Taurine gained prominence as an additive in energy drinks like Red Bull®: The substance should enhance the effect of the caffeine also contained in the drinks and help to improve their performance. Taurine also occurs as a natural compound in the body. Read here what exactly taurine is, what it does in the body and what side effects it can have in energy drinks.
What is taurine made of?
Taurine is an aminosulfonic acid and is a breakdown product of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. The human body produces taurine itself, so the organic matter does not necessarily have to be absorbed through the diet.
The production of taurine in the human organism
Although the word taurine comes from the Greek word taurus for bull, the substance is by no means extracted from bull testicles, as is often claimed. Instead, the taurine contained in foods is artificially produced in the laboratory.
However, taurine also occurs naturally in the human organism: in adults, the substance is produced in the liver and brain with the involvement of vitamin B6. Taurine is concentrated in the muscle cells, the brain, the heart, the blood and the eyes.
Every day, the body makes up to 125 milligrams of taurine. In addition, we have up to 400 milligrams about the food take up. A healthy person weighing 70 kilograms has up to 70 grams of taurine in the body. Thus, taurine is present in the human organism at about one gram per kilogram of body weight.
Taurine in breast milk
Since newborns can not yet produce taurine themselves in the body, babies are first supplied with organic acid via breast milk. Breast milk contains between 25 and 50 milligrams of taurine per liter.
Which foods contain taurine?
Taurine naturally also occurs in our diet, and exclusively in animal foods or in animal protein. Taurine-containing foods include:
- Fish and sea animals
What does Taurine do?
Taurine takes on some important functions in the body, although not all biochemical effects have been explored. Among the proven effects of taurine is the formation of so-called bile acid conjugations.
This is taurine at the fat digestion involved: The substance is coupled to the bile acids produced in the liver and thus improves their solubility. The dissolved bile acids form a bond in the small intestine with dietary fats, so that they can be absorbed into the blood.
Taurine also has the following effect in the body:
- Taurine plays a role in the Development of the central nervous system as well as with signal transmissions in the brain.
- Taurine makes a significant contribution to the development and Operability of the eyes - more specifically, the retina (retina).
- It also contributes to heart function because taurine has an antiarrhythmic effect. This means that taurine regulates the heartbeat and thus ensures a regular beating of the heart.
- Taurine also has one antioxidant effect, because it protects the tissue from cell damaging free radicals.
- In animal experiments could also a anti-inflammatory effect be detected by taurine.
- Also give studies1 Evidence that taurine the blood sugar as well as the cholesterol lowers. Clearly, this is not yet clear.
- Taurine does not work in the body as often supposedly stimulating or cheery. On the contrary: the substance has one in high doses soothing and antispasmodic Effect.
Consequences of a taurine deficiency
A taurine deficiency is very rare, but can be caused for example by a long-standing vegan diet or by a limited availability of cysteine, methionine or vitamin B6.
A low taurine level can lead to disorders of the immune system. In addition, a low taurine concentration in the muscles is typical of chronic renal failure. Also, a lack of taurine can cause inflammation in the tissue.
Taurine as a dietary supplement
If there is a medical need, taurine can be supplied externally in the long term.
In the form of Dietary supplements the substance is taken as a capsule or tablet or as a powder for stirring in liquid. Taurine is available as a monosupplement, but also in combination with other substances in dietary supplements. Dietary supplements with taurine can be bought in the pharmacy or on the Internet. Since the taurine used here is synthetically produced, it is vegan.
In the parenteral nutrition - So the artificial diet on nutrient infusions - taurine is also often included. Especially preterm infants whose liver can not yet produce the substance independently and who are in need of an artificial diet, taurine is infused. In particular, here is the full development of the eyes in the foreground, in which taurine plays a role.
How much taurine should be supplied to the body during the day via food, dietary supplements or energy drinks can not be answered. Studies on the recommended daily dose are pending. It is estimated that humans consume between 40 and 400 milligrams of taurine per day.
The average dosage of taurine in dietary supplements is between 500 and 2,000 milligrams a day. But also doses of over 3,000 milligrams seem unproblematic. So far, there are no known cases of one Overdose with taurine.
Keep in mind, however, that the body produces taurine itself and we also take more taurine through the diet, so that a healthy person in principle requires no additional supply of the substance.
Taurine in energy drinks
Almost all energy drinks contain artificially produced taurine. Reason is the alleged increase in physical and mental performance. However, this effect was not clear in studies2 be detected.
