||I'm basically trying to find out what the deal with Taurine is. All I've been able to gather is that it is a mental stimulant as opposed to a physical one like caffeine. My questions are 1) What are its effects on the brain?, and 2) Why is it so expensive in those pesky little cans?|
||Taurine is alternately referred to as a "non-essential" or "conditionally essential" amino acid. This means that it is produced by the body, but in times of high physical stress, the body may not be able to produce enough for optimal performance.|
While Taurine is one of the most common neurotransmitters in the body, its effects on the brain are not well understood. With glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid, Taurine functions as a neuroinhibitory transmitter, and has been used as a mild sedative in treating epileptic patients with dosages of around 500mg three times a day. It also appears to have some effect in muscle tissue; low levels of magnesium and taurine have been found in heart attack patients and high doses (5g) of taurine are being used in experimental heart therapies.
This survey of taurine articles and a search for taurine related articles on pubmed shows that most of the taurine related research and use to date has not been focused on mental effects. According to a couple of articles, it inhibits the release of norepinephrine and acetylcholine, stimulates the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and increases the production of serotonin and melatonin by stimulating the activity of N-acetyltransferase.
Taurine-containing energy drinks are sold with a lot of hype suggesting that taurine is responsible for a wide variety of positive mental effects, but because almost all of these beverages also contain significant amounts of caffeine, it's difficult to do personal evaluations of these claims. We're not aware of any research that shows that taurine alone (not combined with caffeine) increases alertness or positive mood. The fact that drinks that contain taurine sell at such a premium is more likely due to marketing than the intrinsic value of the substance; taurine itself is availiable for prices comparable to that of other nutritional supplements.
Gaull, B.E. and Rassin D.K. Taurine in Development and Nutrition. Sulphur in Biology Ciba Foundation Symposium, 1980.
Chapman, G.W. and Greenwood, C.E. Taurine in Nutrition and Brain Development. Nutri Res 1988;8:955-68.
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