Lourenco, R. and Camilo, M.E 2002. Taurine: a conditionally essential amino acid in humans? An overview in health and disease. Nutrición Hospitalaria. 17(6): 262-270

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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