Caffeine and taurine are two popular ingredients used in energy drinks which are growing in popularity in the United States, particularly among college students and adolescents. While caffeine and taurine are natural products and safe in small doses, the caffeine amount in energy drinks, according to a report in “USA Today,” is not regulated, bringing a higher risk of caffeine intoxication. Caffeine, taurine and the energy drinks in which they are found do have benefits but in large amounts can also cause medical complications. Consult with your physician regarding consumption of taurine and caffeine.
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Caffeine is a natural substance found in plants such as coffee beans and tea leaves. It can also be produced synthetically and added to products. It works as a stimulant to the central nervous system and can provide short-term relief for fatigue. The body does not need caffeine, which holds no nutritional value. Caffeine can cause side effects such as increased heart rate, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, restlessness and tremors. Caffeine consumption of a moderate level has no negative effect on health, and the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs recommends no more than three 8 oz. cups of coffee or five servings of caffeinated soft drinks or tea daily.
Taurine is an amino acid that plays a role in neurological development and has antioxidant properties. Taurine is found naturally in meats and fish as well as in a variety of dietary supplements. According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 3,000 mg. of taurine daily is considered safe and the kidneys excrete any excess taurine. Studies continue to look at the use of taurine supplements, but little is still known about the possible side effects associated with high consumptions or long-term use of taurine.
Platelets and Energy Drinks
Energy drinks, including caffeine and taurine, have been linked to sudden cardiac death and myocardial infarction. A 2010 study published in “The American Journal of Medicine” looked at the possible connection of energy drinks and platelets. They looked at 50 healthy volunteers and conducted a baseline test of platelet aggregation or clumping. The volunteers were then given a 250 mL can of a sugar-free energy drink. They discovered that the energy drink increased platelet aggregation and therefore an increased risk in blood clotting and cardiovascular problems.
A 2011 study published in “The British Journal of Surgery” looked at the effects of caffeine and taurine on sleep-deprived surgeons performing simulated laparoscopy. Participants in the study were sleep deprived on three different occasions and then administered a placebo — 150 mg of caffeine or 150 mg of caffeine combined with 2 g of taurine. Their results showed that caffeine and taurine restored sleepiness levels but not to baseline-rested levels and negative reaction times associated with sleep deprivation were reversed.
- “USA Today”; Petition Calls for FDA to Regulate Energy Drinks; Elizabeth Weise; October 22, 2008
- "MedlinePlus"; Caffeine in the Diet; May 5, 2011
- "Mayo Clinic"; Taurine in Energy Drinks: What Is It?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.; June 26, 2010
- “The American Journal of Medicine”; Detrimental Effects of Energy Drink Consumption on Platelet and Endothelial Function; M.I. Worthley, et al.; February 2010
- “The British Journal of Surgery”; Effect of Caffeine and Taurine on Simulated Laparoscopy Performed Following Sleep Deprivation; R. Aggarwal, et al.; July 14, 2011