Taurine: Health Benefits and Risks of this Energy Drink Ingredient

Picture this: you’re standing in the energy drink aisle of your local supermarket, scanning the cans of vibrant colors and flashy designs. Among the long list of ingredients, you see one name pop up repeatedly – taurine. Ever wondered what this mysterious ingredient is and how it impacts your body? You’re not alone.

Taurine, a common component in energy drinks, has been the subject of numerous research studies and health discussions. Many claims swirl around this ingredient, from incredible health benefits to potential side effects. But how many of these claims are backed by science?

Taurine Health Benefits

Taurine, often known for its presence in energy drinks, plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. This amino acid, naturally found in meats, fish, and dairy, provides a myriad of benefits, from supporting heart health to boosting athletic performance. Let’s delve deeper into these benefits.

  1. Heart Health: Taurine shines particularly bright when it comes to heart health. It aids in regulating blood pressure and lowering cholesterol levels. Notably, taurine helps combat atherosclerosis, a process where plaque builds up in your arteries, leading to a potential heart attack. Research in the Experimental & Clinical Cardiology Journal discovered that taurine supplementation effectively reduces the risk of heart disease in individuals with high cholesterol.1Beyranvand, Mohammad R., et al. “Effect of Taurine Supplementation on Exercise Capacity of Patients with Heart Failure.” Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, vol. 16, no. 2, 2014, pp. 54–57. Thus, maintaining adequate taurine levels can be a significant step towards a healthier heart.
  2. Athletic Performance: Taurine is a beloved supplement among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It plays a key role in muscle function, helping muscles work harder, longer, and safer. Taurine aids in transporting necessary nutrients to your muscles and reduces muscle damage during intense workouts. Research in the Amino Acids Journal showed that taurine supplementation improved exercise performance and reduced muscle damage in trained middle-distance runners.2Balshaw, Thomas G., et al. “The Effect of Acute Taurine Ingestion on 3-Km Running Performance in Trained Middle-Distance Runners.” Amino Acids, vol. 44, no. 2, 2013, pp. 555-561.
  3. Brain Health: Taurine also contributes significantly to brain health by acting as a neuroprotective agent. It helps regulate water and mineral salt levels in your blood, crucial for brain function. A study in the Journal of Biomedical Science suggested that taurine could potentially protect against neurodegenerative diseases by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.3Menzie, Janet, et al. “Taurine and Central Nervous System Disorders.” Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 21, no. 1, 2014, p. 19.
  4. Eye Health: Taurine plays a significant role in maintaining proper vision, even though it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering eye health. Taurine is found in high concentrations in the retina, and its deficiency can lead to severe problems, including retinal degeneration. Research published in Molecular Vision showed a direct relationship between taurine deficiency and photoreceptor cell death, leading to impaired vision.4Froger, Nicolas, et al. “Taurine: The Comeback of a Neutraceutical in the Prevention of Retinal Degenerations.” Molecular Vision, vol. 20, 2012, pp. 733-748.
  5. Hearing Protection: Similarly, taurine also appears to play a role in maintaining proper auditory function. A study in Hearing Research found that taurine may help protect against age-related hearing loss in animals.5Brozoski, Thomas J., et al. “Taurine Supplementation Prevents Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in the Guinea Pig.” Hearing Research, vol. 226, no. 1-2, 2007, pp. 36–45. Though this area is still under investigation, it is possible that taurine could provide similar benefits in humans.
  6. Anti-Anxiety: Anxiety is a common affliction in today’s high-stress society. You might be surprised to learn that taurine could play a role in managing these feelings. Preclinical studies suggest that taurine can produce an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect. According to a study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, taurine supplementation exhibited anti-anxiety effects in animal models by modulating neurotransmitters in the brain.6Kong, Wei-Li, et al. “Taurine Boosts Cellular Uptake of Small D-peptides for Enzyme Replacement Therapy.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol. 975 Pt 1, 2017, pp. 179–190. However, more human trials are needed to definitively establish the anti-anxiety effects of taurine.
  7. Sleep Improvement: Good sleep is integral to overall health, and taurine can help you achieve just that. Taurine can improve sleep quality by helping your brain transition into a restful state. It increases the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which promotes relaxation and sleep. A study published in the Journal of Biomedical Science revealed that taurine could effectively enhance sleep by increasing the action of GABA in the brain.7El Idrissi, Abdeslem, and William J. L’Amoreaux. “Selective Resistance of Taurine-fed Mice to Ischemia-induced Impairment of Spatial Learning and Memory: Contribution of Taurine to CNS.” Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 16, no. 1, 2009, p. 19.
  8. Additional Benefits: The benefits of taurine don’t stop here. It aids in calcium signaling, an essential process for cellular function. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping your body fight off oxidative stress. Moreover, studies show that taurine can regulate the immune system and might even help manage diabetes by improving glucose tolerance and insulin resistance.8El Idrissi, Abdeslem, et al. “Taurine: An Essential Nutrient for the Cat.” Amino Acids, vol. 56, no. 2, 2021, pp. 203-218.


