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 in these products. However, other components such as caffeine are more likely to be associated with dangerous effects in high doses.
Image Credit: DisobeyArt / Shutterstock.com
Taurine is naturally present in several areas of the body including the brain, heart, and skeletal muscle. The exact role of this substance in physiological processes is not precisely known; however, it is believed to help support muscle maintenance.
The inclusion of taurine in energy drinks is most likely due to its hypothesized effect on mental and athletic performance. Taurine supplementation has been linked to improved exercise capacity and may therefore 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 (CNS), as caffeine is a stimulant and taurine is an agonist for the inhibitory gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. However, their dual inclusion in many energy drinks is aimed towards achieving a combined effect to improve overall brain function and mental performance.
The most widely studied property of taurine is its role in the maintenance and function of both 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.
What Is Taurine and Why's It in My Energy Drink?
Dosing and toxicity
Most adult individuals consume approximately 50 milligrams (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 around 1000 mg of taurine per serving.
There is some concern about the dosing of taurine in energy drinks and whether this high dose may lead to unwanted side effects in individuals, particularly if more than one serving is consumed each day. A considerable amount of research has been conducted on the safe dose limit of taurine to address this issue.
Early studies by the European Food Safety Authority noted that there were no side effects evident in individuals who 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 remains unknown.
The other ingredients that are found in energy drinks are considered to be more likely associated with adverse side effects as compared to the high doses of taurine in these products. The high sugar and caffeine content, in particular, may lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, nervousness, and irritability.