It’s all too easy to grab an energy drink on the go to give you a little pick-me-up. Now days everyone crosses that path where they are over-pressured, under-rested, and still need to keep on going. The answer to this dilemma has become a no brainer thanks to ample advertisement and the abundance of brand after brand claiming to be the cure-all for your midday grogginess. Take the average college student, for example, who is piled with more homework hours than there are in a day. Ask him what he had for dinner and you will likely get an answer involving some type of amped up name like Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar…the list goes on. Though there are warnings attached to these energy drinks to limit 2-3 per day, there isn’t an explanation attached to such a label as to why. There is, however, much controversy as to whether the ingredient packed drinks are bad for you. More acutely the question resounds around which, if any, of such ingredients might be. One of the common ingredients in nearly all energy drinks, alongside caffeine, is Taurine.

Taurine is an amino acid-like compound that has actually been deemed essential to our bodies. It is essentially an organic acid and is also a major constituent of bile, which can be found in the lower intestine. This component is not actually a part of the human body’s structural proteins; it is rather one of the most abundant free floating amino acids amidst the bloodstream and tissues. It is most predominant in the heart, skeletal muscles, and nervous system. Often times when one performs strenuous physical activity, his body stops producing the compound which can result in a deficiency that is linked to illness and ailments. Some studies have recommended daily supplemental doses of taurine to aid in brain functions as well as to help the heart. Other studies acknowledge that taurine acts as an antioxidant by combating the destructive effects of oxygen free radicals, that it can be detoxifying, as well it is essential in proper growth and development.

Although caffeine and taurine as a pair have been claimed to enhance athletic and mental performance, the statement remains controversial. Unlike caffeine which is a stimulant, taurine is not. Caffeine is a diuretic, while taurine has not been found to cause the same effect. Not enough studies have been executed in order to fully examine and provide an in depth exploration as to the long term effects of taurine, the coupling effects of taurine and caffeine in energy drinks together, or any toxicity related to an overabundance of the ingredient. Separate studies on just taurine, however, have proven the component to be safe in even relatively high doses, though little is known regarding any long term effects. Results have shown positive response that taurine seems to be linked with mood enhancement, more optimum motor response, focus and alertness, and an overall greater mental performance. Taurine is also used in Japan to treat ischemic heart disease as well as certain heart arrhythmias.

There are many claims exalting the positive effects of taurine which then support the suggestion to ingest daily supplemental doses of the compound. The aspects of probable health benefits are encouraging. Still, everything in moderation is the key. Consider when consuming products such as energy drinks, you are combining ingredients that may completely alter the effects of each other. Until further studies are able to present a clearer picture, it is safe to assume that there may always be a risk. Contrary to the supplemental version of taurine that apparently provides mental clarity, plus many other physiological benefits, too many energy drinks may cause an adverse effect. Until otherwise proven; do yourself a favor and drink responsibly.