EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) found causality had not been demonstrated between taurine, once extracted from bull bile but now made synthetically, and boosted energy levels.
While Austria-based Red Bull’s marketing has tended to be less than direct in most regions – ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ is its famous slogan – its 20-year rise to multi-billion dollar energy drink market leadership, is built on an energy-boosting premise.
Taurine is not the only energy-giving ingredient in Red Bull and other energy drinks – caffeine and glucuronolactone are also present not to mention the likes of green tea and sugar.
It is for this reason that Red Bull says the NDA opinion does not derail its energy claim making plans.
“The current EFSA opinion on taurine is not conclusive for the assessment of Red Bull´s health claims,” said Red Bull spokesperson, Alexandra Bolz.
“This is because Red Bull's health claims are based on the totality of its functional ingredients. The fact is that millions of people around the world have found from their own direct experience that Red Bull works for them.”
How the NDA opinion is likely to be interpreted by the European Commission and member states is unknown, but if the opinion reaches the legislature in its current form, there may be regulatory pressure on energy drink makers to alter their claims or reformulate.
In relation to ‘energy yielding’ the NDA noted:
“Although a role of taurine on glucose absorption and metabolism has been suggested in animal and in vitro experimental studies, the clinical studies available in type 1 diabetic subjects are too small and too short in duration to draw conclusions. In addition, taurine supplementation had no effect on insulin secretion/action in non-diabetic overweight subjects.”
For ‘ergogenic role in sports and exercise’ it said:
“In weighing the evidence the Panel took into account the small number of subjects included, the lack of measurements related to physical performance in one of the studies, the difficulty in attributing any effects to the consumption of taurine alone in two of the studies, and the high doses of taurine used in one human intervention and in the animal study, which limit the conclusions that can be drawn in relation to the consumption of taurine and the claimed effect under the proposed conditions of use.”
It therefore concluded in both cases that causality had not been demonstrated.
It also found that taurine did not protect DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage.
The EFSA opinion can be found here.