New Australian research shows that taurine (yep, the stuff that's in Red Bull) improves symptoms in young people suffering a first episode of psychosis.
Taurine is an amino acid naturally occurring in the body that has various functions, including aiding the function of the cardiovascular system. It inhibits chemical regulation in the nervous system, and also protects the path of neurons in the brain, as well as being involved in development of the nervous system.
For all these reasons, it was chosen as an interesting substance to study for potential treatment of psychosis. In this new study, the researchers analysed the effect of using taurine as a supplement to improve both symptoms and mental awareness in patients with their first episode of psychosis (FEP).
A total of 121 patients (aged 18-25 years) with FEP, taking low dose antipsychotic medication, and attending an early intervention service in Melbourne agreed to take part in the study. Patients received 4 grams of taurine, or a placebo once a day. A scoring system called BPRS (Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale) was used to assess symptoms, and a different tool called MCCB (MATRICS consensus cognitive battery) was used to assess cognition.
A total of 86 patients (47 receiving taurine and 39 a placebo) were included in the final analysis. Taurine was not only found to be both safe and well tolerated, it significantly improved symptoms on the BPRS scale, both in overall score and the part specifically analysing psychosis.
There were also improvements in depression symptoms (rated by the Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia [CDSS]) and general overall functioning (including social and workplace functioning). However, there was no difference between groups regarding cognition.
"Although taurine supplementation did not improve cognition, it appears to improve core symptoms and depression in patients with FEP," the researchers concluded. "The use of taurine warrants further investigation in larger randomised studies, particularly early in the course of psychosis."
The study is by Dr Colin O'Donnell from Donegal Mental Health Service in Ireland as well as Australians Professor Patrick McGorry and Dr Kelly Allott from The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health in Victoria. The researchers are planning further studies to examine the potential benefits of taurine both alone, and in conjunction with other supplements in the treatment of psychosis.