Taurine and Carnitine 7


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.

Contents

Taurine

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

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.

References

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.


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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.
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7 thoughts on “Taurine and Carnitine

  • Lori

    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.

    • Taylor Wolfram

      We’re glad you’re feeling better and agree that folks should speak with their medical providers and get appropriate testing done before supplementing.

  • Brian

    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

    • JackNorrisRD Post author

      erdenetugs,

      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.