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Taurine is naturally occurring in the human body and is found in many foods that are commonly consumed in the diet. As a result of the role it plays in the body, it is sometimes supplemented to improve these mechanisms.
However, the taurine is also used for a number of other purposes and is included in other products for this reason. These others uses include energy drinks, skin hydration, infant formula and contact lens solution.
Taurine is thought to have antioxidant properties and improve overall exercise capacity and athletic performance, which is most likely the driving reason for its inclusion in many energic drinks.
Interestingly, taurine is also thought to activate the inhibitory GABA receptors in the brain, which would theoretically contradict the excitatory effect of the caffeine that is also included in energy drinks. Some studies suggest that the combined effect actually improved mental performance, although conclusive evidence on this topic is lacking.
Taurine has also been included in some cosmetic products since the beginning of the 21st century. This is due to the possible antifibrotic properties of the substance, which may help to improve hydration of skin and hair follicles.
Transforming growth factor (TGF)–beta 1 can have damaging effects on hair follicles and is affected by the action of taurine. TGF-B1 is known to inhibit hair growth in vitro and plays a major role in the fibrotic processes. Taurine is uptaken by the connective tissue, root sheath and hair bulb, leading to the promotion of hair survival and growth.
Taurine is found in natural breast milk and has been included in many infant formula products as a preventative safety measure, although there is little known about the role of taurine in breast milk.
In particular, infants that were born prematurely may lack the enzymes required for the conversion of cystathionine to cysteine, which usually leads to the production of taurine. For this reason, this population is associated with a deficiency in taurine and is thought to benefit from taurine supplementation.
However, scientific evidence supporting the addition of taurine in infant formula products is not strong. There has been extensive research into the area, but no conclusions have been drawn to state the benefits of taurine that may render it necessary.
Taurine is sometimes used as an additive in the solution for contact lens, due to its action to enhance the buffer capacity of the solution. This is beneficial because it protects against the alkaline nature of the solution and assists in the preservation of the lens.
Additionally, the specific properties of taurine may be able to help in the protection of the corneal cells. This is particularly important because the cells are prone to damage from hypertonic stress. Taurine helps to preserve the cells through osmoregulation, stabilization of membranes and proteins, and antioxidant effects.
Taurine is not a compulsory additive included in all contact lens solutions, as there are other alternative substances, but is commonly used for this purpose.