Also, that taurine enhances the effect of the caffeine contained in energy drinks and thus acts impulsive, could not be proven. Only the caffeine contained in the drinks and the sugar have a stimulating effect. As mentioned earlier, high doses of taurine have a calming effect.
In addition, it is unclear what effects taurine has in combination with other ingredients of energy drinks such as inositol, guarana and glucuronolactone.
In animal experiments taurine influenced the insulin level and thus accelerated the metabolism. While this may be a possible explanation for the allegedly enhancing effect of taurine in energy drinks. However, this assumption could not be confirmed in humans.
After the fruit juice and refreshment drinks regulations, energy drinks have been allowed since 2013 a maximum of 4,000 milligrams of taurine per liter contain. A tin of Red Bull® (250 milliliters), for example, contains 1,000 milligrams of synthetic taurine.
Side effects of taurine
So far, there are no known side effects of taurine in a dietary or nutritional supplement.
It looks different Taurine in energy drinks out. Basically, the side effects of taurine in combination with the other ingredients of these drinks have not been researched enough and it is unclear what happens when you consume too much taurine in energy drinks. Therefore, in the context of this use, the substance should be viewed with a critical eye.
Especially the combination of taurine and caffeine is suspected of bringing health risks. Here are some side effects suspected that require further research. These possible side effects include:
- Restlessness and nervousness
- Circulatory collapse
Due to the uncertain effect, the already mentioned maximum amount of taurine was determined in energy drinks. In addition, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends Children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, to consume any energy drinks.
Dangerous mix: taurine, caffeine and alcohol
Sometimes also popular are mixtures of energy drinks with vodka or other alcohol. However, this mix is likely to pose significant health risks.
Because the combination of caffeine, alcohol and taurine could also be more serious than the side effects already mentioned kidney failure and Cardiac arrest mountains.3 Again, appropriate research is pending.
Taurine for better performance in sports?
Some bodybuilders take taurine as a dietary supplement, since the substance is supposed to support muscle growth. So far, however, there is no scientific evidence for a promotional effect on athletic performance. Although taurine in animal experiments4 could increase muscle growth, this was in humans5 to not confirm.
The drinking of energy drinks in conjunction with sports is also controversial. While some studies describe a supportive effect on athletic performance, other studies can not confirm this and warn about the drinks. Energy drinks deprive the body of fluid and can therefore dehydrate it, especially during exercise.
How dangerous is Taurine?
Taurine as organic acid in the body and in food is not harmful. On the contrary - the body even needs it, which is why it also produces it itself.
Excessive taurine intake by, for example, dietary supplements excretes excess taurine via the kidneys. For that reason should People with kidney problems refrain from an additional intake of taurine or consult with your doctor.
Acute danger exists only with one extreme consumption of energy drinks, especially (but not only) in combination with alcohol. Drinking too much of this is most likely harmful to the heart, among other things.
Especially with Energyshots, the risk of overdose is high, because you consume a high dose of taurine and caffeine in a small amount of fluid.
Taurine as a drug?
Taurine may possibly be used as a drug in various diseases in the future. Although research is still in its infancy, it is thought that taurine has a positive effect on certain eye diseases6, Cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure7 and heart failure.
In addition, taurine has an antioxidant and calming effect. Therefore, the substance could also be used in diseases with oxidative stress such as diabetes or arteriosclerosis.
History: Where does taurine come from?
Taurine was first discovered in 1827 by the chemists Leopold Gmelin and Friedrich Tiedemann. While examining digestive processes in cattle, they managed to extract a substance from the gallbladder of an ox. Accordingly, the scientists called the substance taurine - after the Greek word Taurus for bull.
Abebe, W. & Mozaffari, M.S. (2011): Role of taurine in the vasculature: An overview of experimental and human studies.
Gwacham, N. & Wagne, D.R. (2012): Acute Effects of a Caffeine Taurine Energy Drink on Repeated Sprint Performance of American College Football Players.
Goldfarb, M. et al. (2014): Review of Published Cases of Adverse Cardiovascular Events After Ingestion of Energy Drinks.
Goodman, C.A. et al. (2009): Taurine Supplementation Increases Skeletal Muscle Force Production and Protects Muscle Function During and After High Frequency In Vitro Stimulation.
Galloway, S.D. et al. (2008): Seven days of oral taurine supplementation does not increase muscle taurine content or age substrate metabolism during prolonged exercise in humans.
Froger, N. et al. (2012): Taurine provides neuroprotection against retinal ganglion cell degeneration.
Chen, W. et al. (2016): The beneficial effects of taurine in metabolic syndrome.