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Fertility can be affected by a vast number of factors, from lifestyle to genetics. But there is a growing body of research indicating which specific nutrients we need to give our bodies the best chance of functioning fertility. One amino acid that seems to be vital for male fertility is taurine. Let’s explore what taurine is, how it affects male fertility and sperm health, and how we can incorporate it into our diet.
Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid that contains sulfur. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Taurine was first isolated around the 1800s, but it has only come under scrutiny since the 1990s, when scientists began to examine its vital role in our bodies’ health. In most mammals — including humans, some primates, and rodents — taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid.
Humans can make taurine in their bodies, which means deficiency is unlikely in healthy adults, but newborns do not have this ability. It is typically obtained through diet and is crucial to our eye, muscle, and heart function. Foods that are good sources of taurine include meat, seafood, nuts, soya, and human milk. It is highly concentrated in breast milk, and taurine is especially important during neonatal development. This is one reason new mothers are encouraged to breastfeed where possible and supplement a newborn’s diet with taurine-enriched formula if it is not possible.
Taurine is present in large concentrations within your brain, muscles, heart, and eyes. It is an added ingredient in many energy drinks due to the influence of taurine on exercise performance.
Taurine plays a number of roles in our bodies, including:
Generally, our bodies are good at producing the small amounts of taurine needed for the above functions, but higher doses are required when we are ill or during times of stress. During stressful periods, supplementation or a change in diet to increase taurine-rich foods may be necessary.
In 1985, Japan was the first country to approve taurine for treatment of heart failure patients, and this has sparked numerous studies investigating how taurine supplementation affects our health. Studies show taurine can protect against many health issues related to mitochondrial defects. These include:
Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are often used to identify the health issues mentioned above and are now frequently treated with antioxidant therapy, such as supplements with coenzyme Q10 and melatonin, among others. Taurine can be used to treat those at high risk of stroke via supplementation and can be an effective treatment to improve the exercise capacity of patients with heart failure. Scientists say this is likely due to the improvement of myocardial energy production after supplementation.
Taurine has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and these may enhance insulin sensitivity. Researchers believe this is why taurine may help those with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar.
Taurine is present in the sperm and seminal fluid of many species. It is known to play an essential role in sperm motility (movement) and morphology (shape).
In 2018, a published study linked taurine deficiency in sperm to male infertility. The research team noted that sperm with taurine deficiency showed reduced morphology, which can significantly impact fertility. Taurine is thought to be an integral component in the regulation of water in and out of the sperm; without this regulation, the shape and size of the sperm may be altered or damaged.
Taurine production declines with age, and this can affect your sperm count. Therefore, supplementation with taurine can significantly improve male fertility by improving sperm count.
Taurine deficiency has been linked with poor sperm morphology. Sperm morphology refers to the shape, size, and structure of sperm. Studies show taurine is required for successful fertilization as deficiencies double the risk of tail defects developing, which in turn prevents sperm from being able to move toward and reach the egg. Sperm cannot make their own taurine but must absorb it from the male genital tract. Absorption of taurine at this point allows sperm to maintain their shape and vitality. These defects can be negated when extra taurine is supplied, allowing for smooth passage and entry to the egg.
Research suggests taurine can raise testosterone production without raising the concentration of estradiol, which can slow down sperm production. A study in Amino Acids found supplementation with taurine stimulated testosterone production.
Studies also show taurine may increase luteinizing hormone (LH) levels. The pituitary gland produces LH, and deficiency of this can cause a lack of sex hormone production. LH is associated with libido, therefore those who do not have sufficient taurine in their diet, may suffer from low sex drive. Supplementation and a change of diet to include taurine-rich foods may help boost libido, which could positively impact fertility.
There are other benefits of taurine you might not be aware of:
Taurine supplementation is well tolerated and has been associated with few side effects. It is widely regarded as a very safe supplement with many benefits. The recommended serving size is up to 3g per day. It is usually taken in capsule form, dissolved in water, or taken sublingually (under the tongue). An alternative option is to boost your levels of taurine through food consumption. Try to include more of the following in your diet:
Due to the high number of animal-based sources of taurine, vegetarians and vegans could be at higher risk of taurine deficiency and may require supplementation. Experts advise that the source of the supplement is checked before consumption to ensure it is not derived from animals.
Energy drinks often include high doses of taurine, but they also contain lots of substances that can be harmful when consumed in large quantities. So be sure to check the ingredients list before ingesting.
There is growing evidence that supplementation with certain nutrients can positively impact male fertility and hormone health. These include:
For more information on these beneficial supplements and how they can help you on your fertility journey, click here. Or learn about Legacy’s male fertility supplement, which contains 10 active ingredients to support your reproductive health.
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