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GABA Benefits, Uses, Side Effects and Functions

Discover the Function, Sources and Benefits of the Health Supplement Ingredient Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, or GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid, more commonly known as GABA, is a non-protein amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter. GABA and its precursor, glutamate, are the most abundant neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, particularly in the cerebral cortex. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter while GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, so their actions are complementary. In addition to being produced within the body, GABA is also available as an ingredient in select health and bodybuilding supplements such as HGF MAX and HGH 30,000 Nanograms spray.

Functions of GABA

As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA balances the excitatory effect of glutamate in the developed brain and helps to control cortical stimulation. Due to this action, GABA can have a calming or tranquilizing effect, including anxiolytic and anti-convulsive properties. Evidence suggests it may also stimulate human growth hormone (HGH) production, thereby serving as a natural HGH releaser.

Sources of GABA

GABA is produced by the body, where it is synthesized from glutamate through decarboxylation. While GABA is not naturally found in fresh foods, it can be created through lactobacillus fermentation; therefore, GABA may be consumed in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kefir and yogurt, as well as in GABA-fortified foods. In addition, foods that contain GABA’s precursors—glutamic acid or L-glutamine—can help boost GABA levels. Dietary sources of glutamate/glutamine include whole grains, brown rice, beef liver, pork, halibut, mackerel, lentils, broccoli, bananas and tree nuts. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 are required for GABA synthesis, so taking these vitamins may help support GABA production. Finally, GABA may also be consumed orally as an ingredient in natural dietary supplements.

GABA Benefits and Uses

Evidence has shown that GABA may help treat hypertension, so it is sometimes used in medications that are designed to lower blood pressure. The method of action appears to be due to GABA’s ability to suppress the sympathetic nervous activity that leads to high blood pressure. GABA’s anticonvulsant properties suggest that it may be effective in reducing the frequency of seizures in some individuals, while its calming effects may help reduce stress, relieve anxiety, elevate mood, and improve focus and concentration.

A number of studies have indicated that GABA may act as a natural HGH releaser, or HGH secretagogue. In light of its potential to stimulate HGH production, GABA-containing supplements are often taken to support lean muscle growth, decrease body fat and enhance exercise tolerance. Furthermore, GABA is believed to have an analgesic effect, so it may help to alleviate feelings of pain or soreness after an intense workout.

Side Effects of GABA and Potential Interactions

GABA supplementation is generally considered safe for healthy adults; no side effects have been reported at commonly administered dosages. However, since GABA has been shown to reduce blood pressure, supplements containing GABA may increase the risk of hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure) when taken in conjunction with antihypertensive drugs.

More detailed safety information on GABA side effects and interactions can be found in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (subscription required). As with any medication or health supplement, it is best to consult your physician before taking dietary supplements containing GABA.

GABA Research and Studies

Many researchers have explored the use of GABA to treat medical conditions such as hypertension and anxiety. Numerous animal and human studies—including some published in the British Journal of Nutrition, Journal of Physiological Anthropology, Clinical and Experimental Hypertension, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and Transgenic Research—have revealed GABA’s ability to lower blood pressure in cases of hypertension. Other studies have demonstrated its relaxing, immunity-enhancing and anti-anxiety effects. According to an article in BioFactors, GABA not only induces relaxation but also reduces anxiety; and evidence suggests it may enhance immunity under stress conditions. An animal study published Neuroscience found that GABA decreases anxiety-like behavior in rats. Furthermore, researchers documented GABA’s neuroprotective effects in the Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, which reported that GABA-producing Lactobacillus buchneri protected neuronal cells against neurotoxicant-induced cell death. Some researchers have explored the potential of GABA to be used in an analgesic capacity for pain relief—as described in Advances in Pharmacology, Neurochemical Research and the European Journal of Pharmacology—though further evidence is needed to accurately evaluate its effectiveness for this use.

Multiple studies have indicated that GABA is capable of promoting human growth hormone (HGH) secretion; relevant findings have been published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Acta Endocrinologica, Medicine and Sport Science, and other journals and textbooks. One study featured in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise examined the effect of GABA ingestion on immunoreactive growth hormone (irGH) and immunofunctional growth hormone (ifGH) release at rest and after exercise, and found that GABA elevates both resting and post-exercise HGH concentrations. Bodybuilders and athletes often take GABA supplements to help increase muscle growth, enhance muscle tone, burn fat and improve exercise tolerance. However, while GABA has been shown to stimulate HGH secretion, further clinical studies are needed to prove a direct correlation between GABA and other purported health and fitness benefits.

For additional GABA research, refer to the PubMed site sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

HGH.com Supplements With GABA

Athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts can leverage the potential benefits of GABA through natural health and bodybuilding supplements from HGH.com:

HGF MAX – Purity Select HGF MAX is intended to boost HGH production with a proprietary blend of ingredients, including GABA and key amino acids. This powerful dietary supplement can help improve muscle tone, build muscle, promote fat loss, boost energy and increase metabolism.