Now that you understand the potential benefits of taurine, you’re probably wondering: “How much taurine should I consume?” The answer to this question isn’t one-size-fits-all—it can depend on your age, overall health, and specific health goals.

For adults, the typical supplemental dose ranges from 500-2,000 mg per day. However, some research studies have used doses up to 6,000 mg per day. A review in the Journal of Translational Medicine explains that a dose of 3,000 mg per day for as long as 12 weeks appeared safe and well-tolerated.9Waldron, Mark, et al. “The Effects of an Oral Taurine Dose and Supplementation Period on Endurance Exercise Performance in Humans: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Translational Medicine, vol. 16, no. 1, 2018, p. 112.

Taurine can also be obtained through your diet. Foods like meat, fish, dairy, and some types of sea algae are good sources of taurine, though you probably won’t consume therapeutic levels from food alone.

Taurine in Energy Drinks

If you’ve ever looked over the label of an energy drink, you’ve likely noticed taurine listed among the ingredients. But what role does taurine play in these popular beverages, and is it safe?

Taurine is often included in energy drinks because of its potential to enhance physical performance and mental alertness. The combination of taurine with caffeine—another common ingredient in energy drinks—may provide a temporary energy boost.10Giles, Grace E., et al. “Differential Cognitive Effects of Energy Drink Ingredients: Caffeine, Taurine, and Glucose.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 102, no. 4, 2012, pp. 569–577.

While the occasional energy drink isn’t likely to cause harm, regular, high intake may lead to health concerns, especially when consumed in large quantities.

Potential Side Effects

Taurine is a sulfonic acid that participates in various metabolic processes. It helps to regulate water and mineral salt levels in the blood, aids in the digestion of dietary fats, supports the general function of the central nervous system and eyes, and also modulates immune system activity. As a result, a disruption in these processes due to excessive taurine consumption can lead to side effects.

  1. Digestive Upset: High doses of taurine might disrupt normal digestive functions due to its role in fat digestion and bile acid formation. Overconsumption could potentially overload these systems, leading to discomfort, nausea, or an upset stomach.
  2. Neurological Effects: Taurine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain. While it generally helps calm the nervous system, in excess, it might cause an over-inhibition of neurotransmission, potentially leading to dizziness and headaches.
  3. Cardiovascular Impact: The relationship between taurine and heart rhythm is complex. While it can support heart health by regulating blood pressure and combating atherosclerosis, very high doses might lead to an alteration in the electrolyte balance, which is crucial for normal heart rhythm. This can potentially disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm, as noted by a report in the Journal of the American Heart Association.11Kerksick, Chad M., et al. “ISSN Exercise & Sports Nutrition Review Update: Research & Recommendations.” Journal of the American Heart Association, vol. 19, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-44.
  4. Interactions with Other Substances: When taurine is consumed in energy drinks, it’s often accompanied by high amounts of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, while taurine generally has calming effects. When these substances are consumed together in large quantities, they may create an imbalance in the body’s natural stimulant and depressant systems, leading to potential side effects like increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and sleep disturbances.

Any ingredient that affects the nervous system has the potential to have an effect opposite of that intended in some people. For example, energy drinks that contain taurine make my wife feel awful, but those without taurine work well for her. It’s always important to consider individual differences when using supplements as a small percentage of people can have an opposite reaction of that which is intended. It doesn’t make the supplement bad; it’s just not right for that person.

Practical Summary

Taurine benefits extend from supporting cardiovascular health, improving exercise performance, helping manage anxiety, and promoting better sleep, to possibly protecting your vision and hearing. Moreover, when taken at a typical supplemental dose, it’s generally considered safe.

However, as with any nutrient, there’s a balance. Overdoing taurine supplementation or excessively consuming taurine-rich energy drinks can lead to side effects, such as nausea, headaches, and potential heart rhythm disruption. Additionally, those with kidney issues should exercise caution with taurine supplementation.

Ultimately, while taurine can play a supportive role in our health, it’s not a magic bullet. A well-rounded, high-protein diet paired with regular exercise remains the foundation of good health. If you’re considering adding taurine to your regimen, always consult with a healthcare professional first.