Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid, but it is often referred to as an amino acid, a chemical that is a required building block of protein. Taurine is found in large amounts in the brain, retina, heart and blood cells called platelets. – WebMD

Taurine is one of those “unsexy” but necessary elements to consume. While gym-rats may not be raving about taurine between sets, this organic acid is responsible for a plethora of biological functions.

Taurine plays important roles in regulating metabolism, normalizing cognition, and maintaining eye health. The amino acid is usually produced in sufficient amounts by the body, but this is not always the case. Producing taurine requires healthy levels of various vitamins, minerals and enzymes – any imbalance in this intricate mix may create deficient amounts of taurine in the body.

The symptoms of taurine deficiency are quite similar to many other disorders. As such, it can be difficult to pinpoint inadequate amounts of taurine as the root cause of such symptoms. However, there are a few signs that may implicate that a deficiency of taurine as a culprit.

Here are 5 signs you have a taurine deficiency:

1. Impaired vision

Taurine is an essential amino acid for eye health. Adequate amounts of taurine are necessary for proper functioning of the retina – a thin layer of tissue lining the lack of the eye that focuses the lens, converts light and transfers visual signals to the brain for processing. A normal amount of taurine is required to regulate and maintain these vision processes.

Age-related vision loss is commonly caused by stress on the light-sensing cells in the retina. When such damage occurs, macular degeneration – an eye disease inhibiting the “focusing” role of the retina – is a frequent result.

As taurine levels in the retina tend to decrease as we get older, it should be a priority to occasionally check for deficiency.

2. Anxiety and/or depression

Because taurine is an essential element in cognitive function, a lack of it may manifest into depressive and anxious symptoms. Anxiety and depression occurs when there is an imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, GABA and/or glutamate.

GABA is responsible for inhibiting excitatory brain patterns, a common cause of anxiety. Taurine is a building block of this important chemical; therefore, a deficiency in taurine can lead to inadequate levels of GABA. Without taurine supplementation, the brain’s ability to manufacture necessary chemicals required for normal cognitive functioning becomes very difficult.

Taurine deficiency can produce other cognitive symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness, irritability and problems concentrating.

3. Hypertension

Taurine has powerful effects on heart and blood vessels. Research has shown that those with sufficient levels of taurine are less prone to coronary heart problems – a by-product of taurine’s positive regulatory effects on body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

In one laboratory study, taurine was shown to reduce blood pressure by lessening the resistance to blood flow in the blood vessel walls.  Brain activity responsible for increasing blood pressure was also inhibited. Oral supplementation of taurine assisted in reducing arterial thickening and stiffness associated with conditions such as arteriosclerosis.

4. Endurance and recovery problems

Physical activity of any nature is stressful on the body’s muscles; this is especially true in high-intensity exercise sessions. Supplementing taurine can help with improving endurance and performance while reducing the timeframe needed to recover.

In one study, professional cyclists that supplemented taurine showed demonstrable increases in endurance while the placebo group did not. This study also showed that the former group extracted fewer nutrients, such as creatine, post-workout. Researchers concluded that these results were indicative of taurine’s ability to improve recovery and reduce the effects of muscle fatigue.

5. Weight gain

Taurine plays an important part in the fat-burning process, while a diminished amount of the amino acid indirectly and unfavorably promotes weight gain. More specifically, taurine helps the body to metabolize fat and use it as energy – and this function goes beyond weight loss. Healthy fats play an important role in energy production, cognitive health and heart health.

Fat-burning requires the nutrient carnitine to transport fats into the cells, which is then used as energy for the body. Carnitine requires an adequate amount of taurine to perform this important role. In addition, fat loss cannot be achieved without effective metabolization – taurine’s role. Simply put: it’s easier to gain weight and harder to lose it without sufficient levels of taurine.