Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey found over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).

GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 

Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey found over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.

 

 

 Life is stressful, with family, jobs, finances, health and time pressures, among others, all placing a demand on individuals.  In a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Surveyfound over 30% of respondents indicated mental alertness and stress relief as key motivators to choosing certain foods and supplements.

 

The market for such targeted health and wellness supplements, foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one.  According to market analyst Packaged Facts in January 2012, worldwide demand for nutraceutical ingredients will increase 7.2% annually to $23.7 billion in 2015.  Naturally derived substances, consisting of herbal and botanical extracts and animal- and marine-based derivatives, will see the largest rates of growth, with worldwide demand for these projected to increase 8.9% annually to $7.3 billion in 2015.

 

The unique plant-based nutritional ingredient gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that the body synthesizes from glutamine, which is vital in the brain. GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers between neurons (nerve cells).


GABA is used for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, reducing blood pressure and relieving pain. Supplementation of 500-1,000mg of GABA daily is recommended as a natural relaxant and sleep aid. Pharmaceutical preparations of GABA treat both epilepsy and mood disorders, as it induces tranquility in individuals with a high activity of manic behavior and acute agitation.

 

GABA is normally manufactured by the body in sufficient quantity; however, various factors may reduce GABA levels, including a lack of glutamine (the precursor of GABA); low levels of vitamins B1 and B6, and the minerals zinc, manganese and iron; chronic stress; chronic pain; a lack of sleep; exposure to environmental toxins; and alcohol withdrawal. A GABA deficiency may result in muscle fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood and sleep difficulties, and it has been suggested that a shortage of GABA may cause panic attacks, since an intake of tranquilizers can increase the level of GABA in the body.

 

Possible Multiple Health Benefits

GABA has been most frequently studied for its calming effects, as it influences mood by reducing high levels of the hormones adrenalin, noradrenalin and dopamine, while increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin production is associated with a calming and an overall positive mood state, whereas adrenalin and dopamine produce enhanced feelings of euphoria and hyper-manic tendencies1.

 

Clinical and basic scientific data suggest low GABA levels play a role in both major depressive disorder (MDD) and primary insomnia (PI). The expression of 32 gene markers involved in the pathways in two of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, GABA and l-glutamic acid (glutamate), were assessed post-mortem in elderly non-suicidal patients with MDD or bipolar disorder (BD)2. The transcript levels of GABA and glutamate were significantly decreased in both mood disorders. The observed alterations in the levels of GABA and glutamate indicate a diminished activity of these important neurotransmitters.

 

PI is closely related to MDD. In a recent clinical trial, levels of a GABA-specific marker were measured in 20 non-medicated adults with PI and 20 age- and sex-controls. Compared with healthy sleepers, PI subjects showed significantly lower GABA in two key areas of the brain: occipital cortex (OC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This study is the first to demonstrate regional reductions of GABA in PI in the OC and ACC3. Similar results have been reported in patients suffering from schizophrenia and with BD4. GABA has also been reportedly effective in improving memory in people suffering from amnesia5.

 

GABAsupplementation also appears to improve the ability of humans to deal with mental stress6. Some 63 adults participated in a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, crossover-designed study over two days. Capsules containing 100mg of GABA or dextrin as a placebo were used as test samples. The results showed that EEG activities -- including alpha band and beta band brain waves -- decreased depending on the mental stress task loads. GABA intake diminished this decrease, compared with the placebo condition. Thus, GABA might have alleviated the stress induced by the mental tasks.

 

Interestingly, some botanicals that alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and insomnia act by inhibiting GABA catabolism (breakdown)7. The supplement Melissa officinalis L. provided stress improvement following a prospective, open-label, 15-day study on stressed volunteers, with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Significant reductions in anxiety manifestations (18%), anxiety-associated symptoms (15%) and insomnia (42%) were found.  The authors attributed the declines in stress-related markers were due to a preservation of GABA levels in the brain.

