Taurine

Taurine is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid because it is an amino acid that the body needs and is unable to synthesize on its own, yet it is not used for proteins. Taurine functions as a free amino acid or simple peptide and plays an important role in mammalian development. Taurine is involved in several different metabolic processes including detoxification, cell membrane stabilization, and the regulation of cellular calcium levels (26). These are all important metabolic processes involved in the maintenance and function of neuronal activity. How critical a role taurine plays in these processes remains uncertain. In the brain, taurine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It appears that a genetic variation in taurine metabolism is present in some cases of epilepsy (27). It has not proven to be very effective as a preventive antiepileptic agent because only a small fraction of taurine in the blood system will cross the blood-brain barrier. Increased levels of taurine are associated with reduced seizure susceptibility; decreased levels of taurine are associated with more spontaneous seizure activity (28). These trends do not indicate, however, that taurine can be used as an effective antiepileptic therapy (28).

Several studies suggest that taurine has a mild anticonvulsant effect in humans. An unblinded study done on 25 children with intractable epilepsy reported complete seizure control in only one case. A greater than 50% decrease of seizure frequency occurred in one case, a less than 50% decrease in frequency in four cases, but no effect in 18 cases (29). Another unblinded study on nine patients with intractable seizures who were treated with taurine showed only transient effects. Seizures disappeared for about 2 weeks in five patients; seizure frequency was temporarily reduced by 25% in one patient. No effect on seizure activity occurred in the remaining three cases (30). Thus, there is little theoretical basis for the use of taurine to treat epilepsy.

In one study, magnesium-deficient mice with audiogenic seizures (magnesium deficiency in mice both causes and increases audiogenic seizures) were treated with three different types of magnesium supplementation: magnesium acetyltaurinate (a combination of magnesium with the inhibitory neurotransmitter taurine), magnesium pyrrolidone-2-carboxylate (PCMH), and magnesium chloride (31). Only treatment with magnesium acetyltaurinate showed lasting effects for seizure control. Audiogenic seizures recurred 6 hours after treatment in the mice given PCMH and magnesium chloride. The mice supplemented with magnesium acetyltaurinate showed seizure control for up to 72 hours after treatment. This study indicates that taurine, in the magnesium acetyltaurinate form, may be effective in treating some types of seizure disorders. In human studies, the dosage for adults is around 2000 mg/day of taurine. No significant side effects due to taurine treatment have been reported.

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