When some people are tired or need a pick-me-up, they grab an energy drink to rev themselves up. Many energy drinks contain taurine, an ingredient that’s often scrutinized for its origins and its health risks. But what exactly is taurine and is it safe to consume in energy drinks and supplements?
Taurine is an amino acid, but not an essential amino acid, which needs to come from your diet. It’s actually referred to as a conditional amino acid, which means that it’s made by the body and is mostly found in the heart and in the brain.
Contrary to popular belief, taurine is not derived from bull’s testicles although it can be found in the bile of a bull as well as in female cattle. Taurine is also commonly found in food sources such as meat and fish, but is often synthetically made for commercial products like energy drinks and supplements.
This amino acid is often added to those products because it’s said to improve athletic performance. It’s also commonly prescribed for people who suffer from conditions such as:
Most energy drinks come with a warning that pregnant women, children and those sensitive to caffeine shouldn’t drink them. Some people associate this warning label with taurine rather than caffeine or any other ingredient, believing it may be responsible for certain side effects. But what side effects can taurine really cause and which ones are just a myth?
The effects of both taurine and caffeine still need to be researched in depth, but many people suspect that the combination of the two can produce harmful side effects.
One combination that’s proven to be harmful is the mixture of energy drinks and alcohol. The combination of a stimulant and a depressant can lead to heart problems such as an abnormal heart rate. This combination can also cause dehydration since both act as diuretics.
While there’s been plenty of speculation about the risks and side effects of taurine, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about the benefits of taurine. Here are some of those benefits:
Some studies suggest that taurine may also have a positive impact on mental performance. Those studies show that taurine may improve memory and can even boost your mood, but these effects need to be researched further.
Although there’s been a lot of talk about taurine, many of the myths just aren’t true. Taurine is safe to consume and can improve the health of those with heart problems and other medical conditions.
Those who drink energy drinks with taurine should be aware that the taurine in those drinks may be synthetic and may not offer all of the benefits of taurine found in food sources or in the human body. Those energy drinks are also loaded with caffeine and sugar, which aren’t beneficial to your health. So if you want to drink energy drinks, drink them in moderation.
Moderation is also key for taking taurine supplements. Short-term use of taurine supplements is fine, but more research needs to be done on its long-term use. Taurine is not considered to be toxic and excess taurine is usually flushed out through the kidneys, so taking one to four grams of taurine daily, or even weekly, can provide you with great benefits without the harmful side effects.