Although taurine is a natural acid produced by the human body, it can be manufactured as well. Taurine plays an important role in the health of mammals but unlike humans and most other animals, cats cannot naturally synthesize taurine. If they do not obtain enough of the acid from their diets, they can suffer from severe health conditions.
Taurine is a naturally occurring organic acid. It is a constituent of bile that is found in the lower intestine of humans and many animals. Taurine can be synthesized using cysteine, methionine and Vitamin E. Taurine is found in animal protein. Although the adult human body naturally produces the amino acid, vegetarians may suffer from a deficiency.
Taurine was first isolated from ox bile in 1827. It gets its name from the Latin "taurus" meaning bull or ox because it is found in the testicles of many animals. Although taurine is referred to as an amino acid, it more accurately belongs to a group of sulfonate amino acids.
Taurine is necessary for the proper functioning of the skeletal muscles, nervous system and cardiac function. It is important in the development and maintenance of healthy eyesight. It is effective in helping control high blood pressure. Taurine is also useful in removing fatty deposits in the liver. It is beneficial in removing excess fluid retention, especially in women during their menstrual periods.
Unlike humans and other animals, felines cannot produce the taurine compound. It is essential for good health in cats. An absence of taurine can result in eye problems that may lead to blindness, hair loss and tooth decay. Lack of taurine can cause the retina to degenerate causing eventual blindness. A deficiency of this essential acid can also lead to dilated cardiomyopathy, which is an enlargement of the heart. In the wild, cats derive taurine from animal protein. In commercial cat foods, taurine is a requirement of the Association of American Feed Control Officials. All dry and wet food products approved by the AAFCO must have a minimum of 0.1% of taurine in dry food and 0.2% in moist food.
Taurine is found in all animal proteins although eggs, meat, milk and fish contain the highest sources. Seafoods such as clams and oysters are also high in taurine. Vegetable protein contains trace amounts of the acid, but vegetarians may need to take a supplement to prevent deficiency. It is important to consult with a physician before taking any nutritional supplement. Cat owners often supplement their cat's diet with brewer's yeast tablets to ensure adequate amounts of taurine.
Taurine is necessary for proper growth and development. It is beneficial in regulating cardiac arrhythmia, blood pressure and reducing cholesterol. It can also be useful in stabilizing glucose and insulin levels, which is beneficial to those suffering from diabetes. Taurine is considered safe to take as a supplement when used according to proper dosage guidelines however, it may interact with certain medications. Consult your health care provider for information if you are considering taurine supplements, especially if you suffer from a known health condition.