Taurine was long considered an end product of the metabolism of the sulfur-containing amino acids, methionine and cyst(e)ine. Its only clearly recognized biochemical role had been as a substrate in the conjugation of bile acids. Taurine is found free in millimolar concentrations in animal tissues, particularly those that are excitable, rich in membranes, and generate oxidants. Various lines of evidence suggest one major nutritional role as protecting cell membranes by attenuating toxic substances and/or by acting as an osmoregulator. The totality of evidence suggests that taurine is nonessential in the rodent, it is an essential amino acid in the cat, and it is conditionally essential in man and monkey. Absence from the diet of a conditionally essential nutrient does not produce immediate deficiency disease but, in the long term, can cause problems. Taurine is now added to many infant formulas as a measure of prudence to provide improved nourishment with the same margin of safety for its newly identified physiologic functions as that found in human milk. Such supplementation can be justified by the finding of improved fat absorption in preterm infants and in children with cystic fibrosis, as well as by salutary effects on auditory brainstem-evoked responses in preterm infants. Experimental findings in animal models and in human cell models provide further justification for taurine supplementation of infant formulas.

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