Taurine: a conditionally essential amino acid in humans? An overview in health and disease

Nutr Hosp. 2002 Nov-Dec;17(6):262-70.


Taurine, a sulphur containing amino acid, is the most abundant intracellular amino acid in humans, and is implicated in numerous biological and physiological functions. This comprehensive overview explores areas, from its characterisation to its potential clinical benefit as a conditionally essential amino acid and a pharmaconutrient. In healthy individuals the diet is the usual source of taurine; although in the presence of vitamin B6 it is also synthesised from methionine and cysteine. Taurine has a unique chemical structure that implies important physiological functions: bile acid conjugation and cholestasis prevention, antiarrhythmic/inotropic/chronotropic effects, central nervous system neuromodulation, retinal development and function, endocrine/metabolic effects and antioxidant/antiinflammatory properties. Taurine is an essential amino acid for preterm neonates and is assured by breast milk. Specific groups of individuals are at risk for taurine deficiency and may benefit from supplementation, e.g. patients requiring long-term parenteral nutrition (including premature and newborn infants); those with chronic hepatic, heart or renal failure. Further studies are required to determine the benefits of replenishing taurine pools as well as the need to include taurine routinely in parenteral nutrition regimens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Essential / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Parenteral Nutrition
  • Taurine / deficiency
  • Taurine / physiology*


  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Taurine