What Is Taurine & Why Is It In Energy Drinks?

cans of red bull energy drinks seen in a target superstore
Why Is Taurine In Energy Drinks?SOPA Images / Contributor / LightRocket - Getty Images

If you're a fan of energy drinks, you've probably heard of taurine. In addition to caffeine and vitamins, many energy drinks contain an amino acid called taurine. But what exactly is it and is it safe? We went to Dr. Amy Lee, head of nutrition for Nucific, to find out more.

What Is Taurine?

Maybe you've heard of taurine because of some interesting rumors about where Red Bull sources it. The company has confirmed that its taurine does not come from bull testicles. Taurine is an amino acid that helps with various processes in the body's cells, such as energy production, bile processing, and the balancing of fluids, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Some studies have shown that taurine may have some cardiovascular health benefits," said Dr. Lee. "But overall, it probably plays a role in supporting one’s cellular energy levels."

It's found naturally in the human body—in the eyes, brain, and heart—and but you can also get it from eating som foods. There are high levels of taurine in protein-rich foods like meat and seafood—think grilled scallops and any of these chicken recipes.

Taurine In Energy Drinks

But why is it used in energy drinks? A 2018 study on taurine as a therapeutic agent cited many of its functions as reason to be used in energy drinks, supplements, and infant formula.

"Taurine suppresses the neurotransmitter receptors, which can help cause a calming affect," said Dr. Lee. "Which is great when you are about to drink an energy drink that has caffeine and likely a supratherapeutic amount of B vitamins."

The Side Effects Of Taurine

Dr. Lee has doesn't have concerns about the safety of taurine being used in energy drinks, as manufacturers have to follow guidelines on maximum doses.

"Taurine is relatively safe even at high doses and water soluble, so it doesn’t stay in the body for very long," said Dr. Lee. But she did note that it might not be a good idea to take taurine supplements in addition to drinking energy supplements that also contain taurine.

Even if taurine isn't a cause for concern, the Mayo Clinic notes that other ingredients often found in energy drinks, like caffeine and sugar, could be problematic.

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