Evidence-Based Nutrient Recommendations

Taurine and Carnitine




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 generally found in plant foods, though red algae may be an exception (Kawasaki, 2017). Non-vegetarians typically eat 40 – 70 mg of taurine per day (Rana, 1986). Vegans have been shown to have lower blood levels of taurine (Laidlaw, 1988). 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 to 300 mg of carnitine per day (Siebrecht, 2000).

A study from the Netherlands compared the serum and breast milk carnitine levels of 25 vegans to 25 meat-eaters. Carnitine levels in breast milk didn’t differ between the two groups (Juncker, 2023). The vegans had lower serum levels of free carnitine and acetylcarnitine and both diet groups had lower serum levels than what is normal for non-lactating women. Although there isn’t evidence that the lower serum carnitine levels among vegans are harmful, the authors suggested that lactating vegans increase their carnitine intakes.

Click here for more information regarding carnitine and sports nutrition.


Juncker HG, van den Akker CHP, Meerdink PL, Korosi A, Vaz FM, van Goudoever JB, van Keulen BJ. The influence of a maternal vegan diet on carnitine and vitamin B2 concentrations in human milk. Front Nutr. 2023 Aug 4;10:1107768.

Kawasaki A, Ono A, Mizuta S, Kamiya M, Takenaga T, Murakami S. The Taurine Content of Japanese Seaweed. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;975 Pt 2:1105-1112. Abstract.

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.

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.

Siebrecht S. L-Carnitine: physiological and pharmacological effects! Ann Nutr Metab 2000;44:79.

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  • If you have a question about whether it's okay to cut supplements in half or combine supplements to achieve the dose we recommend, the answer is “Yes.” Be aware that nutrient recommendations are only estimates—it's not necessary to consume the exact amount we recommend every single day.
  • We aren't able to respond to questions about which brands of supplements to take.
  • We cannot provide personal nutrition advice for specific health conditions. If you need private counseling, here's a list of plant-based dietitians and we especially recommend VeganHealth contributor Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN.
  • We urge you to consult with a qualified health professional for answers to your personal questions.

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