Science Behind Energy Drink Ingredient Interactions

A few people believe that caffeine-ingredient interactions are what make energy drinks inherently more dangerous than coffee. Using the ingredients in this drink’s “energy blend”, let’s review the research available on energy drink ingredient interactions.

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This drink’s Energy Blend includes caffeine, taurine, guarana, inositol, milk thistle, and four B-vitamins. What do we know about interactions between these ingredients?

Caffeine and Taurine Interactions

Caffeine and taurine both influence something called angiotensin II, which raises blood pressure. Caffeine augments the action of angiotensin II, BUT taurine tones it down [source: European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food, 2003].

So what happens to your blood pressure and heart rate when you consume an energy drink with caffeine and taurine? How do these two ingredients work with each other?

In one study, a drink with 80mg caffeine and 1,000mg taurine increased blood pressure and heart rate of the study participants. On the seventh straight day of the study, heart rate increased by 11% after consuming the drink. However, there was no significant electrocardiogram (EKG) changes.

It’s worth repeating that you should LIMIT CAFFEINE if you have heart or blood pressure conditions.

  • This study also suggests you shouldn’t have an energy drink every single day… (#moderation!)

Maybe taurine keeps the heart rate from escalating further, but it’s hard to say because this study wasn’t blind or placebo-controlled, and there was no taurine-free caffeinated drink to compare the results against.

Interactions Between Caffeine, Taurine, and Glucuronolactone

This European Commission cited above also ruled that caffeine-taurine-glucuronolactone combinations should not be considered dangerous.

The Panel concluded that a sufficient margin of safety exists for mean and high-level regular consumers of energy drinks, drinking on average 125ml (0.5 cans) and 350ml (1.4 cans) per person per day respectively; hence, exposure to taurine and d-glucuronolactone at these levels is not a safety concern [3].

What about energy drink ingredients and Arrhythmias?

In 2017, the American Heart Association published a study which suggested energy drinks are worse than caffeine-by-itself, which would mean there are some ingredient interactions which make energy drinks more dangerous than coffee.

In this study,  participants who drank the energy drink had a significantly QTc prolongation of ≈10 ms 2 hours after energy drink consumption.

  • In cardiology, the QT interval is a measure of the time between the start of the Q wave and the end of the T wave in the heart’s electrical cycle. 
  • QTc prolongation is a recognized marker of increased risk for fatal arrhythmias. Prolongation of the QT/QTc interval by more than 60 ms from baseline or a value >500 ms is a marker for life‐threatening arrhythmias.

Much to my disappointment, this study does not prove anything about ingredient interactions.

This study did not look at any different ingredient combinations with caffeine. It would be great to see this same study with all possible combinations, not just energy drink (caffeine, taurine, ginseng, B-vitamins, carnitine, glucuronolactone) versus caffeine.

Speaking of caffeine…

Both the placebo and energy drink used in this study had 320 mg caffeine. The EFSA says you should only have 200 mg caffeine at a time.

YES, there are energy drinks out there on the market that have more than 200 mg caffeine per serving, but we can’t distinguish dangers from interactions when the drink already breaks the safety rules for caffeine content.

Caffeine Informer’s research compilation of all the other studies comparing low‐ and moderate‐dose energy drinks, coffee, and water found no changes in the QTc interval.

The only thing we can say about ingredient interactions in energy drinks is that the data available does not suggest this is happening.

Ingredient interactions are NOT the most concerning part of this drink

Looking at the ingredients in Rockstar Pure Zero’s energy blend, it seems highly unlikely there are any ingredient interactions.

  • We already know there’s no interaction between caffeine-taurine-glucuronolactone.
  • Guarana is another source of caffeine.
  • Milk thistle is a liver-protectant.
  • Inositol used to be considered a vitamin before some scientist realized we can make it on our own. Inositol’s role in treating anxiety, depression, and insomnia all stem from how inositol participates in the chain of reactions and signaling that occurs with signal transduction.
  • B-vitamins are in so many other food and drink products it would be extremely surprising if there were harmful reactions between them and caffeine.

Interactions between the ingredients in Rockstar Pure Zero’s energy blend are unlikely, but there is one part of this drink that is a concern.

If you’re a healthy adult, you can consume UP TO 200 milligrams in one sitting, and up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, according to the Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine from the EFSA. That means drinking this whole can in less than 20 minutes would give you more caffeine than the recommended max per sitting. It can also be a lot of caffeine at once if you aren’t already well-versed in your own caffeine tolerance.

With 240 mg caffeine, this drink is FATIGUE LEVEL 4, which means it’s suitable for energy emergencies like all-nighters and double-shifts, NOT EVERYDAY use.

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