Taurine is an amino acid that is often sold as an ingredient in energy drinks and mood-enhancing agents. While it does occur naturally in your body, the taurine in these products is produced synthetically. Taurine is valued for having a similar effect to other stimulants, such as caffeine, and for its potential as a mood stabilizer. Studies have examined its potential in clinical applications, including treatment of mania and clinical depression, but it has received less attention for its potential to influence your appetite.
How Taurine Affects Your Body
Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky notes that some studies suggest taurine improves athletic performance. More controversial studies suggest that taurine, when combined with caffeine, improves mental performance. Whether in conjunction with caffeine and other stimulants or on its own, the extent to which taurine affects your body as a stimulant also boosts your metabolism. With a stronger, faster metabolism, your body burns more energy and you become hungry more often. So, while affected by this stimulant, you may notice a minor increase in appetite. This increase becomes more noticeable as you combine supplemental taurine consumption with other activities, such as exercise, which are known to boost your metabolism.
Taurine's Indirect Effects on Your Appetite
Although stimulants typically increase your appetite, taurine has other impacts on your body which may actually reduce your hunger. Taurine helps your body to regulate water levels and mineral salts in the blood. When you become thirsty or dehydrated, you may mistake your condition for hunger, so remaining properly hydrated can reduce your appetite. Mineral salts, which include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc and iodine, affect hunger as well. Deficiency in these salts, most notably sodium, may actually cause you to crave salty foods and act accordingly, thus replenishing the supply of mineral salts in your blood.
Concerns with Taurine in Energy Drinks
Taurine by itself is not especially dangerous, but when used as an ingredient in energy drinks, it is often accompanied by other stimulants. Over-consumption of some stimulants, such as caffeine, can lead to health concerns. These include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, insomnia and nervousness. Guarana and ginseng can increase the effects of caffeine, according to the division of agriculture and natural resources at the University of California. The university cautions children and pregnant women against consuming caffeinated energy drinks for this reason, and goes on to urge healthy adults to limit their use to one energy drink per day. Energy drinks often also contain sugar, which adds calories and may diminish your overall health. If you are seeking to make taurine a regular part of your dietary intake, and energy drinks are your primary source, you should take note of the other ingredients in your drinks to avoid these problems.
Safe Doses of Taurine
Zeratsky notes that excess taurine is excreted by the kidneys, so a taurine overdose is unlikely. However, little is known about the effects of heavy or long-term taurine use. In order to remain safe while using taurine, Zeratsky recommends a daily dose of supplemental taurine that does not exceed 3,000 mg.
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Taurine as an Anti-Manic Agent: A Double-Bind, Placebo-Controlled Study
- Independence for Foster Youth: You Are What You Eat -- Energy Drinks & TV Dinners
- MayoClinic.com; Taurine in Energy Drinks: What Is It?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
- Military.com; Military Fitness -- Does Water Affect Weight; Stew Smith
- "New York Times"; Hunger for Salt Found to Be Powerful Instinct; Harold Schmeck; August 1983
- University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Energy Drinks; Karrie Heneman and Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr; 2007