Taurine Supplements Review for People, Dogs, and Cats
Posted: 11/30/2018 Last update: 12/19/2018
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What It Is:
- What is it? Taurine plays many functions in our bodies and in those of dogs and cats, but there is generally no need to supplement with taurine because it is produced in the body from other nutrients in the diet (See What It Is).
- Does it help? Diets that do not provide nutrients needed to produce taurine or taurine itself, can lead to taurine deficiency. This is most likely to occur among vegetarians and pets fed non-conventional diets. Taurine supplementation can help reverse deficiency. In addition, it may be helpful in people with congestive heart failure or liver disease and in dogs and cats with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition often linked to diet and taurine deficiency (See What It Does).
- What did CL find? ConsumerLab.com found no problems with the quality of a selection of taurine products sold in the U.S., but there were large differences in the cost to obtain taurine. The cost to get 500 mg of taurine ranged from just 1 cent to 18 cents in supplements for people. The cost was even higher (up to 49 cents) with pet formulations (See What CL Found).
- Top Picks — Among the products Approved in testing, Top Picks that provide the best value and convenience were selected for people as well as for pets.
- How much to take and when? Taurine is typically taken at a dose of 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg (1 to 2 grams) twice or three times daily. For pets, the dose depends on the weight of the animal and ranges from 250 mg to 1,000 mg twice daily (See What to Consider When Using).
- Concerns? Taurine is generally considered to be safe as a supplement at moderate doses but may modestly reduce blood pressure (see Concerns and Cautions).
Taurine is a water-soluble amino sulfonic acid. People, as well as dogs and cats, make taurine from other nutrients (vitamin B6 and the amino acids methionine and cysteine), so there is no dietary requirement for taurine, although taurine can be obtained directly from meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and fish. However, deficiencies occasionally occur when diets do not provide enough of the building blocks for making taurine, or taurine itself, as can sometimes occur in vegetarians and in pets fed unconventional diets.
What It Does:
Taurine is thought to help regulate heartbeat, maintain cell membranes, and affect the release of neurotransmitters. The liver also conjugates taurine with bile acids forming bile salts which are necessary for emulsifying fats in the intestine.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
Several studies (primarily by one research group) suggest that taurine may be useful for congestive heart failure. A placebo-controlled study of 58 people with CHF found that taking 2 grams of taurine 3 times daily for 4 weeks lead to highly significant improvements in breathlessness, heart palpitations, fluid buildup, and heart x-ray, as well as standard scales of heart failure severity. No patient worsened with taurine but four patients did with placebo (Azuma, Clin Cardiol 1985). A very small study found taurine (3 grams per day) more effective than coenzyme Q10 (30 mg per day) for CHF (Azuma, Jpn Circ J 1992).
One study suggests that taurine supplements might be useful for acute viral hepatitis (a viral infection of the liver). In the study, 63 people with hepatitis were given either 12 grams of taurine daily or placebo. The taurine group experienced significant improvements in liver function as compared to the placebo group (Matsuyama, Prog Clin Biol Res, 1983). However, a small double-blind study suggests that taurine (1.5 grams per day) does not help chronic hepatitis (Podda, Gastroenterology 1990).
A study in rats with experimentally induced liver injury demonstrated that very high-dose taurine reduced the dangerous rise in blood ammonia levels that occur with liver injury (Heidari, Tox Reports 2016).
A study in Australia found a benefit of taurine in reducing cirrhosis-related muscle cramps (most commonly experienced in the calves, feet and toes, hands and fingers, and thighs). In the study, 1,000 mg twice daily was found to be superior to 500 mg twice daily and, relative to placebo, resulted in a lower number of cramps (11 vs. 18), shorter total duration of cramps (81.4 vs. 170 minutes), and decreased the average severity of cramps (by 1.4 units on a scale of 1 to 10). To help avoid possible gastrointestinal side effects, patients initially took 500 mg of taurine (as a capsule from Now Foods) twice daily for two weeks, and then doubled this dose (1,000 mg twice daily) for another two weeks. There were no adverse side effects associated with taurine supplementation (Vidot, Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2018).
Taurine is often included in muscle and workout supplements, but the evidence is mixed on whether it provides benefit. For example, 1.66 grams of taurine taken one hour before intense exercise did not improve athletic performance in healthy, endurance-trained male cyclists (Rutherford, Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2010). Nevertheless, a subsequent review of ten clinical studies in which taurine alone was taken in doses ranging from one to six grams per day concluded that taurine supplementation resulted in a mild-to-moderate improvement in exercise performance (Waldron, Sports Med 2018).
There is some evidence that taurine, in combination with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) may help muscle recovery after exercise. One small, controlled study found that 2 grams of taurine plus 3.2 grams of BCAAs daily for two weeks prior to and three days after high-intensity exercise reduced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle damage compared to placebo although neither supplement alone helped (Ra, J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2013). Another small study, in 10 recreationally-fit young men, found that taurine powder (Now Foods) taken twice daily (morning and evening) for 72 hours following eccentric exercise decreased exercise-induced muscle damage and improved performance recovery of the biceps muscle. The dose of taurine powder was 100 mg per kg of bodyweight -- up to 10 grams per day (Yanita, Antioxidants (Basel) 2017).
As noted in our Encyclopedia article about Taurine (which includes more details about some of the studies above), taurine has been proposed as a treatment for numerous other conditions but, the evidence is weak and, in some cases, contradictory. These include use in cataracts, diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and stroke. Taurine is also sometimes combined in an "amino acid cocktail" with other amino acids for treatment of attention deficit disorder, but there is no evidence as yet that it works for this purpose.
A serious heart condition in dogs and cats known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has been associated with taurine deficiency and has been reversed by providing taurine supplementation and other dietary changes.
Diet-associated DCM in dogs first came to light in the 1990s. The number of cases appears to have increased in recent years, possibly due to a shift toward boutique, exotic ingredient, and grain-free diets as opposed to more traditional dog foods (Freeman, JAVMA 2018). In 2018, the FDA issued an alert about reports of DCM in dogs eating pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. The reasons for taurine deficiency in dogs are not well understood but, among the possibilities is deficiency of taurine precursors in the diet or reduced bioavailability of these precursors or taurine itself due to the diet. [For more details, see the excellent article by Lisa Freeman, DVM of Tufts University on November 28, 2018 in the Petfoodology Blog.]
The association between taurine deficiency and DCM in cats was reported in 1987 (Pion, Science 1987). Due to that report and subsequent research, the requirement for taurine in cat foods was increased and taurine deficiency-related DCM is now uncommon in cats. However, it can still be seen in cats eating home-prepared diets or commercial diets prepared with inadequate nutritional expertise or quality control. (Freeman, JAVMA 2018)