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Taurine can protect retinal cells, minimize toxicity in eye tissues, and more, but we’re still figuring out how to handle this valuable nutrient.
It’s been a decade or more since taurine made its way out of obscurity using the global stage that is the energy drink label, but the public knowledge gap is still going strong.
Taurine is usually labeled an amino acid, but technically differs on a chemical level because it lacks a “carboxyl group,” according to this USDA fact sheet.
Despite its suspicious debut, taurine actually is much healthier than the energy drinks it’s found in, especially when it comes to eye health.
The best way to get the most out of this compound is to put a healthy amount of distance between it and the energy drink, i.e., with natural food sources and high-quality taurine supplements, but before that, we have to learn what it can do.
Research-Supported Uses of Taurine for Eye Health
Depending on the context, taurine can act as an antioxidant, neurotransmitter, cellular building block, nutrient transporter, and more.
Taurine studies and trials are ongoing, but we can use the current knowledge base to further introduce the roles it plays in eye health.
In response to certain stressful and a few non-stressful stimuli, our bodies naturally produce a substance called endothelin-1 (ET-1).
ET-1 serves several important functions in the body, but in excess, it has been “involved in retinal vascular dysregulation and oxidative stress” in the eyes, explained this Universiti Teknologi of Malaysia study.
This means that ET-1 negatively affects blood flow to the eye as well as the cells themselves, but thankfully, the introduction of taurine as an antioxidant may be able to offset that.
To test this hypothesis, the study authors divided 90 rats evenly into five groups, three of which were administered taurine before, during, or after ET-1 injection.
The pre-treated group showed a “relatively preserved thickness of retina and number of retinal cells,” leading the authors to the conclusion that taurine was effective in mitigating oxidative stress caused by ET-1, pointing to antioxidant potential.
Retinal Cell Protection
Glaucoma can best be described as an umbrella term for a group of conditions characterized by damage to the optic nerve.
Depending on the type and severity, glaucoma can cause symptoms of gradual or rapid vision loss or even blindness, but taurine may be able to help.
A quick disclaimer here: Taurine has “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” status, enabling its legal use in beverages, but it has not been approved as a treatment for glaucoma.
Moving on, this study by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research that tested taurine (in drinking water) on two types of glaucoma in rats found that “after a 6-day incubation, 1mM taurine significantly enhanced RGCs survival (+68%).”
RGC stands for “retinal ganglion cell,” an important cell type in the eye that is required for normal vision (and found to be damaged in glaucoma).
Toxic Damage Control
In the eye and several other environments within the body, when cells die, they release toxins that can damage neighboring cells.
This cascading effect can prolong healing and worsen tissue damage if the body doesn’t have the tools it needs to contain it.
This article by the University of Illinois College of Medicine references an experiment in which an extremely thin blade created an incision along a cluster of cells, after which the experimenters exposed the incision to a strong toxin called cyC.
As expected, the experimenters found that the toxin induced cell death in “cells remote from the site of the injury.”
Conversely, when the experiment was repeated on a cell cluster that had been treated with taurine, this bystander cell death effect was not observed.
Beyond Eye Health
According to this article by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, taurine is highly involved in central nervous system function, acting as a “neurotransmitter, as a trophic (growth) factor in CNS development, in maintaining the structural integrity of the membrane, in regulating calcium transport,” and more.
Taurine’s antioxidant effects also work outside of the eyes to a limited extent, partnering with other antioxidants to hunt down and neutralize potentially harmful free radicals.
Finally, taurine was found to act as a buffer of sorts when it comes to maintaining what’s referred to as the fluid-electrolyte balance.
Electrolytes are charged minerals that our bodies use to maintain a healthy blood pH, keep water and fluid levels where they need to be, and more.
This study from Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, Poland found that animals deficient in taurine were more vulnerable to hypernatremia (excessive sodium in the blood) when given salt, indicating that taurine has a role in regulating sodium levels.
How to Increase Taurine in Your Diet
An exact RDA for taurine has not yet been officially established, and dosages used in studies range from a few hundred milligrams to a few thousand. As such, fulfilling the daily requirement is a tricky prospect without help.
Everyday foods like milk, chicken, eggs, and a few other items will provide a base level of taurine, but it’s much higher in not-so-everyday shellfish.
This is why a safe, potent, and high-quality supplement is key to keeping your consumption consistently high and more easily measurable.
NOW Taurine 500mg
At around a dime per serving, NOW Taurine 500mg vegan capsules are a highly affordable and safe way to reap all the benefits of this compound without imbibing a sugary cocktail of artificial ingredients.
Other than pure taurine, this supplement simply contains rice flour and hypromellose, and it’s free of eggs, tree nuts, dairy, gluten, and soy.
We highly recommend this supplement as an easy way to support your dietary intake of taurine because it packs 500mg of taurine per capsule and not a whole lot else.
Now that you know what taurine does and how to get it, you can put down that ninth serving of shellfish and regain control over your diet.