You may have experienced times when you felt as if you needed a boost of energy to make it through the day. Some people rely on energy drinks as a way to increase their alertness, overcome fatigue and increase their performance. Energy drinks are dietary supplements containing amino acids such as taurine and herbal stimulants such as guarana, along with vitamins and carbohydrates. These products are dietary supplements in the United States and are not regulated as over-the counter or prescription medicines are. Talk with your physician about the efficacy and safety of products containing taurine or guarana.
Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the human body. It is a non-essential acid in adults: Your body can make it using the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Infants, however, have to get their taurine from their diets. Taurine is found naturally in meat and seafood.
Although taurine is not used to make proteins as are other amino acids, it is important to normal body function. Taurine is an ingredient in bile: the fluid produced by the liver that helps your body absorb cholesterol and fats from your diet. Taurine helps strengthen the contractions of your heart muscle. Taurine also protects your heart from harmful effects from too much calcium. Taurine is an antioxidant. Taurine may improve the health of patients with liver disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. Taurine is often added to energy drinks to boost mental and physical performance, though there is no evidence showing how taurine contributes to these formulas.
According to a 2009 report issued by European Food Safety Authority, taurine is a safe supplemental ingredient, even in the large quantities found in some energy drinks. Drawing conclusions from both animal and human studies of taurine ingestion, the European panel concluded that taurine was safe in doses up to 3,000 mg/day.
Guarana is an herbal dietary supplement ingredient derived from the Paullinia cupana plant. Paullinia is native to the South America's Amazon Basin region. The effect of guarana on your body is due to its relatively high caffeine content. Guarana fruit contains from 2.5 to 7 percent caffeine – several times more than coffee beans.
Guarana acts as a stimulant to your central nervous system, skeletal muscles and heart. Like taurine, guarana is an ingredient in some energy drinks. Guarana is added to curb appetite, relieve fatigue and boost your sexual, mental and physical performance. Unlike taurine, however, the effects of ingesting caffeine on the human body are well documented.
Guarana side effects include insomnia, nervousness, stomach upset, nausea, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fluid loss, anxiety and tremors. Large amounts of guarana can lead to seizures or fatal irregular heartbeats. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the amount of guarana/caffeine in dietary supplements such as energy drinks as it regulates soft drinks or medicine. The amount of guarana varies from product to product. It is possible you can ingest harmful amounts of caffeine in the course of a day from energy drinks, soft drinks, tea and even candy.
- "Alternative Medicine Review"; Therapeutic Applications of Taurine; Timothy C. Birdsall; 1998
- "Vanderbilt University Psychology Department"; Taurine + Energy Drinks: Meant to Be or Doomed?; Sonal Patel; September 2006
- "The EFSA Journal"; The Use of Taurine and D-glucurono-γ-lactone as Constituents of the So-called “Energy” Drinks; F. Aguilar, et al.; January 2009
- "Pharmacy Today"; Safety Issues Associated With Commercially Available Energy Drinks; Kevin A. Clauson, et al.; May 2008
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Guarana; April 2010
- "Mayo Clinic Proceedings"; Energy Beverages: Content and Safety; John Higgins, et al.; November 2010