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GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)

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GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. Low levels of GABA may be linked to:

  • Anxiety or mood disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic pain

Researchers suspect that GABA may boost mood or have a calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system.

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Why do people take GABA?

People take GABA as a supplement to try to:

They may also take GABA to try to:

  • Relieve pain or discomfort from injuries
  • Increase tolerance to exercise
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Burn fat
  • Increase the growth of lean muscle mass

Limited studies have shown a possible link between GABA and lowered blood pressure. But research on GABA supplements is lacking. Researchers haven't confirmed whether or not it works for the many reasons people take it.

It is not clear whether GABA taken as a supplement reaches the brain in large enough quantities to have an effect. There isn't a set dosage for GABA at this time.

Can you get GABA naturally from foods?

You cannot get GABA naturally from foods. But a variety of foods contain substances such as flavonoids that influence how GABA works in the brain. These foods include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Teas
  • Red wine

What are the risks of taking GABA?

Side effects. There has not been enough research to uncover the side effects of GABA supplements.

Risks. Overall, there isn't enough information to be sure about the safety of GABA. For this reason, it's best to play it safe and not use GABA if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Interactions. Not enough is known about how GABA may interact with drugs, foods, or other herbs and supplements.

The FDA does not regulate supplements. Be sure to tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications, foods, or other herbs and supplements. He or she can let you know if the supplement might raise your risks. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 07, 2012

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