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Discuss the Physiological effects of the energy drink Red Bull on the human body

Red Bull is a carbonated, non-alcoholic drink, sold in aluminium cans, with a highly visible marketing strategy. This emphasises one desirable function, "energy", and one ingredient, taurine. In fact, the energy in its true sense comes from the oxidation of glucose, present in the drink both in its pure form and as its digestive precursor sucrose. "Energy" is also, more loosely, an interpretation of brain arousal or alertness, and this effect can be ascribed to caffeine.

The evidence for the physiological effects of Red Bull can be sought in two categories: (1) studies and nutritional consensus on the effects of each ingredient, leading to prediction of the effects of the commercial drink, and (2) studies of the effects of Red Bull, the complete product, itself. The evidence from strategy (2) is weaker.

Other studies on Red Bull, such as those of Ashford et al (2001) and Warburton et al (2001), compared performance effects of Red Bull with carbonated water, or a similar looking and tasting placebo drink, respectively. These studies were therefore unable to differentiate the effects of the specific ingredients, although Warburton et al could at least control for the effects of a carbohydrate load. Seidl et al (2001) studied event-related waveforms and other neurophysiological and psychological outcomes, showing a significantly beneficial effect from Red Bull in a double-blind crossover trial. But again they had no way to separate the effects of caffeine from the other ingredients, or to show that the combination was superior to caffeine alone.


Despite the emphasis on taurine as the active ingredient, and the claims that caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone combine in their effect, there is insufficient evidence to reject the sceptical view that the performance enhancing effects of Red Bull are mediated only by caffeine, psychology and a carbohydrate load.

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