The Truth about Taurine
What exactly is taurine?
Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid, but it is often referred to as an amino acid, a chemical that is a required building block of protein. Taurine is found in large amounts in the brain, retina, heart, and blood cells called platelets. The best food sources of taurine are meat and fish.
Taurine is sometimes referred to as ‘a conditional amino acid’ to distinguish it from ‘an essential amino acid.’ A ‘conditional amino acid’ can be manufactured by the body, but an ‘essential amino acid’ cannot be made by the body and must be provided by the diet. The mammalian body can produce taurine and it makes it from the amino acid cysteine. People and dogs following a plant based diet are usually lacking in taurine and it will have to be supplemented.
Taurine supplements are obtained through a complex chemical equation as shown here. Excess taurine is excreted by the kidneys, not stored in the body so it is not harmful if oversupplemented.
Some people take taurine supplements as medicine to treat congestive heart failure (CHF which we sadly see all to commonly in many of our much loved pets and family members), high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes, and epilepsy. It is also used to improve mental performance, to prevent the side effects of chemotherapy and as an antioxidant in humans. Antioxidants protect cells of the body from damage that results from certain chemical reactions involving oxidation.
You may also have seen taurine included in high sugar and high caffeine energy drinks, however no benefit or harm was found with the addition of taurine to these energy drinks.
We supplement our protein packs with taurine.
How does it work to protect the heart?
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why taurine seems to help congestive heart failure (CHF). There is some evidence that it improves the function of the left ventricle, one of the chambers of the heart. Taurine might also improve heart failure because it seems to lower blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is often too active in people and dogs with high blood pressure and CHF. Taurine is also needed to be supplemented in dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) to prevent its progression.
All we seem to know as vets is that taurine does appear to be the one ingredient that must be supplemented in a plant based homemade diet to prevent congestive heart failure from developing too quickly if your pet is sadly genetically predisposed to this inherited disease.