HGH Spray – HGH 30,000 Nanograms is designed to stimulate HGH release through a combination of GABA, L-group amino acids and other natural ingredients. Available in a convenient spray form, this product is formulated to support muscle growth, mass gain, fat burning and other benefits.

References (Function, Sources, Benefits/Uses and Side Effects/Interactions):

Clark, Josh. “Can Food Make People Happy?”; How Stuff Works; accessed May 13, 2015. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/food-happiness1.htm>

Examine.com. “GABA”; published under “Supplements”; accessed May 13, 2015. <http://examine.com/supplements/GABA>

Haas, Ryan. “The Effectiveness of GABA as a Weightlifting Supplement”; published in the “Sports and Fitness” section on Livestrong.com; October 24, 2013. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/442474-the-effectiveness-of-gaba-weight-lifting-supplement>

Hunt Renee. “A List of Foods With the Highest GABA”; published in the “Food and Health” section on Livestrong.com; April 19, 2015. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/478780-a-list-of-foods-with-the-highest-gaba>

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. “GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)”; Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database; updated April 9, 2014. <http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/nd/Search.aspx?cs=&s=ND&pt=100&id=464&fs=ND&searchid=51623304>

Petroff, Ognen A.C. “GABA and Glutamate in the Human Brain”; Neuroscientist; December 2002. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12467378>

Stellpflug, Craig. “For a Healthy Brain and Nervous System – Gotta Have GABA”; Natural News; August 13, 2012. <http://www.naturalnews.com/036778_GABA_brain_health_nervous_system.html>

WebMD and Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. “GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)”; published under “Vitamins & Supplements”; accessed May 13, 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-464-gaba%20%28gamma-aminobutyric%20acid%29.aspx?activeingredientid=464&activeingredientname=gaba%20%28gamma-aminobutyric%20acid%29>

Research Sources:

Abdou, Adham M.; S. Higashiguchi; et al. “Relaxation and Immunity Enhancement Effects of Aamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Administration in Humans”; BioFactors; 2006. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16971751>

Cavagnini, Francesco; Giampiero Benetti; et al. “Effect of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid on Growth Hormone and Prolactin Secretion in Man: Influence of Pimozide and Domperidone”; The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism; October 1980. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7419665>

Cavagnini, Francesco; Cecilia Invitti; et al. “Effect of Acute and Repeated Administration of Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) on Growth Hormone and Prolactin Secretion in Man”; Acta Endocrinologica; February 1980. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7376786>

Cho, Yu Ran; Ji Yoon Chang; and Hae Choon Chang. “Production of β-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) by Lactobacillus Buchneri Isolated from Kimchi and Its Neuroprotective Effect on Neuronal Cells”; Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology; January 2007. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18051360>

Enna, S.J. and Kenneth E. McCarson. “The Role of GABA in the Mediation and Perception of Pain”; Advances in Pharmacology; 2006. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17175808>

Hayakawaa, Kazuhito; Masayuki Kimura; et al. “Effect of a Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid-Enriched Dairy Product on the Blood Pressure of Spontaneously Hypertensive and Normotensive Wistar-Kyoto Rats”; British Journal of Nutrition; September 2004. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15469644>

Kowaka, Emi; Yasuka Shimajiri; et al. “Field Trial of GABA-Fortified Rice Plants and Oral Administration of Milled Rice in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats”; Transgenic Research; December 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25542346>

McCarson, Kenneth E. and S.J. Enna. “GABA Pharmacology: The Search for Analgesics”; Neurochemical Research; October 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24532294>

Munro, Gordon; Rikke R. Hansen; and Naheed R. Mirza. “GABA(A) Receptor Modulation: Potential to Deliver Novel Pain Medicines?”; European Journal of Pharmacology; September 15, 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23500203>

Okita, Yoshimitsu; Harunobu Nakamura; et al. “Effects of Vegetable Containing Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid on the Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System in Healthy Young People”; Journal of Physiological Anthropology; 2009. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19483370>

Powers, M. “GABA Supplementation and Growth Hormone Response”; Medicine and Sport Science; 2012. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23075553>

Powers, Michael E.; Joshua F. Yarrow; et al. “Growth Hormone Isoform Responses to GABA Ingestion at Rest and after Exercise”; Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; January 2008. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18091016>

Shimada, Morio; Takashi Hasegawa; et al. “Anti-Hypertensive Effect of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)-Rich Chlorella on High-Normal Blood Pressure and Borderline Hypertension in Placebo-Controlled Double Blind Study”; Clinical and Experimental Hypertension; June 2009. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19811362>

Vaz, Gisele Cristiane; Ana Paula Oliveira Bahia; et al. “Cardiovascular and Behavioral Effects Produced by Administration of Liposome-Entrapped GABA Into the Rat Central Nervous System”; Neuroscience; January 29, 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446344>

Yoshimura, Mineka; Tohru Toyoshi; et al. “Antihypertensive Effect of a γ-Aminobutyric Acid Rich Tomato Cultivar ‘DG03-9’ in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats”; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; January 13, 2010. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20050705>




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