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Signs & Symptoms of Taurine Deficiency

By Bryan Myers

Taurine, an organic acid found in energy drinks, plays an important role in your body. According to a 2010 review in the "Journal of Biomedical Science," taurine affects neural transmission and removes toxic substances. Your body can manufacture taurine, but most of it comes from your diet.

Heart Problems

People with low taurine are more likely to die from heart disease, according to a 2006 analysis in the "Journal of Hypertension." Because of this finding, doctors use taurine supplements to help treat heart problems. The mechanisms underlying taurine's cardiac benefits remain unknown. An investigation published in the 2008 volume of the "Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology" looked at the effect of removing most taurine from the body. These authors tested taurine transporter on a breed of mice known to have low levels of circulating taurine. Over time, these mice develop a broad range of heart problems.

Eye Problems

Animals with some forms of vision loss have low levels of taurine, according to 2010 report in "Molecular and Cellular Neurosciences." It is not clear, however, which process -- poor vision or low taurine -- appears first. An experiment described in the 2002 edition of the "FASEB Journal" provides data relevant to this question. These researchers studied the visual system of taurine knockout mice. Adult rodents with little circulating taurine showed severe retinal degeneration. The eyes of these mice showed no electrical activity. Autopsies revealed a large number of dead photoreceptors. Younger rodents showed similar -- but smaller -- effects indicating a progressive decline which worsens over time.

Muscle Problems

Muscles contain high levels of taurine, according to a 2011 paper in "Cell Biochemistry and Function." The meaning of this finding remains unclear, but taurine appears to have antioxidant properties that prevent muscle damage. Thus, taurine knockout mice should show muscle abnormalities. A study published in the 2010 volume of the "Journal of Biomedical Science" tested this hypothesis. Close examination of skeletal and heart muscles taken from knockout mice revealed the presence of dead cells. Muscle mass was decreased throughout the body, and muscle tissue taken from the heart was thinned. These problems increased with age making the mice more susceptible to heart failure.

Reduced Endurance

A 2011 report in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" showed that increasing taurine with a supplement increased the endurance of cyclists. This finding suggests that a reducing taurine should have the opposite effect. An investigation offered in the 2004 edition of the "FASEB Journal" provides data relevant to this idea. Relative to normal mice, taurine knockout mice showed an 80 percent reduction in endurance. They also had unusually high lactate levels -- a marker of poor endurance.

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