By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Taurine is a conditional amino acid that has various effects throughout the body, most notably on neurological and muscular development. Although humans usually consume small amounts of taurine from natural dietary sources, greater doses of the substance are found in many energy drink products.
There is some concern about the safe dose of taurine in energy drinks and whether individuals may experience side effects, as a result of its inclusion it the drink. However, other components such as caffeine are more likely to be associated with dangerous effects in high doses.
Taurine is naturally present in particular areas of the body, including the brain, heart and skeletal muscle. The exact function of the substance in the physiological processes is not precisely known, but it is thought to help support muscle maintenance
The inclusion of taurine in energy drinks is most likely due to the effect it is thought to have on mental and athletic performance. Taurine supplementation has been linked to improved exercise capacity and may help individuals to meet physical goals.
Most energy drinks that include taurine also contain other substances, such as caffeine. Interestingly, taurine and caffeine appear to have opposite effects on the central nervous system, as caffeine is a stimulant and taurine is an agonist for the inhibitory GABA receptors. However, their dual inclusion in many energy drinks is due to a combined effect to improve overall brain function and mental performance.
The best-studied property of taurine is its role in the maintenance and function of skeletal and cardiac muscles. This has been addressed in many animal studies, which suggest that supplementation of taurine leads to superior muscular development and improved physical function. Some studies have also linked taurine to the removal of fatty liver deposits and adipose tissue.
Extensive research supporting the use of taurine to improve energy levels is lacking. According to the philological action of the substance, it should have a negative effect on energy levels. However, this effect is most likely counteracted by the inclusion of caffeine in energy drinks.
Dosing and Toxicity
Most adult individuals consume approximately 50 mg of taurine in their daily diet, from natural sources such as milk, eggs, fish and meat. This natural consumption of taurine is considerably lower than the standard dose found in many energy drinks, which commonly contain 1000 mg per serving.
There is some concern about the dosing of taurine in energy drinks and the possibility it may lead to side effect in individuals, particularly if more than one serving is consumed per day. A considerable amount of research has been conducted on the safe dose limit of taurine to address this issue.
Early studies the European Food Safety Authority noted that there were no side effects evident in individuals that consumed 1000 mg of taurine daily. Currently, up to 3000 mg of supplemental taurine is generally considered to be safe, in addition to dietary intake, although the effect of long-term high doses is not known.
The other ingredients found in energy drinks are more likely to be associated with side effects in high doses that taurine. The high sugar and caffeine content, in particular, may lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, nervousness and irritability.
Last Updated: Sep 28, 2015