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Does the Taurine in Red Bull Really Come from Bull Semen?

Science, Tech, Math

Does the Taurine in Red Bull Really Come from Bull Semen?

Is Red Bull Made from a Bull?

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Taurine can be purified from the bile and semen of bulls.
Brad Wilson / Getty Images


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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels.

Updated September 24, 2018

Taurine is a key ingredient in Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, and other energy drinks. The ingredient is added because there is evidence it helps muscle function, may aid athletic performance and endurance, helps reduce anxiety, and appears to aid blood sugar regulation and cardiac health. It’s an organic molecule ( not an amino acid ) named for the Latin taurus, which means ox or bull because originally taurine was extracted from bull semen and ox bile.

No Bull

Although there is taurine in bull semen, this is not the source of the ingredient in Red Bull, other energy drinks, or other products that contain the molecule , such as baby formula and cosmetics.

Taurine is found in other animal tissues, as well, including the human intestine, breast milk, meat, and fish. However, chemical processes can make taurine from other source molecules in much the same way your body does.

The taurine in Red Bull and other energy drinks, and many other products is synthesized in a lab and is suitable for vegans and anyone wishing to avoid animal products. Specifically, taurine may be synthesized by reacting aziridine with sulfurous acid or from a series of reactions starting with ethylene oxide and sodium bisulfite.

Red Bull gets its name from the ingredient, but it doesn’t get the ingredient from bulls! It’s a matter of simple economics. Using bull semen would alienate a large portion of the customer base, including people seeking to avoid animal products, and would cost much more to produce.

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