Taurine, a beta-amino acid present in human breast milk, could very well give you the ‘wings’ that certain popular energy drinks profess to confer, except in the form of a natural energy booster.
What are the functions of taurine?
Taurine supports neurological and muscular functions, which include stabilising the nerve membranes to control firing rates and regulating heart beat. An excellent regulator of calcium, this acid drives the ‘message-relaying’ function of nerves and contraction ability of muscle fibres. It is also important in bile secretion, vision, and liver function because of its stabilising effect on fat metabolism and the membranes of cells. Great sources of dietary taurine include seafood, fish, meat and eggs.
Why do babies need taurine?
Taurine is considered to be a conditionally essential amino acid in newborns as they don’t produce it naturally, and thus need to obtain it from their mother’s milk or formula. Taurine is important for brain development, of which some 95% occurs in the first five years of life.
Don’t adults need taurine too?
No, they don’t. Adults synthesise taurine in the liver and large intestines naturally, in the presence of the vitamin B6, and therefore do not require supplementation unless they are vitamin B6 deficient. While an overdose of taurine is highly unlikely, it’s still good to take note of how much taurine you’re receiving from your diet – an average absorption rate of taurine varies from 40-400mg; and a serving of fish (250g) provides approximately 150mg of taurine. Moderate daily serves of fish, meat and eggs in weaning children would provide adequate amounts of taurine for normal brain and muscular development.
Originally published in “Taurine”, written by Kirsten Koh, in Singapore’s Child January 2012.