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Is Red Bull Vegan?
Ingredients And Controversies

Rafid Nassir
Published by Rafid Nassir
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 3, 2021

It comes as no surprise that most energy drinks are full of dodgy stuff, to say the least, but is it really true that one of the main ingredients in this famous energy drink comes from bull’s testicles or is it just a nasty rumor?

What else do you get when you gulp down this great-tasting energy drink? Is there anything to be concerned about? And, most importantly, is the Red Bull drink vegan?

We’ll do our best to give you a straight answer to all of these questions, so let’s dive into details.

What are the Ingredients of Red Bull?

Red Bull Soda Cans

At first glance, the Red Bull drink ingredients list may bring some relief to vegans since it seems that there aren’t any obvious animal ingredients.

However, when you take a closer look, few ‘’suspects’’ stand out.

There are several different types of Red Bull:

  • Red Bull Sugarfree,
  • Red Bull Total Zero
  • Red Bull Editions,
  • Red Bull Organics

and of course, the original Red Bull energy drink.

With the exception of Red Bull Organics varieties, all of these have very similar ingredients, which include:

  • Caffeine
  • B vitamins - Red Bull contains the water-soluble B-group vitamins niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
  • Calcium Pantothenate - the calcium salt vitamin B5 with antioxidant properties
  • Sugars and artificial sweeteners - A can of Red Bull comes with 27g of sugar. If this sounds like a bit too much, there are sugarfree versions available.
  • Artificial colors (Red 40)
  • Acidity regulator (sodium citrate, magnesium carbonate)
  • Citric acid as acidifying agent
  • Sodium Bicarbonate, usually labeled as E500ii - Many food and beverage manufacturers use it as a foaming agent
  • Taurine - This amino acid is naturally produced in human body and can be found in meat, fish, dairy products

We should also mention that Red Bull ingredients may differ between countries.

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Why is Taurine Controversial?

This common ingredient in energy drinks makes many vegans and health-conscious people pause since taurine is usually associated with animal products. While it’s true that

‘’taurine was originally isolated from bull semen, it is now produced synthetically. This compound is an “aminosulfonic acid” that is widely distributed in the human body and plays a role in cardiovascular function, development of the nervous system and formation of bile acids’’ [1].

What about its effectiveness? Can it really give you an energy boost?

‘’While research is mixed, some studies suggest that taurine supplementation might improve athletic performance in some people ’’ [2].

Despite limited research and unconfirmed energy-boosting effects, taurine is safe to consume and is commonly used in supplements and energy drinks.

Are Artificial Colors Considered Vegan?

purple powder on the palms

Most food colors derived from plants are obviously vegan, with the exception of carmine, which uses insects, small cochineal bugs, to obtain bright red food color.

If you are a vegan and trying to stir clear from animal products, pay attention to the label of bright red energy drinks.

This natural non-vegan dye is used in different kinds of foods and skincare products, not just energy drinks, but  what makes Red Bull reddish, is not cochineal-derived color, but artificial food dye.

You would assume that artificial colors would be vegan-friendly, but that’s not always the case because many artificial colors are tested on animals before they can be safely consumed by people.

Instead of carmine, Red Bull contains an artificial color marked as R40.

All Sugar is Vegan, Right?

Surprise, surprise. While most sugar is clearly vegan, the production process of some sweeteners uses animal bone char to make sugar bright white, which is not the case with Red Bull. According to the information on the company's website, Red Bull uses beets as a source of sugar.

Although so called ‘’zero-sugar’’ beverages such as Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar, just to name the few, contain calorie-free sucralose, aspartame, or acesulfame-K, that don’t come from animals, regular consumption of ‘’sugar-free’’ drinks can still increase the risk of type-2 diabetes [3].

Does Red Bull Company Conduct Animal Testing?

According to PETA, Red Bull is vegan, but it’s not included in the list of vegan-friendly companies because they do conduct animal testing:

‘’We can’t include Red Bull on the list of vegan energy boosters because, although it’s a vegan product, the Red Bull GmbH company continues to support tests on animals, which are unnecessary, cruel, and not required by law’’ [4].

Is Red Bull Good for You?

red bull can and question marks

So, yes, Red Bull is vegan, but would your doctor recommend it? Although there are some added benefits of B vitamins, this still doesn’t make it the most nutritious energy drink. Large quantities of this energy booster can cause some side effects:

  1. Caffeine overdose - jitters, insomnia, irregular or increased heart rate, increased blood pressure

‘’As one small 8.4-ounce (260-ml) can of Red Bull provides 75 mg of caffeine, drinking more than 5 cans per day could increase your risk of caffeine overdose’’ [5].

  1. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes - long term use of energy boosters high in sugar increases the risk of developing this disease
  2. Teeth damage - Regular intake of sugar-packed acidic beverages such as Red Bull may erode your tooth enamel

So, once you get over a few minor inconveniences, such as heart palpitations and caffeine-induced jitters, you should be fine. Joking aside, unless you don’t go overboard with Red Bull, or any other energy drink for that matter, you shouldn’t be overly concerned for your health.

If you really enjoy the unique taste and jolt of energy of this energy booster, then go ahead, there’s nothing to worry about if you don’t consume ten Red Bull cans a day.  By the way, you know that salty snacks and fizzy drinks go hand in hand. So if you're a fan of that combo, throw some vegan Doritos flavor in the mix.

So, Can Vegans Drink Red Bull?

Although it’s a fact that Red Bull is vegan-friendly, strict vegans might still have a concern over artificial colors and ingredients used in factory-produced energy drinks. There are some great vegan energy drinks out there that don’t include animal suffering.

Also, if you are a clean eater, you might want to consider healthier alternatives to highly-processed, energy drinks in general, such as natural smoothies or organic energy boosters that don’t come with such a high dose of sugar.


References

  1. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health-you-asked/it-true-taurine-energy-drinks-extracted-bull-semen
  2.  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/taurine/faq-20058177
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-bull-side-effects#side-effects
  4. https://www.peta.org/living/food/vegan-energy-drinks/
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-bull-side-effects#side-effects

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