Taurine Overview

Taurine is a chemical compound found within humans and many animals

What is taurine derived from?

An organic acid, taurine is derived from cysteine (an amino acid). As cysteine contains sulfur, & taurine is derived from cysteine, taurine is also classed as a sulfonic acid.

Taurine Structural Formula

The structural formula of taurine is C2H7NO3S

How was taurine discovered?

In 1827, German chemists Leopold Gmelin and Friedrich Tiedemann isolated taurine from ox bile. Bile is the digestive juice produced in the liver.

Stored in the gallbladder, bile helps the body digest food, particularly fats.

As an ox is an adult castrated male bull, Gmelin and Tiedemann named the isolated compound 'taurine'. 'Taurus' is the Latin word for bull or ox.

Where does taurine come from?

Within the body, significant levels of taurine are found within bile and the lower intestine. Smaller quantities of taurine are found within the cells of humans and many animals.

Other areas of the body with concentrations of taurine include:

  • central nervous system (CNS)
  • heart/cardiac muscle
  • skeletal muscles
  • white blood cells

Foods sources of taurine

Natural sources of taurine come from a variety of food items. Foods rich in taurine include:

  • eggs
  • fish
  • meat
  • milk
  • seafood

As foods rich in taurine include meat and fish, levels of taurine in vegans can be lower than non-vegans who include meat and fish in their diet [1]. One benefit of taurine is using taurine supplements to raise taurine levels in vegans.

How is taurine made?

Taurine can be produced by the body (through biosynthesis) or produced as a man made chemical (through chemical synthesis).

Taurine Biosynthesis

Within the body, taurine is synthesized within the pancreas through a pathway in which cysteine is oxidized to create cysteine sulphuric acid. Positioned behind the stomach, the pancreas is a gland which manufactures hormones and digestive enzymes.

In adult males, taurine is also produced within the testes (testicles).

Taurine Chemical Synthesis

Taurine can also be chemically synthesized (created artificially and not by the body). Synthesized taurine is used in commercial products. Taurine is created for both human medical/pharmaceutical purposes and for use within the pet food industry.

Taurine is produced as an additive to cat food. Cats are not able to synthesize the taurine compound and acquire it from their diet.

Commercially produced taurine is usually derived from isethionic acid.

Taurine can also be derived through the reaction of sulfurous acid and aziridine [16].

Taurine - an amino acid?

In medical and scientific literature, taurine is often referred to as an amino acid as it is derived from cysteine However, technically taurine is not an amino acid.

Amino acids have a carboxyl group in their structure which taurine does not. In a carboxyl group, one oxygen atom is double bonded to a carbon atom whilst another oxygen atom is single bonded to the same carbon atom on one side and single bonded to a hydrogen atom on the other.