Taurine, derived from the amino acid cysteine, is a compound found at high concentrations in the heart, suggesting it is important for heart muscle function. To test this notion, a recent study evaluated the effectiveness and benefit of taurine supplementation in patients with heart failure. Their findings indicate that taurine supplements improve overall cardiac function and functional capacity.
The double-blind randomized study was published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements. “Double-blind” means that neither the participants nor the researchers knew whether the former received taurine supplements or a placebo, increasing the validity of the study by reducing bias. Sixteen eligible patients with heart failure due to coronary heart disease were assigned to either the taurine supplementation group or the placebo group, for a final number of 8 participants per group. The supplementation group took a 500 milligram taurine pill three times a day for two weeks; the placebo group received starch instead. An exercise test of progressive treadmill inclination until exhaustion (within the set safety limits) was performed before and after to determine any potential benefits of taurine on the heart. Data generated from patients’ electrocardiograms—the zig-zag lines on the heart monitor—along with various parameters reflective of their physical capacities and oxygen consumption was analyzed by statistical software.
The final results yielded some promising findings: there was a significant decrease in the Q-T segments and increase in the P-R segments of the taurine group’s electrocardiograms. Furthermore, researchers discovered that, compared to the placebo group, the taurine group had lower systolic blood pressure, heart rate and rate pressure product—a term used in cardiology to measure the workload on your heart. All of these effects seem to have culminated in one major benefit for the taurine-ingesting participants: increased physical capacity. Not only did the exercise time on the treadmill increase for the experimental group post-supplementation, so did the distance!
While the exact manner in which these effects came about is still unknown, scientists think that it may have something to do with the taurine’s ability to modulate cells’ storage capacity of calcium. Regardless, the benefits of taurine supplements are illustrated in this study: taurine significantly enhanced the physical function and significantly reduced the workload on the heart following exercise. In fact, the researchers concluded that short-term taurine supplementation is an effective strategy for improving cardiac function and functional capacity in patients with heart failure. We need to keep in mind though that this study was only based on a small group of patients and that patients were evaluated after only two weeks of supplementation. The researchers point out that additional studies are needed to assess the effect of longer periods of taurine supplementation on heart function and different types of exercise, such as aerobic and resistance training, especially in larger populations. Needless to say, such studies may have monumental implications in the care of heart failure patients, improving both survival and quality of life.
Written By: Rebecca Yu