If you drink energy drinks or take dietary supplements, you may have noticed taurine in the ingredient list. There are lots of claims flying around about the health benefits of taurine — but most need more research to back them up. And when taurine is mixed with other ingredients in energy drinks, that changes the risks and benefits. Here’s what you need to know about taurine and your health.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is an amino acid that your body makes naturally, and you need it to function. It’s important for lots of different body systems, including your muscles, brain, heart and eyes.
You can get taurine from animal foods like meat and fish. It’s also found in breast milk and added to most infant formulas. And manufacturers make synthetic taurine to use as an ingredient in energy drinks and supplements.
Is Taurine Bad for You? Does It Have Side Effects?
Short-term use of taurine supplements seems to be safe, but more research is needed on its long-term use. Taking one to three grams a day of synthetic taurine doesn’t seem to have harmful side effects — and you’ll usually pee out excess taurine, anyway. (As always, ask your doctor before you start taking taurine or any other supplement.)
If you’re talking about taurine in energy drinks, that’s a different story. Energy drinks are often loaded with caffeine and other ingredients that can have harmful side effects. Most energy drinks come with a warning that pregnant women, children and people who are sensitive to caffeine shouldn’t drink them.
And to avoid serious side effects, never mix energy drinks and alcohol. Combining a stimulant (energy drinks) and a depressant (alcohol) can lead to heart problems like an abnormal heart rate. It can also cause dehydration.
What Are the Health Benefits of Taurine?
Most adults don’t need to take synthetic taurine, because your body usually makes all the taurine you need. But people with a taurine deficiency may need to take a taurine supplement. Just make sure to talk with your doctor before you start taking any supplements.
Studies have shown some possible health benefits of taking taurine, but most of these health claims need more research. Taurine supplements may have benefits for people with certain health conditions, like iron-deficiency anemia and congestive heart failure. For example, researchers think taurine may:
- Help people with anemia absorb iron better
- Make it easier for people with congestive heart failure to exercise
- Lower blood pressure
Some researchers think that taurine may also enhance athletic performance in healthy adults. But there’s not enough clear evidence for these benefits. And there’s even less research about taurine as an ingredient in energy drinks. So take most health claims about taurine with a grain of salt.
Where Does Taurine Come From?
The taurine in energy drinks is synthetic. It’s made by manufacturers and added to drinks and supplements.
You may have seen false claims on social media that the taurine in Red Bull comes from bull semen — but that’s a myth. It’s true that you can find taurine in bull semen and other animal products, but that’s not where the taurine in energy drinks comes from.
The Takeaway: Taurine’s Safe in Moderation — But Not a Cure-All
Taurine is generally safe and it may have benefits for people with some health conditions. We need more research to understand exactly how it works and who can benefit from supplements. If you take taurine, it’s important to take it in moderation. And remember that energy drinks are often high in caffeine and other ingredients that may come with health risks.
- “Energy Drinks” via National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- “Taurine in Energy Drinks” via Mayo Clinic
- “Taurine” via University of Rochester
- “Taurine” via PeaceHealth
- “Fact Check: Red Bull Does Not Contain Bull Sperm” via Reuters