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Is taurine a functional nutrient?

Bouckenooghe, Thomas; Remacle, Claude; Reusens, Brigitte

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: November 2006 - Volume 9 - Issue 6 - p 728–733
doi: 10.1097/01.mco.0000247469.26414.55
Functional foods
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Purpose of review Taurine, a free amino acid, is found in millimolar concentrations in most mammalian tissues. Mammals are able to synthesize taurine endogenously, but some species such as humans are more dependent on dietary sources of taurine. A growing body of evidence suggests that taurine plays a preponderant role in many physiological processes, which will be summarized in this review.

Recent findings Evidence for the requirement of taurine in the human diet has been obtained in many studies involving animal models and a few clinical trials. Recent and past studies suggested that taurine might be a pertinent candidate for use as a nutritional supplement to protect against oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases or atherosclerosis. Taurine has demonstrated promising actions in vitro, and as a result clinical trials have begun to investigate its effects on various diseases.

Summary Taurine appears to have multiple functions and plays an important role in many physiological processes, such as osmoregulation, immunomodulation and bile salt formation. Taurine analogues/derivatives have recently been reported to have a marked activity on various disorders. Taken together, these observations actualize the old story of taurine.

Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire, Institut des Sciences de la Vie, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Correspondence to Brigitte Reusens, Université Catholique de Louvain, Unité de Biologie Animale Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire, Bâtiment Carnoy Place, Croix du Sud 5, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium Tel: +32 10 47 40 03; fax: +32 10 47 35 15; e-mail: reusens@bani.ucl.ac.be

Sponsorship: This work was supported by grants from Parthenon Trust, London, UK and the European projects NUTRIX (QLK1-2000-00083) and EARNEST (FOOD-CT-2005-007036).

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.