Should veggies and vegans supplement taurine?
I used to follow a pretty rigid vegan diet for 10 YEARS and looking back I wish I’d supplemented with Taurine. I only recently gave this amino acid due attention when formulating Night Support - and now I can’t stop reading about it!
It’s a good time to draw attention to this since so many people are moving towards a veggie diet because of environmental and ethical concerns. Taurine is known to be one of the most essential substances in the body – it’s one of the most abundant amino acids in most tissues of the body. While it’s not considered an essential amino acid* since it can be made in the body, food is the main source - but meat and seafood, not vegetable proteins.
I’m not a cat, but…
Since it’s considered non-essential or conditionally essential*, Taurine can be overlooked when discussing vegan diets. Unlike cats 🐱, we don’t go rapidly blind and die without consuming it, but there might be long-term health implications. To make taurine, your body needs amino acids that can be low in vegan meals (cysteine, methionine), plentiful Vitamin B6, plus an enzyme that apparently isn’t very active in humans. So, synthesis isn’t plentiful and supplementation is a sensible precaution for veggies (there isn’t much taurine in dairy or eggs either).
*note – the nutrition terms essential/non-essential/conditionally essential, refer to whether a substance can only be obtained from food/can be manufactured by the body/can be manufactured dependant on intake of other essential nutrients. It doesn’t relate to whether it has essential functions in the body.
Why does it matter?
Taurine is plentiful in the diets of some of the longest-lived people on the planet ! It’s found in high amounts in the brain, muscles, and eyes and has many functions in the central nervous system. Things it’s important for include:
Eye health (preventing retina degeneration)
Brain development and protection
Detoxification and bile synthesis
Glucose control - diabetes prevention
Lowering high blood pressure and high cholesterol
Taurine works as an antioxidant. Since oxidative stress (when free radicals ping around damaging cells) plays a role in all kinds of disease, including cardiovascular and inflammatory disease, taurine is very important for its role in cell protection throughout the body, including the central nervous system. It’s an antioxidant in the mitochondria, where your cells produce energy, too.
Isn’t Taurine energising?
Although it’s used in energy drinks, it’s caffeine that provides the energy there. The combo of high caffeine plus a little taurine apparently improves alertness. But, for relaxation purposes, Taurine (without caffeine!) has a calming effect on the brain. Interesting note - it’s called Taurine because it was first isolated from Ox Bile!
I’m not pure vegetarian anymore (for many reasons, which I’m happy to discuss if you want to comment) but I love taurine supplements - I take Night Support at bedtime every day - for the calming effect on the mind.
If you know any longtime veggies, or anyone that’s started changing their eating habits because of Veganuary, sharing is caring.
PS Don’t forget your B12 too, thank you, over and out.
Featuring Frida the cat