You probably already know that most energy drinks contain caffeine. 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.
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Many side effects are dose-dependent, meaning that may they may occur more frequently at a higher than normal dose. 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. 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.
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.
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.
Unproven Side Effects
Other potential side effects have not been proven to be caused by taurine. 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. A bodybuilder developed encephalopathy, brain dysfunction, after taking supplemental taurine along with steroids and insulin, as reported by eMedTV. However, no proof exists that taurine caused the problem. More research is needed to establish the side effects of taurine.