Health Benefits of GABA

GABA, also known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a natural chemical produced by the brain. It is a valuable anti-anxiety neurotransmitter. 

When we experience stress, the adrenal glands are triggered to produce hormones that trigger what we know as fight-or-flight responses, like speeding up your heartbeat or giving you an adrenaline rush. GABA counteracts these natural stimulants by relaxing the brain.

GABA is most often used as an anti-anxiety remedy but has many other reported benefits. Supplementing with GABA can help with inflammation issues, which means it may provide relief for people with PMS or other conditions that come with chronic pain.

Especially active people may also find that GABA helps with recovery and may increase exercise tolerance.

Health Benefits

The most important function of GABA is in our brain. When GABA levels get too low, it’s difficult for the body to relax after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release. Low GABA activity leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders.

GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good. But GABA can also help with the prevention and treatment of other health issues.

Anxiety Management

Multiple studies have been conducted to determine how GABA can be used to treat anxiety.

In one clinical trial, researchers used EEG to measure participants’ brain waves after taking either GABA or a placebo. Just one hour after taking GABA, they saw a significant increase in alpha waves, which caused feelings of calm and relaxation.

Controlled Hypertension

The effects of GABA can be used to stabilize blood pressure in people with hypertension. High blood pressure is a factor that affects your risk of having a stroke, heart attacks, or heart failure

One study examined that way GABA lowered the blood pressure of adults with diagnosed hypertension. Participants took varying doses of GABA and monitored their blood pressure levels over eight weeks. Those taking 80 milligrams of GABA per day — the highest dosage — saw a significant drop in blood pressure.

Lower Obesity Risk

Obesity is a serious health condition that affects nearly 40% of Americans. It is responsible for an increased risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and osteoarthritis. In a study done in Korea, researchers looked at GABA’s possible ability to lower the chances of developing obesity in people.

Participants received either GABA or a placebo and abstained from exercise for eight weeks. GABA supplements caused a reduction in body fat and triglyceride levels while increasing lean muscle mass.

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Health Risks

GABA is produced naturally in the body, and GABA supplementation is considered safe. There are no reported drug interactions. However, there isn’t enough research to conclude that GABA supplements are 100% safe for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

To be completely safe, talk to your doctor before adding GABA supplements to your daily routine for any reason.

Amounts and Dosage

The recommended dosage of GABA varies by age, gender, and condition. Follow directions on product labels and check with your doctor to make sure the dosages are appropriate for you. 

You can find GABA in a few food sources such as spinach, sweet potato, kale, and broccoli.  Other foods help boost GABA production in the body, such as:

  • Barley
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Rice
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 07, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Algae: “Effects of γ-aminobutyric acid-enriched fermented sea tangle (Laminaria japonica) on brain derived neurotrophic factor-related muscle growth and lipolysis in middle aged women.”

BioFactors: “Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans.”

Japanese Pharmacology and Therapeutics: “Effects of GABA supplementation on blood pressure and safety in adults with mild hypertension.”

Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: “The Improvement of Sleep by Oral Intake of GABA and Apocynum venetum Leaf Extract.”

Molecules: “An Updated Review on Pharmaceutical Properties of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid.”

Nutrients: “Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge.”

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