Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid which is not incorporated into protein. However, taurine has various critical physiological functions including development of the eye and brain, reproduction, osmoregulation, and immune functions including anti-inflammatory as well as anti-oxidant activity. Some people are looking to this supplement as a possible treatment for autism spectrum disorders, while others caution against the practice.
What Is Taurine
Taurine (also called L-taurine) is an amino acid that naturally occurs in the body. Two other amino acids, methionine and cysteine, can make L-taurine. The amino acid is a popular supplement for athletes, and it is a common ingredient in energy drinks. According to the Nutritional Supplement Review, the amino acid can improve mental functioning by calming the nervous system and the brain. This can help reduce anxiety.
The Nutritional Supplement Review lists potential uses for L-taurine, and autism is not among the disorders listed. It does, however, note that the amino acid may be useful in treating anxiety and epilepsy, which can be of interest in relation to autism spectrum disorders. The amino acid may be effective in calming the brain and nervous system, which may improve “excitable brain conditions,” according to the review.
Autism and Low Taurine
Are You Dangerously Deficient in Taurine explores possible problems associated with a taurine deficiency. Among the problems noted in the article is autism and low taurine levels.
Leonard Smith MD writes about the benefits of taurine, some of which can be of interest to people dealing with autism spectrum disorders:
- Brain and nervous system function
- Helps eliminate toxins
- Stabilizing the brain (can be effective in treating seizure disorders)
Too Much Taurine
A nutritionist from the Mayo Clinic, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. cautions against taking too much of this supplement, and it is always advisable to talk to a doctor about any supplement you plan to give your child or take yourself. Zerastky explains that the amino acid:
- May have antioxidant properties
- Supports neurological development
- Regulates mineral salts and water levels in the blood
Zerastky suggests that 3,000 milligrams a day of taurine in a supplement is considered to be safe. However, there is not enough research about the long term effect of using the supplement to determine its safety. Excessive amounts of taurine may be toxic, and may lead to:
- Short term memory loss
Those who do not want to use supplements can obtain taurine by high protein foods and brewer’s yeast.
Taurine Treatments for Autism
Is taurine supplement a viable treatment for autism? The approach is not established, and it does not appear in mainstream treatments for autism spectrum disorders. However, DAN doctors may incorporate this type of therapy into treatment. The dietary supplement may benefit patients who show low levels of taurine in urine tests.
People experiencing seizures, heightened anxiety or hyperactivity may benefit from exploring taurine as an alternative treatment for autism. Parents who would like more information about using supplements like L-taurine to treat autism can benefit from discussing this option with their child’s pediatrician. A urine test can detect a deficiency, and the physician can make recommendations for supplementation.