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, 109 (20), 1640-1648

Taurine, Caffeine, and Energy Drinks: Reviewing the Risks to the Adolescent Brain


Taurine, Caffeine, and Energy Drinks: Reviewing the Risks to the Adolescent Brain

Christine Perdan Curran et al. Birth Defects Res.


Energy drinks are emerging as a major component of the beverage market with sales projected to top $60 billion globally in the next five years. Energy drinks contain a variety of ingredients, but many of the top-selling brands include high doses of caffeine and the amino acid taurine. Energy drink consumption by children has raised concerns, due to potential caffeine toxicity. An additional risk has been noted among college-aged consumers of energy drinks who appear at higher risk of over-consumption of alcohol when the two drinks are consumed together. The differential and combinatorial effects of caffeine and taurine on the developing brain are reviewed here with an emphasis on the adolescent brain, which is still maturing. Key data from animal studies are summarized to highlight both reported benefits and adverse effects reported following acute and chronic exposures. The data suggest that age is an important factor in both caffeine and taurine toxicity. Although the aged or diseased brain might benefit from taurine or caffeine supplementation, it appears that adolescents are not likely to benefit from supplementation and may, in fact, suffer ill effects from chronic ingestion of high doses. Additional work is needed though to address gaps in our understanding of how taurine affects females, since the majority of animal studies focused exclusively on male subjects.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1. Projected trends in energy drink consumption
Business forecasts indicate that the current popularity of energy drinks is not likely to subside in coming years. The global energy drink market is expected to top $60 billion within five years (Research and Markets 2015).
Fig. 2
Fig. 2. A new definition of “mixed drink”
Energy drinks, which typically contain high concentrations of taurine and caffeine, are often co-ingested with alcohol. There is also data suggesting that those who consume taurine and caffeine may be at risk of higher alcohol consumption compared with those who do not.

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