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What's Really in Red Bull? (Is it Safe to Drink?)

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Red Bull Ingredients

In 1987, a wealthy Austrian entrepreneur named Dietrich Mateschitz arrived in Thailand with a killer case of jet lag. He tried a traditional drink known as Krating Daeng to cut through the brain fog and give him an energy boost. Mr. Mateschitz is now one of the richest people in the world, and his drink,Red Bull, is consumed by everyone from soccer moms who need a jolt to college kids.

Although there are many energy drinks on the market, Red Bull is by far the most popular, good old coffee notwithstanding. But what exactlyis Red Bull? Whatisthe magic combination in that hot pink drink that peps the step and wakes up the brain?

red bull back of can

Red Bull Ingredients Breakdown:

Basically, Red Bull is a mix of sugar, synthetic caffeine, taurine and several B vitamins, all of which are well-known for their energy-promoting qualities. Take a closer look at some of the powerful drink’s active ingredients, which are listed on the back of the Red Bull can: Carbonated Water, Sucrose, Glucose, Citric Acid, Taurine, Sodium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Carbonate, Caffeine, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine HCI, Vitamin B12, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Colors.

Glucose & Sucrose: Do you recognize your old friend sugar? Red Bull has 27 grams of sugar per can, which is actually a little less than most soft drinks (Dr. Pepper has 40 grams) – but still a massive amount of the sweet stuff. Prepare for an energy rush – and then the inevitable crash. Sugarfree Red Bull contains the artificial sweeteners aspartame, acesulfame K, and sucrolose instead of sugar, which have recently been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Taurine: Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is an amino acid naturally made in the human body. Found in the lower intestine and a major component of bile, taurine is an antioxidant that helps to move minerals through the system and generate nerve impulses. Each can of Red Bull contains 1000mg taurine, and although Red Bull products containing the substance was banned in France for a while, at this point all bans are off and taurine is generally considered safe.

Caffeine: Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine, about half of other soft drinks and about the same as a cup of coffee. Caffeine’s stimulating mental and physical benefits have been well documented, with some even arguing that coffee’s introduction to the Western World made the Industrial Revolution possible. Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a sleep-promoting brain chemical, which in turn makes your body release adrenaline. Caffeine is the world’s most widely used psychoactive substance, and over-consumption can cause diarrhea, twitching, racing heartbeat, and nervousness – otherwise known as the “caffeine jitters.”

Glucuronolactone: This naturally occurring chemical is found in connective tissues and plant gums. A carbohydrate, glucuronolactone is a stimulant with mild anti-depressant effects that helps improve memory and concentration. It also has detoxifying qualities and can help remove waste from the body.

Inositol: Inositol is a chemical compound and mood-booster that helps the brain use serotonin, and can be found in many foods such as oranges, cantaloupes and high-fiber nuts and beans.

Niacin: B vitamin that helps with energy formation and use.

D-Pantothenol: Also known as vitamin B-5 or Pantothenic Acid, D-Pantothenol is an essential nutrient that improves mood, boosts metabolism and helps to turn fat into energy. Vitamin B-5 deficiency has been connected to a host of mental and physical health problems including acne, fatigue, muscle cramps and apathy.

Pyridoxine HCL: Otherwise known as vitamin B6, pyridoxine HCL helps the body to form red blood cells and use oxygen, improving mood and energy levels.

Vitamin B-12: Like vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 helps form red blood cells for oxygen utilization.

Artificial Colors & Flavors: You didn’t think that glowing pink color was natural, did you? While Red Bull also uses natural flavors, every version of the drink includes artificial flavors and colors.


What About Bull Sperm and Urine? I Don’t See Them on This List

Despite the rumors and enticing urban legends, Red Bull ingredients do not include bull semen, bull urine, or any artificially manufactured stimulants from China. Taurine was first isolated from ox bile, and is indeed found in the large intestines of many animals. But rest assured that the taurine used by Red Bull is synthetically produced in laboratories.

While the word “taurine” takes its name from the Greek word for “bull,” the drink does not take its ingredients from the testicles of a bull.

red bull ingredients

Red Bull New Editions

Red Bull has recently launched five new flavors of its energy drink, each with a different color – and a few different ingredients: Summer Edition (kiwi), Yellow Edition (tropical fruits), Blue Edition (blueberry), Red Edition (Cranberry), Orange Edition (tangerine). Check out the full list of ingredients from the back of each can:

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From the Organic Authority Files

  • Summer Edition: Carbonated Water, Sucrose, Glucose, Citric Acid, Taurine, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Caffeine, Colors, Blue 1, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCI, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12.
  • Yellow Edition: Carbonated Water, Sucrose, Glucose, Citric Acid, Taurine, Sodium Citrate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caffeine, Colors, Niacinamide, Glycerol Esters of Wood Rosins, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Pyridoxine HCI, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12.
  • Blue Edition: Carbonated Water, Sucrose, Glucose, Citric Acid, Taurine, Sodium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Carbonate, Caffeine, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine HCI, Vitamin B12, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Colors, Blue 1.
  • Red Edition: Carbonated Water, Sucrose, Glucose, Citric Acid, Taurine, Sodium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Carbonate, Caffeine, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine HCI, Vitamin B12, Natural Flavors, Colors.
  • Orange Edition: Carbonated Water, Sucrose, Glucose, Citric Acid, Taurine, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Caffeine, Colors, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCI, Calcium Pantothenate, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin B12.

