Taurine Boosts Good Gut Bacteria & Short-Chain Fatty Acid Prod. | 1st Study to Show Natural Beats Synthetic Taurine

The bacteria in our guts are the latest rage in medical sciences... and taurine, especially natural taurine, may be a way to modulate them in beneficial ways.
It has been some time since the last taurine article on the SuppVersity (read all articles). There was simply a lack of interesting studies... until now, or rather until the latest study of scientists from the Zhejiang University of Technology which suggests that taurine "might be of benefit to health by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, accelerating the production of SCFA and reducing LPS concentration" (Yu. 2016).

As the authors of the paper point out, taurine is a necessary amino acid that taurine plays an important role in the regulation of neuroendocrine functions and nutrition.

In previous studies, taurine was shown to improve immunity, resist oxidation, delay senility, reduce blood pressure, promote recovery from acute hepatitis, etc. (Averin. 2015; Wang. 2013; De Luca. 2015; Ito. 2012). In addition, taurine can also improve the metabolism of the nutrients and play an important role in the regulation of neuroendocrine (Cuttitta et al. 2013; Camargo et al. 2015).
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With their latest study, the Chinese scientists Haining Yu, Zhengzhao Guo, Shengrong Shen , an Weiguang Shan were now able to add yet another beneficial health effect of taurine to the previous, impressive list: taurine's effect on gut microbes and metabolism.
Food Amount Taurine (mg)
Cheese 3 ounces 1000
Cheese,cottage 1 cup 1700
Milk,whole 1 cup 400
Yogurt 1 cup 400
Wild game 3 ounces 600
Pork 3 ounces 540
Granola 1 cup 650
Oatmeal flakes 1 cup 500
Chocolate 1 cup 400
Meat (luncheon) 1 cup 390
Wheat germ,toasted 1/4 cup 350
Egg 1 (medium size) 350
Turkey 3 ounces 240
Duck 3 ounces 240
Chicken 3 ounces 185
Sausage 3 ounces 185
Avocado 1/2 (medium) 75
Table 1: It doesn't always have to be supplements - Taurine content of selected foods (USDA Handbook #8)
As you'd expect it for a "first of its kind" study, the researchers used a rodent model to evaluate the effects of a human equivalent dose of ~1g of taurine in BALB/C who were randomly divided into three experimental groups:
  • the first group was administered saline (CK),
  • the second group was administered 165 mg/kg natural taurine (NE) and
  • the third group one administered 165 mg/kg synthetic taurine (CS).
With the NE and CS group, this is also one of the few studies to distinguish between "natural" and "synthetic" taurine, which is obtained from isethionic acid (2-hydroxyethanesulfonic acid) and not extracted from animal bile, usually that of the ox, and subjected to a series of purification procedures by several different methods (Gioacchini. 1995).
Figure 1: Effects of taurine on gut bacteria abundance (Yu. 2016).
To assess the effects, the gut microbiota composition in mice feces was analyzed by metagenomics technology, and the content of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) in mice feces was detected by gas chromatography (GC), while the concentrations of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) were detected by a LPS ELISA kit and a SOD assay kit, respectively.
Studies Confirm: Natural and Synthetic Vitamins Can Differ in Quantity & Quality of Effects! Vitamins A-E, B's & More | read more
Is "natural taurine" the "better taurine"? In the study at hand, it seems as if this was the case. The only evidence from other studies that suggests that the source of taurine matters, however, is 1995 paper by Gioacchini et al. who developed a method to distinguish the two and may thus have a vested interest in stating that "[n]atural taurine is an essential constituent of formula milk for infants and, because of the inferior nutritional value (δ), of synthetic forms, it is important to discriminate between these and taurines derived from a natural source" (Gioacchini. 1995). Another study shows that the allergy risk for synthetic taurine appears to be elevated (Lee. 2013).

Why this is the case or what triggers any differences in the effect on the microbiome is something I cannot tell you: if the molecules were structurally different, Gioacchini et al. would after all not have had to use the 13C/12C ratio that is also used to date bones and other relicts. It could eventually be solely a question of dosage - with "inferior nutritional value" the synthetic taurine may have to be dosed much higher... as high as in most previously published human studies which generated the most impressive results with 3-6g and thus 3-6x more taurine per day than the human equivalent dose (learn more about the HED concept) of the study at hand.
As the data in Figure 1 indicates, taurine had profound effects on gut microbiota could reduce the abundance of Proteobacteria, especially Helicobacter (see Figure 1, bottom right). In that, it is interesting to see that the natural taurine ...
  • had more pronounced beneficial effects on the count of good bacteroidetes and was more potent than the synthetic version when it comes to reducing proteobacteria and helicobacter, and even more intriguingly
  • had opposite effects on firmicutes which make up the largest portion of the mouse and human gut microbiome, can't be described as "beneficial" or "bad" as a whole, but have been shown to be involved in energy resorption and obesity
In line with the last-mentioned increase in firmicutes is the scientists' observation that the SCFA content was increased in feces of the NE group, but not the CS group that received the synthetic taurine supplement.
Figure 2: Short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) and Activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels in response to natural (NE), synthetic taurine (CS) and saline control (CK) supplementation in mice (Yu. 2016).
That's interesting, also because this change went hand in hand with a 'natural exclusive' LPS content was decreased, but similar increases in the activity of the antioxidant SOD enzyme in serum and livers of the both taurine groups.
None of the previous taurine studies declared whether the chemical they used was "natural" or "synthetic", I thus suspect that a synthetic version was used in most if not all of them - that this could make a difference is still both surprising and intriguing.
Bottom line: While it is correct that both "natural taurine and the synthetic taurine could regulate the gut micro-ecology, which might be of benefit to health by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria" (Yu. 2016), it is quite intriguing that only the natural taurine accelerated the production of SCFA and reducing LPS concentration, while the synthetic taurine did not.

Unfortunately, I have no studies to tell you if there's (a) a general advantage of natural over synthetic taurine (see red box, too), or (b) whether your taurine is natural or synthetic. If the previous quote (see red box) from Gioacchini et al. is accurate, though, it would appear that (a) 'natural' was superior and that (b) your taurine supplement was almost certainly nor extracted from ox-bile or another expensive natural source | Comment on Facebook!
  • De Luca, Annamaria, Sabata Pierno, and Diana Conte Camerino. "Taurine: the appeal of a safe amino acid for skeletal muscle disorders." Journal of translational medicine 13.1 (2015): 1.
  • Gioacchini, Anna Maria, et al. "Differentiation between natural and synthetic taurine using the 13C/12C isotope ratio." Rapid communications in mass spectrometry 9.12 (1995): 1106-1108.
  • Ito, Takashi, Stephen W. Schaffer, and Junichi Azuma. "The potential usefulness of taurine on diabetes mellitus and its complications." Amino acids 42.5 (2012): 1529-1539.
  • Lee, Seung-Eun, et al. "A case of taurine-containing drink induced anaphylaxis." Asia Pacific Allergy 3.1 (2013): 70.
  • Yu, Haining, et al. "Effects of taurine on gut microbiota and metabolism in mice." Amino acids (2016): 1-17.
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