Taurine has been dubbed the “wonder molecule” due to its protective activity in the brain against stroke1, but there are many other beneficial activities of this amazing molecule when it comes to protecting the brain. This very special “wonder molecule” has been classified as an amino acid, but it is not a building block for proteins like other amino acids. Unlike typical amino acid molecules, the taurine molecule includes a sulfonate group, which may help give it some of its extraordinary properties.2
The blood brain barrier (BBB) protects the brain from many harmful compounds and certain immune cells. Taurine is a small molecule that is capable of crossing the BBB to help protect brain cells.3 Taurine is found in Olivamine®, a precise fusion of small molecules including the olive polyphenols, hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein. These polyphenols as well as taurine and antioxidants such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are combined in Olivamine® with additional nutrients including vitamins and other amino acids to provide strengthening nutrition to cells.
Taurine is very abundant in the brain and in other tissues, in fact it is the second most abundant amino acid in the brain besides glutamate2, but its levels in the brain decline with age, which may affect certain brain functions. Nutritional scientists often consider it as conditionally essential because our bodies can normally make it and it’s mainly found in meat and fish, which some people including vegetarians or vegans don’t consume.2,4 Individuals with certain health conditions including diabetes and kidney failure also have low levels of taurine that should benefit from supplementation.5,6
Taurine is involved in many neurological activities including the regulation of neural excitability, the maintenance of cerebellar functions and the regulation of motor performance, which is conveyed through its interactions with receptors for neurotransmitters such as for serotonin and dopamine, as well as its interactions with glutamate. Taurine is found in all types of cells in the brain including neurons. It’s required for neuronal growth and in fact, high levels of taurine are found in developing brains, but by the time our brains mature, levels have already declined to 30% of the original concentrations.2,7
One of the important ways taurine is thought to protect brain cells is through its own potent antioxidant activity. Taurine is capable of counteracting oxidative stress that has been linked with neurological damage and neurodegeneration.8 Active brain cells have hundreds to thousands of mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of cells. Taurine’s antioxidant activity contributes to improved mitochondrial function. Damage or dysfunctional mitochondria can result in increased oxidative stress that has been associated with neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.9,10
Other small molecules in Olivamine® also have antioxidant activity including hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, NAC, MSM and vitamin B6.11-16 In fact, some of these beneficial ingredients stimulate natural antioxidants and antioxidant defense enzymes that counteract oxidative stress including superoxide dismutase (SOD). Hydroxytyrosol, activates an important transcription factor, FOXO3a that turns on manganese SOD (MnSOD)17, and it also up-regulates the important antioxidant enzyme, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1).18 In a model where MnSOD was deactivated, oleuropein induced MnSOD activity.19 In addition, N-acetyl-L-cysteine activates MnSOD20. Hydroxytyrosol, NAC and MSM have also been shown to increase levels of the important antioxidant glutathione.13,21,22
Taurine has been shown to protect nerve cells from toxicity associated with various pesticides including rotenone, paraquat and chlorpyrifos23-25, as well as other toxic substances such as lead, ammonia and alcohol.4 Brain injury can result in glutamate release from neurons known as excitotoxicity and it can also result in mitochondrial dysfunction. Taurine has been shown to protect against glutamate excitotoxicity.26 In fact, taurine levels in the brain normally increase under stressful conditions to protect the brain. Taurine also helps maintain calcium homeostasis (steady-states) that helps protect brain cells and mitochondria from damage.27
Cellular (including brain cell) damage often leads to inflammation, which is also associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.10 Taurine has been shown to play an important role in moderating inflammatory processes with some studies showing it may decrease the production of pro-inflammatory chemical messengers known as cytokines following stroke and traumatic brain injury.26 In addition to taurine, Olivamine® includes other potent small molecules that may help influence inflammatory processes such as hydroxytyrosol, NAC and MSM - all of which are capable of crossing the BBB to help maintain healthy levels of inflammation.28-34
Taurine helps protect the brain from the aging process. Aging can be associated with decreased locomotion, memory and sensory performance. In addition, aging is associated with increased oxidative stress, neurodegeneration and decreased GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmission, which is important for nerve cell functioning in all areas of the brain. Interestingly, taurine consumption has been shown to increase GABA levels in brains.27 Taurine consumption has also been found to help recover learning and memory in models of Alzheimer’s disease and in a model of sub-chronic toxicity exposure.8,35,36
Taurine protects the brain in numerous ways and it acts synergistically with other Olivamine® molecules that protect the brain and support brain health including hydroxytyrosol, NAC, MSM and vitamin B6. In addition, Olivamine® BrainHealth includes more ingredients that are important for maintaining healthy brain cells and proper brain functioning including curcumin, magnesium, and folate (vitamin B9), vitamin D and sulforaphane found in broccoli.
Nancy Ray, PhD is the Science Officer at McCord Research. Dr. Ray received her PhD in Biochemistry and Biophysics and was a postdoctoral fellow at NIH, Harvard University and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the University of Iowa. She also earned bachelor of science degrees in Chemistry and Microbiology
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