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You probably already know that most energy drinks contain caffeine 4. But you may not have paid any attention to the taurine content. Taurine is added to energy drinks to enhance physical and mental performance, although these benefits are unproven. Taurine is called a conditional amino acid, because dietary supplementation in not usually needed. Many energy drinks contain much larger quantities of taurine than the diet normally supplies. This excess of tauring may cause side effects, although very few are reported or confirmed 5.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Many side effects are dose-dependent, meaning that may they may occur more frequently at a higher than normal dose 5. New York University Langone Medical Center reports that 3 grams per day of supplemental taurine is considered safe, but adds that the effects of taurine on children, pregnant women, those with liver disease or those with kidney disease have not been determined 15. An article published on Europa, the official website of the European Union, in January 1999 by the Scientific Committee of Food reviewed amounts of taurine in energy drinks. A list compiled by the Austrian National Food Authority in 1996 found that energy drinks contained between 300 and 4,000 milligrams per liter of taurine, which would equal 2,000 milligrams per day for people consuming an average 0.5 liter intake at the highest dose. If you drink larger than normal amounts of energy drinks, you may have an increased risk of side effects 5.
At doses higher than 5 grams per day, a very high dose, you may have loose stools, according to Michael Lam, M.D. Since most energy drinks contain caffeine, which can also cause diarrhea, it may be difficult to determine which substance is causing the symptoms 4.
Increased Stomach Acid
Very high doses of taurine may also cause increased stomach acid secretion. An increase in stomach acid can cause heartburn and can cause gastric ulcer in some cases. Symptoms include burning in the back of the throat or a sour taste in the mouth. Ulcers can cause pain and burning that often occurs several hours after eating. Talk with your doctor if you develop these symptoms.
- Very high doses of taurine may also cause increased stomach acid secretion.
- An increase in stomach acid can cause heartburn and can cause gastric ulcer in some cases.
Unproven Side Effects
Taurine & Breastfeeding
Other potential side effects have not been proven to be caused by taurine 5. One man with bipolar disorder experienced a worsening of symptoms after drinking large several cans of an energy drink, according to eMedTV, although whether the taurine or another ingredient caused the problem was undetermined 5. A bodybuilder developed encephalopathy, brain dysfunction, after taking supplemental taurine along with steroids and insulin, as reported by eMedTV 5. However, no proof exists that taurine caused the problem. More research is needed to establish the side effects of taurine 5.
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- New York University Langone Medical Center: Taurine
- Europa: Opinion on Caffeine, Taurine and D-Glucurono - g -Lactone as Constituents of So-Called "Energy" Drinks
- FamilyDoctor.org: Ulcers: What You Can Do to Heal Your Ulcer
- Drugs.com: Caffeine
- EMedTV: Taurine Side Effects
- Schaffer S, Kim HW. Effects and Mechanisms of Taurine as a Therapeutic Agent. Biomol Ther. 2018;26(3):225-241. doi:10.4062/biomolther.2017.251
- De Luca A, Pierno S, Camerino DC. Taurine: the appeal of a safe amino acid for skeletal muscle disorders. J Transl Med. 2015;13:243. doi:10.1186/s12967-015-0610-1
- Jong CJ, Azuma J, Schaffer S. Mechanism underlying the antioxidant activity of taurine: prevention of mitochondrial oxidant production. Amino Acids. 2012;42(6):2223-2232. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-0962-7
- Xu Y-J, Arneja AS, Tappia PS, Dhalla NS. The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2008;13(2):57-65.
- Ahn CS. Effect of Taurine Supplementation on Plasma Homocysteine Levels of the Middle-Aged Korean Women. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2009;643:415-422. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-75681-3_43
- Sun Q, Wang B, Li Y, et al. Taurine Supplementation Lowers Blood Pressure and Improves Vascular Function in Prehypertension: Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Hypertension. 2016;67(3):541-549. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.06624
- Ballard SL, Wellborn-Kim JJ, Clauson KA. Effects of Commercial Energy Drink Consumption on Athletic Performance and Body Composition. Phys Sportsmed. 2010;38(1):107-117. doi:10.3810/psm.2010.04.1768
- Begolli Gerqari AM, Ferizi M, Halimi S, et al. Erythema exsudativum multiforme induced by a taurine-containing energy drink. Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Pannonica Adriat. 2016;25(4):83-84. doi:10.15570/actaapa.2016.24
- Maya Y. Pharmacological Value of Caffeine, Taurine and Arginine in Nutritional Supplements and their Relation to Well Known Socially Important Diseases. International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences. 2015;4(1):24-29. doi:10.11648/j.ijnfs.s.2015040101.15
- National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplements. Updated March 11, 2020.
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.