 

An interesting area of recent investigation focuses upon the effects of GABA on the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose levels. GABA was shown to regulate insulin secretion from pancreatic islet cells in a manner dependent upon glucose levels8.At high glucose concentrations, GABA increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and suppressed insulin release when glucose was low.

 

Preliminary research also suggests a role in the treatment and potential prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. GABA is popular among bodybuilders, as it is believed to increase the level of human growth hormone, although this effect is based mostly on testimonials and has not been demonstrated in human clinical research.

 

An alternative to supplementing with GABA is to eat GABA-containing foods, the most common food source being produced from Hatsuga genmai, unpolished brown Japanese rice that has been allowed to germinate in order to alter the flavor and also to increase levels of GABA. Hatsuga genmai has a softer texture than brown rice and a pleasant fragrance, yet it retains the health benefits of brown rice and is marketed in Japan as a health food product, known as “sleepy rice.”

 

Although the role of GABA is not as clear in plants, there is increasing evidence of its importance in various aspects of plant development, metabolism and responses to stress. Reports in the literature suggest that pre-germination of waxy hull-less barley results in upwards of 5-fold higher GABA than found in germinated rice9, 10. Levels of the B vitamin niacin were also higher. GABA is also found in wheat, rye, legumes and oats.

 

GABA is an interesting supplement and appears to have beneficial effects in situations where neurotransmitter activity in the brain may be altered. As scientific support and consumer interest grows, the potential for grain based foods naturally enriched with GABA shows promise. 

 

References

 

1.     Prasad, C. 1998.  “Food, Mood and Health: A Neurobiologic Outlook.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 31(12):1517-1527.

2.     Zhao J., A.M. Bao, X.R. Qi, W. Kamphuis, S. Luchetti, J.S. Lou and D.F. Swaab. 2012. “Gene Expression of GABA and Glutamate Pathway Markers in the Prefrontal Cortex of Non-suicidal Elderly Depressed Patients.” J Affect Disord.Feb 20. [Epub ahead of print].

3.     Plante D.T., J.E. Jensen, L. Schoerning, J.W. Winkelman. 2012. “Reduced γ-Aminobutyric Acid in Occipital and Anterior Cingulate Cortices in Primary Insomnia: A Link to Major Depressive Disorder?” Neuropsychopharm. Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.4. [Epub ahead of print].

4.     Sheng G., M. Demers, S. Subburaju, F.M. Benes. 2012. “Differences in the Circuitry-Based Association of Copy Numbers and Gene Expression Between the Hippocampi of Patients With Schizophrenia and the Hippocampi of Patients With Bipolar Disorder.” Arch Gen Psychiatry.Feb 6. [Epub ahead of print]

5.     Tellez R., L. Gómez-Víquez, A. Meneses. 2012. “GABA, Glutamate, Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters Expression on Memory Formation and Amnesia.” Neurobiol Learn Mem.Feb;97(2):189-201. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

6.     Yoto A., S. Murao, M. Motoki, Y. Yokoyama, et al. 2011. “Oral Intake of γ-aminobutyric Acid Affects Mood and Activities of Central Nervous System During Stressed Condition Induced by Mental Tasks.” Amino Acids.Dec 28. [Epub ahead of print].

7.     Cases, J., A. Ibarra, N. Feuillère, et al. 2011. “Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances.” Med J Nutr Metab. 4(3):211-218.

8.     Dong H., M. Kumar, Y. Zhang, et al. 2006. “Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Up- and Down-regulates Insulin Secretion from Beta Cells in Concert with Changes in Glucose Concentration.” Diabetologia.49(4):697-705.

9.     Kihara, M., Y. Okada, T. Iimure and K. Ito. 2007. “Accumulation and Degradation of Two Functional Constituents, GABA and Beta-glucan, and Their Varietal Differences in Germinated Barley Grains.” Breeding Sci. 57:85-89.

10.  Ambrose, S.A., N. Rudnitskaya, M. Pickard and R.W. Purves. 2010. “A New LC-MS Method for Investigating the Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) Shunt Pathway in Plants.” Poster presentation. 2010 Annual ASMS meeting.