What Is Taurine? The Benefits and Uses

Can this common energy drink ingredient offer beneficial health effects?

Sale Of Energy Drinks To Children Set To Be Banned In England
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Taurine is an amino acid found in the body, particularly in the heart, brain, eyes, and muscles. Although our bodies can make taurine, the main food sources are meat, fish, and dairy. A synthetic form of taurine is a key ingredient in supplements and energy drinks such as Red Bull.

Although low levels of taurine have been linked to several conditions (including eye diseases and cardiovascular problems), research on the benefits of taurine supplements is limited.

Proponents claim that taurine can improve cognitive function, enhance athletic performance, preserve eyesight, boost heart health, control blood sugar, and increase energy levels. Taurine is also known to act as an antioxidant.

Health Effects

Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on the health effects of taurine:

1) Heart Disease

Preliminary research suggests that taurine may help combat heart disease, according to a research review from Experimental and Clinical Cardiology. The review's authors note that taurine may offer a number of cardiovascular benefits (such as protection against hardening of the arteries), but caution that more research is needed before taurine supplements can be recommended for the prevention or treatment of any heart condition.

In another study, scientists discovered that taurine supplements may help reduce levels of homocysteine (an amino acid shown to raise heart disease risk when detected at elevated levels). Published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2009, the study involved 22 healthy middle-aged women. After four weeks of taking 3 grams of taurine in supplement form daily, study participants showed a significant decrease in homocysteine levels.

2) High Blood Pressure

Taurine may help treat high blood pressure, according to a 2016 study published in Hypertension. For the study, people with prehypertension received either taurine supplementation or a placebo for 12 weeks. Taurine supplementation decreased blood pressure, especially in those with high-normal blood pressure.

Taurine in Energy Drinks

Taurine is a common ingredient in energy drinks. While some preliminary studies show that taurine may improve mental performance and increase exercise endurance, overall research on the energy-enhancing effects of taurine is limited. What's more, a 2010 report published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine states that the fatigue-fighting effects of energy drinks are most likely due to their caffeine content (rather than their taurine content).

Sources of Taurine

First isolated from ox bile, the name taurine is derived from the Latin word for ox or bull, "taurus." Despite the myth that taurine is derived from bull sperm, the form of taurine in beverages and most supplements is a synthetic form (made in a laboratory).

Possible Side Effects

Taurine may cause some side effects (including itching, nausea, headache, and dizziness).

There have been a number of case reports of adverse effects related to the consumption of energy drinks containing taurine, such as seizures and cardiovascular effects.

In a case report, a 19-year-old man developed a skin condition known as erythema multiforme. A drink containing taurine was believed to be the cause.

If you notice any serious side effects while taking taurine supplements, it's important to discontinue your use of taurine.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

The Takeaway

Although taurine may offer some beneficial health effects, self-treating an existing health problem with taurine supplements and avoiding doctor-prescribed care can have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of taurine supplements for a chronic condition, consult your doctor to determine a safe and effective dosage.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
  • Ahn CS. Effect of taurine supplementation on plasma homocysteine levels of the middle-aged Korean women. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2009;643:415-22.
  • Kong WX, Chen SW, Li YL, Zhang YJ, Wang R, Min L, Mi X. Effects of taurine on rat behaviors in three anxiety models. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Feb;83(2):271-6.
  • Miyazaki T, Matsuzaki Y, Ikegami T, Miyakawa S, Doy M, Tanaka N, Bouscarel B. Optimal and effective oral dose of taurine to prolong exercise performance in rat. Amino Acids. 2004 Dec;27(3-4):291-8.
  • Sun Q, Wang B, Li Y, et al. Taurine Supplementation Lowers Blood Pressure and Improves Vascular Function in Prehypertension: Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Hypertension. 2016 Mar;67(3):541-9.
  • Xu YJ, Arneja AS, Tappia PS, Dhalla NS. The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2008 Summer;13(2):57-65.