Many of us have relied on energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster to pull all-nighters in college, alleviate hangovers, or as a pick-me-up before hitting the gym. These 20-ounce sugar-laden drinks are not the healthiest beverages to consume, but researchers now suggest they may possess medicinal properties. A study presented at the annual meeting of the International Early Psychosis Association found taurine, an additive in energy drinks, can significantly help with psychosis.
“Although taurine supplementation did not improve cognition, it appears to improve core symptoms and depression in patients with FEP,” concluded the authors. (FEP is an individual’s first episode of psychosis.)
Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid in the body that aids a variety of functions. It helps control cardiovascular function, and has been found to both protect the paths of neurons in the brain, and help stimulate the creation of new neurons via neurogenesis. The amino acid is also known to have a calming effect on the brain.
Keeping this in mind, the team of researchers sought to observe if taurine could be utilized to stabilize the neurological activity occurring in people experiencing their first episode of psychosis. A total of 86 participants, aged 18 to 25, who had been previously diagnosed as suffering from a mental disorder with psychosis as a symptom, were recruited for the study. Every day for 12 weeks, half of the participants got four grams of taurine along with their antipsychotic medication, while the other half got a placebo.
Signs of early or FEP include hearing, seeing, tasting or believing things that others don’t; sudden decline in self-care; and trouble thinking clearly or concentrating, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These warning signs often point to a person’s deteriorating health, requiring a physical and neurological evaluation to help identify the problem. The severity of the participants’ symptoms was measured using the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) and the Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia (CDSS). The researchers also used a scale called the MATRICS consensus cognitive battery (MCCB) to measure changes in cognition.
After 12 weeks, those who received taurine has significantly improved scores on the BPRS, indicating a reduction in psychotic symptoms. They also experienced a significant decrease in depression, although there were no notable changes in cognition. The researchers suggest taurine could potentially act as an effective nutritional therapy in treating FEP. However, they caution: “The use of taurine warrants further investigation in larger randomised studies, particularly early in the course of psychosis.” Previous research supports taurine’s ability to aid symptoms in mental disorders. Its been used as an alternative to lithium, by blocking the effects of excess acetylcholine that contributes to bipolar disorder.
Researchers are still a long ways away from prescribing taurine to help with psychosis. It clear that the substance could potentially play an influential role in treating mental illness. But the dose used in the experiment is equivalent to drinking about four 250-millimeter cans of Red Bull in one sitting every day: This is not recommended, and for most people, it’s likely to lead to more problems than it would solve.
Source: Trial finds Red Bull additive taurine improves symptoms of young people suffering first episode psychosis. International Early Psychosis Association Meeting in Milan, Italy. 2016.
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