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While taurine is better known as a common ingredient in sports energy drinks, it just so happens to be an element that can benefit your thyroid health. In this article, learn about the benefits of taurine for your thyroid function and health.
Taurine is a derivative of an amino acid called cysteine, so it’s important first to review the role of amino acids.
Amino acids are the molecules used as the building blocks for proteins. Think of proteins as a chain; each link is an amino acid. The amino acids all link in a particular sequence to make a different protein, and each has a different job or purpose in the body.
Our bodies need 20 different beneficial amino acids to function correctly. Nine of these amino acids are considered essential, meaning they must be consumed through the foods we eat, and the others are non-essential, meaning that our bodies can produce them on their own.
Essential amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. The 11 non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
There is also a subcategory of amino acids called conditional amino acids. These include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. These are most needed when we are ill or under chronic stress.
While taurine is not an essential or non-essential amino acid, it has been referred to as a conditional amino acid. Taurine is referred to as a conditional amino acid because, like other amino acids, it is derived from cysteine but lacks a carboxyl group that usually belongs to amino acids. Instead, it contains a sulfide group and can be called an amino sulfonic acid.
Taurine is found in high concentrations in many body parts, including the eyes (specifically the retina), central nervous system, and skeletal muscles. In the presence of taurine, cardiac muscles are strengthened. In fact, a study of 41 patients with heart failure showed a taurine deficiency. When taurine levels in those patients were restored, it led to improved contractile function.
Taurine also helps the skeletal muscles perform more optimally, and the brain experiences stabilizing stimulating effects. You’ll often see taurine in sports energy drinks because it improves muscular function and physical performance.
The role of taurine is also to help facilitate neuronal development in the cerebral cortex. Taurine deficiency leads to impaired GABA inhibition - a neurotransmitter calming to those with hyperactivity associated with anxiety, stress, and fear.
Taurine helps the body regulate water status in our cells, prevent oxidation, and support calcium signaling in critical organs. This means taurine can keep minerals such as potassium and magnesium inside the cells, preventing mineral and electrolyte imbalances.
Taurine has protective effects that decline as we age, similar to other nutrients. Low taurine levels can contribute to increased DNA damage, telomerase deficiency, impaired mitochondrial function, and cellular senescence.
While taurine is accessible through foods such as eggs, meat, seafood, and dairy, those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are more likely to have decreased taurine levels and might consider supplementation.
While many studies showcasing the benefits of taurine have been done on animals, human studies have also revealed the nutritional benefits of taurine. A World Health Association study involving 50 population groups in 25 countries reported that elevated dietary taurine consumption is associated with decreased risk of hypertension and hypocholesterolemia.
Taurine supplementation is also linked to a diminished body mass index and reduced inflammation markers in obese women. Taurine is a proven anti-inflammatory agent that helps to neutralize hypochlorous acid, an oxidant that would drive the inflammatory process. A study of 12,000 European adults aged 60 years and older showed that those with higher taurine levels were healthier and had fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, lower obesity levels, reduced hypertension, and lower levels of inflammation.
Studies have shown a correlation between taurine deficiency and hypothyroidism. In a study published in the Journal of Thyroid Research, researchers found that taurine supplementation in rats with hypothyroidism resulted in significant improvements in thyroid hormone levels and overall thyroid function.
Additionally, taurine deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Taurine’s anti-inflammatory properties can help modulate the immune response, potentially reducing the risk of autoimmune thyroid disorders.
Furthermore, taurine deficiency may contribute to the development of goiter, a condition characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), and oral taurine supplementation may significantly reduce thyroid size.
While further research needs to be done to examine the direct relationship between taurine supplementation and thyroid function, we can conclude that having adequate taurine levels does help improve some of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism and the overall longevity rate.
To ensure optimal taurine levels and support optimal health in hypothyroid patients, it’s essential to consume a balanced diet that includes sources of taurine. Foods rich in taurine include meat, seafood, and dairy products. However, obtaining sufficient taurine can be challenging for individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet. In these cases, taurine supplements may be beneficial, but it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen.
Paloma Health takes a holistic approach to treating your hypothyroidism, including nutrition and supplements. In addition to medication, Paloma’s treatment approach includes recommendations to follow a nutrient-dense diet and make lifestyle changes such as regular activity and movement, regular stress-reduction practice, and getting adequate sleep. If you’re ready to take your hypothyroidism treatment to the next step, schedule a consult with one of Paloma’s top thyroid care providers now.