Taurine in Energy Drinks Linked to Rising Colon Cancer Rates in Young Adults, Say Scientists

Taurine in Energy Drinks Linked to Rising Colon Cancer Rates in Young Adults, Say Scientists

A little-known ingredient found in energy drinks has been thrust into the spotlight this week. Scientists are theorizing that taurine, an amino acid used in drinks like Red Bull and Monster, may partly explain a rise in colon cancer among young people.

What is Taurine?

Taurine is an amino acid commonly used in energy drinks to energize cells and improve mental clarity.

It’s a staple in popular beverages such as Red Bull, Monster, Celsius, and even some Starbucks coffee drinks.

While taurine is generally considered safe in small amounts, concerns are growing over the effects of high consumption.

The Hypothesis

Researchers in Florida have hypothesized that taurine could be ‘feeding’ harmful bacteria that are over-represented in the guts of people with colorectal cancer. This theory is based on preliminary studies conducted on animals and in labs.

While this connection is still only a theory, it raises important questions about the safety of taurine in large quantities.

Rising Consumption of Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are immensely popular, especially among young adults. One in three adults aged 18 to 29 regularly consumes these beverages.

The U.S. energy drink market is valued at around $23 billion, with leading brands like Red Bull, Monster, and Celsius driving sales.

Potential Health Risks of Taurine

In small doses, taurine is safe and can even have health benefits. However, excessive consumption of taurine can lead to a range of health issues, including vomiting, upset stomach, dizziness, tiredness, diarrhea, and constipation.

The Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide guidelines on safe consumption levels, but high intakes still pose risks.

Ongoing Research

Researchers from the University of Florida are embarking on a trial named ROSANNA to test their hypothesis about taurine’s potential harms.

This trial, introduced at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference, aims to investigate whether taurine serves as a primary energy source for bacteria believed to fuel colon cancers.

Methodology of the Trial

The ROSANNA trial will recruit young Americans to consume either Red Bull or Celsius energy drinks daily. Researchers expect a significant increase in harmful bacteria, specifically H2S sulfide-metabolizing bacteria, among participants.

This expectation is based on small animal studies, but further research is needed to draw definitive conclusions.

Diverse Findings on Taurine

Research on taurine has shown mixed results. In some cases, taurine has been found to halt tumor growth and spread by as much as 44 percent.

In other cases, it has been shown to prevent protective T cells from fighting cancers, allowing the disease to become more aggressive.

Taurine’s role in regulating calcium in nerve cells and controlling inflammation adds complexity to understanding its overall impact on health.

Popular Energy Drinks Containing Taurine

Red Bull: The most popular energy drink globally, Red Bull sold 12.1 billion cans last year. Each 8.4-ounce can contains 1,000 milligrams of taurine and 80 milligrams of caffeine, along with vitamins B6 and B12. However, it also contains 27 grams of sugar in its regular variety.

Celsius: Known for its growth in popularity, Celsius’ Sparkling Peach Vibes flavor is being studied in the ROSANNA trial. A 12-ounce can contains 1,000 milligrams of taurine and 200 milligrams of caffeine but no sugar and only 10 calories.

Monster: Each 16-ounce can of Monster contains 1,000 milligrams of taurine and 160 milligrams of caffeine. However, it also has 54 grams of added sugar, contributing to its high caloric content of 230 calories.

Prime Energy: Launched by internet personalities Logan Paul and KSI, Prime Energy includes taurine, though the exact amount is undisclosed. Each 12-ounce can has 200 milligrams of caffeine but no sugar and only 10 calories.

5-Hour Energy: This energy shot packs a punch with 480 milligrams of taurine and 230 milligrams of caffeine in just 1.93 ounces. However, it contains an excessive amount of vitamin B12, which can lead to adverse effects.

Rockstar: A 16-ounce can of Rockstar contains 2,000 milligrams of taurine and 270 calories, with 63 grams of added sugar. Studies have shown it can increase blood pressure and heart rate.

Starbucks Double Shot Energy: This drink combines coffee with 1,800 milligrams of taurine and 225 milligrams of caffeine per 15-ounce can. It also contains 12 grams of added sugar and vital nutrients like potassium.


As research into the potential health risks of taurine continues, consumers should remain informed about their intake levels.

While the current findings are preliminary, they underscore the importance of moderation and further investigation into the effects of taurine and other common energy drink ingredients.