Eco-Friendly Production Practices

Red Bull strives to keep its carbon footprint as small as possible. Along with decreasing its can weight by 60 percent in recent years, the company follows numerousstrategies designed to minimize its environmental impact:

  • 100 percent recyclable aluminum cans.
  • Lightweight, compact cans for more efficient transport packaging that requires 40 percent less space than glass bottles and 30 percent less than PET plastic.
  • Wall-to-wall production saves transport energy – cans are manufactured and filled at the same site, saving 6,641 tons of CO2 emissions every year.
  • Eighty percent of energy used from renewable resources.
  • Eco-Coolers use up to 45 percent less energy than conventional refrigerators.

Always remember to recycle your empty Red Bull can – recycling a can requires 95 percent less energy than producing a new one.

Transparency? Not So Much

Are you looking for a full list of ingredients for Red Bull drinks, including the new products? Good luck. On the website, the only ingredients listed are caffeine, taurine, B-group vitamins, sugars, and Alpine spring water. There’s no mention of Glucuronolactone, inositol, flavorings, or color. And when you search the website for ingredients, you get a list of blog posts about skateboarding, motocross, and hip-hop battles - which are all certainly cool ingredients to life, but not exactly what you’re probably looking for.

I contacted Red Bull four times to request a full list of ingredients for its beverages, and was provided with only a partial list - the same information on the website. After repeatedly requesting a complete list of ingredients, I was told “All ingredients of Red Bull® products are labelled on the can.” Not very helpful -- and not transparent at all.

Red Bull refused to tell me its ingredients, so in order to obtain the information for this piece I drove to the store and took a picture of the back of every flavor and type, which you can read for yourself below.

Red Bull Pop Culture Fun Facts

From early-morning athletes to the late-night club scene, Red Bull is a pervasive source of get-up-and-go. But you might not know some of these unfamiliar facts about the popular energy drink:

  • Red Bull’s logo isn’t a bull. It’s a guar, or Indian bison, which is the largest bovine animal in the world.
  • Red Bull’s original yellow-gold drink is actually berry flavored.
  • The drink company has its own in-game island in PlayStation Home.
  • Red Bull today is less sweet than the original Thai energy drink, Krating Daeng.
  • Red Bull has its own record label, and the Red Bull Music Academy fosters up-and-coming artists (such as AWOLNation) with global festivals and workshops.

Red Bull: Healthy Energy Drink or Not?

There is certainly some accuracy behind Red Bull’s claims to “increase performance, increase concentration and reaction speed, improve vigilance, improve emotional status, and stimulate metabolism.” But what are the tradeoffs?

The truth is, you need sustained energy in a relaxed yet alert state, not energy ups and downs.

Well okay - sometimes you need the “up.” And Red Bull can certainly provide this – just make sure that you can allow your body time to rest for the corresponding “down” that will inevitably follow. If you can afford to give your body and mind some down time, then the quick stimulation from an energy drink might be worth it. Just remember that building up a sleep debt is bad for your system, and a good night’s sleep is one of the most effective (and inexpensive) anti-depressants in the world.

Is There a Better Energy Alternative?

A multivitamin taken once daily that contains all the B vitamins can help to give you sustained energy throughout the day. B vitamins in any form can upset the stomach, so whether you pop a pill or down a can of Red Bull, your body will be better off if it has some food in it to offset the B vitamins’ tummy-aching potentialities.

Is Red Bull Safe?

If you love Red Bull’s jolt however, rest assured that the most dangerous ingredients in the can by far are probably already two of your favorites: caffeine and sugar. All the other active ingredients are in very small doses that are not likely to hurt your system – however if you drink ten cans of Red Bull in a row, you WILL be shaking like a coca leaf and your stomach is probably not going to like you too much. However, the same thing would happen if you consumed ten cups of coffee.

Overall, Red Bull is a safe product in moderation. The trouble with energy drinks occurs when they are mixed with alcohol, such as in the popular “bomb shots” where a shot of hard liquor is dropped into a Red Bull and pounded – often multiple times. The stimulating effects of the energy juice can keep a person up and drinking, when they really should have passed out already and stopped consuming alcohol.

However, if you aren’t in the market for binge drinking and just crack open a can of Red Bull here and there to make it through your next meeting, then breathe easy. Red Bull is no tool of the devil, and sometimes even angels need an energy boost and a little help with their wings. -

Related on Organic Authority

10 Energy Boosters to Beat That Fatigue of YoursAll Soda Categories in 'Terminal Decline', But Energy Drinks on the Rise
FDA Announces Sugar Intake Guidelines, Cites Health Risks in High Sugar Diet

Red bull image by Dawn Ashley
Back of Red Bull can image by author
Bull image by Shutterstock
Red bull cans on shelves image by author

In no way does promote drinking Red Bull or any other energy drink. Consult your personal physician for advice.

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