Taurine is an amino acid which we find only in animal proteins - so, do vegans need to take a supplement?
It’s a good time to draw attention to this amino acid since so many people are moving towards a vegetarian or vegan 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 our main source of taurine - but only from animal protein such as meat and seafood, not vegetable proteins.
Is Taurine essential?
Since it’s considered non-essential or conditionally essential*, Taurine can be overlooked when discussing nutrients potentially lacking from plant-based diets.
Unlike cats 🐱, we don’t go rapidly blind and die without consuming taurine, but there might be long-term health implications to taurine deficiency.
To make taurine, your body needs amino acids that can also be low in vegan meals (cysteine, methionine), plentiful Vitamin B6, plus an enzyme that apparently isn’t very active in humans.
So, it’s a sensible precaution to look at supplementation when adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet (there isn’t much taurine in dairy or eggs either).
*note – the nutrition terms essential and non-essential here tell us whether a nutrient can only be obtained from food or whether it can be synthesised by the body. They don’t refer to whether the nutrient has essential functions in the body. Conditionally essential means the nutrient’s synthesis by the body relies on other essential nutrients. So if for example, we don’t eat any cysteine, the body would be unable to make taurine.
Why supplement Taurine?
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.
Are taurine supplements vegan?
Interesting note - it’s called Taurine because it was first isolated from Ox Bile!
So as a supplement, is taurine vegan?
Luckily, we can now use vegan L-Taurine in supplements - it’s synthesised, not extracted from ox bile! (Usually - check the label though if you’re vegan).
Isn’t Taurine energising?
Although Taurine is 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.
That’s why I use vegan L-Taurine in the City Survivor Night Support formula - for its calming effects.
Combined with theanine (an amino acid we get from tea) and magnesium glycinate, the result is a calming effect which promotes natural sleep - without having to use sedatives.
All of City Survivor’s supplements are suitable for vegans; I highly recommend using Pollution Protection Daily Multi in the mornings (to ensure adequate intake of B12, Vitamin D3, Cysteine - it’s an all-round vitamin and mineral supplement with extra antioxidants) and Night Support at bedtime.
If you know any other vegetarians that may find this interesting, sharing is caring.
Nutritional Therapist and founder of City Survivor supplements