This topic was reviewed in February 2020. Due to limited research in this area, the information on this page is the best and most up-to-date that we can provide.
Technically, taurine is not an amino acid, but rather an amino sulfonic acid. But it is often referred to as an amino acid, even in scientific literature.
Taurine is not an essential nutrient; in other words, the human body makes its own taurine. Cats, on the other hand, are not able to make taurine and it must be supplied by the diet in order to keep their retinas healthy.
Taurine is made by the body from cysteine, which is a protein amino acid. If you eat the recommended amounts of protein, you should be getting enough cysteine to provide enough taurine.
Taurine is not found in plant foods. Non-vegetarians typically eat 40 – 70 mg of taurine per day (1). Vegans have been shown to have lower blood levels of taurine (3). It is not known whether this compromises health in any way, but very few vegans supplement with taurine, including healthy teenagers who have been vegan from birth.
Carnitine is a non-essential amino acid found primarily in animal products. If you are eating enough protein, your body should make what you need. While there is no reason for most vegetarians or vegans to be concerned with carnitine, there have been cases of vegans who do not thrive unless they are taking carnitine supplements.
A carnitine metabolic problem has been linked to migraines. If you are a vegan who started getting migraines after becoming vegan, you might consider talking to your health professional about carnitine supplementation. The average person consumes 100 – 300 mg of carnitine per day (2).
Click here for more information regarding carnitine and sports nutrition.
1. Rana SK, Sanders TA. Taurine concentrations in the diet, plasma, urine and breast milk of vegans compared with omnivores. Br J Nutr. 1986 Jul;56(1):17-27.
2. Siebrecht S. L-Carnitine: physiological and pharmacological effects! Ann Nutr Metab 2000;44:79.
3. Laidlaw SA, Shultz TD, Cecchino JT, Kopple JD. Plasma and urine taurine levels in vegans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Apr;47(4):660-3.
15 thoughts on “Taurine and Carnitine”
Lifestyle, athletics, biochemical individuality and genetic predisposition should be very important concerns and focus when it comes to supplementation in veganism, especially when it comes to Taurine and Carnitine which are primarily found in higher levels in meat or animal based diets. Both of these amino acids are necessary for a stable heart rhythm, energy production and many other necessary enzyme and metabolic processes in the human organism. I think it would be prudent to consider if you were to experience any unusual health related events when going on a vegan diet, such as, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, arrhythmias (PAC’s/PVC’s), muscular weakness, etc., or anything that is out of the ordinary from your normal health, to consider being tested for these nutrients, regardless of how long you have been vegan. We all need to remember that as we age, so does does our biochemical and nutritional needs, so do not deprive yourself of what your body needs in order to be nutritionally sound.
Glad to see this information about carnitine. I’ve been vegan for over 25 years and was diagnosed with a carnitine deficiency about 10 years ago after experiencing daily afternoon fatigue. I supplement carnitine and this problem has resolved. I encourage vegans who have unexplained health issues of any sort to get their carnitine tested. I went to a rheumatologist for this, but hopefully most care providers can order the blood test.
We’re glad you’re feeling better and agree that folks should speak with their medical providers and get appropriate testing done before supplementing.
Lori, Thanks so much for relaying your experience. Would you be willing to say what form of carnitine you take and the dosage. I wonder how your rheumatologist knew your lower blood levels of carnitine meant you had a true deficiency and needed more. A lot of blood levels of nutrients in vegans may be different than carnivores, but it’s not usually considered a problem. In most cases, it seems safe enough to give a supplement a try for awhile and see how we do. Did you try going on and off the carnitine a couple times to verify its effect? I think a lot of medical professionals aren’t very knowledgeable about how diet may be affecting their patients.
The rheum I see has experience with carnitine deficiencies (maybe it happens more frequently in patients with autoimmune diseases…?), and suggested a dosage for me based on my blood level. We were just hoping that it would be the answer to my fatigue, and it seems to work (when I get lazy and forget to take it, I definitely notice my fatigue coming back). I get my levels re-checked once a year. I take NOW brand L-Carnitine (1000mg) 3x/week. Hope this helps!
Thank you, Lori. That’s really interesting (and great!) that it has helped you. It seems plausible that individuals have somewhat different needs for nutrients. I’m so glad you have a smart rheumatologist. thanks again for taking the time to reply.
I’m curious if this will help me, what amount l carnitine do you take daily?
Hi, thanks for the interesting article. I am interested about the effects of low taurine intake for vegans and I’m concerned about various risk factors which are elevated even though you feel perfectly fine. Such as:
Elevated risk of platelet aggregation (ie DVT/blood clots) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288361
Elevated risk of heart enlargement/heart problems – https://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2013/6/The-Forgotten-Longevity-Benefits-of-Taurine/Page-01
Possible eyesight problems/cataracts/retinal degradation – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124017177000514
So I suppose the question is how much taurine do we really need? And do vegans produce enough in their bodies? Also production decreases with age, so these risks could be more elevated later in life. I’m interested to know your thoughts! Thx and good health
OK, I was maybe a bit hasty with those links as there are of course contradicting articles which say vegan diets are much healthier! Like here for example, lower cataract risk:
But they don’t say why in the article the risk is lower? Maybe due to less saturated fat, homocysteine, inflammatory markers etc from meat? But the fact remains that taurine is still required for the eyes. So it’s rather confusing.
Hi Brian – there aren’t any clinical studies on vegans showing health issues related to taurine intake or status. As mentioned in the article, if you’re eating enough protein as a vegan, you should make all the taurine your body needs.
hi my name is erdenetugs i am from mongolia . acctually i am trying go vegan. but i don’t khow how to get l cernitine.
Most vegans don’t need and don’t take carnitine. In some extremely rare cases, someone’s body doesn’t make enough carnitine. Unless you have reason to believe you’re one of these people, you don’t need to worry about carnitine.
You can get taurine and carnitine on a vegan diet.
Carnitine is found in tempeh which still has significant amounts (20 mg/100 g) compared to non-vegan foods like pork (28 mg/100 g). It’s also a myth that taurine is not found in any plants.
There has been investigation into this. A paper was published Taurine content in foods January 1989Nutrition Reports International 40(4):793-801. The paper found that
“Pumpkin seeds contain 13.5 nmoles/g, black beans 9.2 nmoles/g, horse beans 12.9, and chick peas 18.7 nmoles/g. No taurine was detected in peanuts. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and pine nuts contained taurine in concentrations ranging 15-46 nmoles/g.”
Also energy drinks like red bull have a high amount of taurine and they are vegan drinks because they use no animal products. I am not saying energy drinks are healthy but they are a good source of taurine.
In the study you cite, the amounts of taurine in plant foods were measured in nmoles/g which is 1,000 times less than how it was measured in animal products (µmoles/g). The amounts of taurine they found in plant foods are physiologically insignificant.
What about seaweeds like nori and dulse? If you look it up, you’ll see that 100 grams of nori has 1300 mg of taurine. That means if you eat 20-30 grams of nori a day, you could get 260-390 mg of taurine a day. It would not be difficult to eat that much nori every day or a few days a week. I also read that dulse has 300 mg of taurine in one serving, but it didn’t say how many grams of dulse was a serving.