What is GABA?
GABA or gamma-Aminobutyric acid (γ-Aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter of the central nervous system and is naturally found, in lower concentration, in glutamine producing foods such as almonds, broccoli, halibut, beef liver, whole wheat, whole grain. GABA was first discovered in 1863 as an amino acid. In 1950 it was reported that GABA can act as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Today, a number of companies sell GABA compounds as dietary supplements.
How does GABA work
Since GABA acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter hindering the process of neurotransmission among neurons. It is produced from glutamate which is analog in functions. Glutamate facilitates the neurotransmission whereas GABA hinders this process. A balance between the two is necessary to enhance cognitive performance. There are both benefits and risks associated with lower or higher levels of GABA within the central nervous system. To control lack of GABA, GABA supplements are administered while excess of GABA is controlled by other medication.
Lack of GABA can increase the neurotransmission unnecessarily causing headache, panic or anxiety disorders as well as cognitive disorders due to too much brain activity. Similar to taking high amount of caffeine. Increased GABA activity however, have relaxing, anti-anxiety, and anti-convulsive effects which is why GABA supplements are sold as natural tranquilizers to relieve stress. GABA supplements have always been questioned whether they reach to brain or not? Pure GABA is incapable of crossing blood-brain barrier but GABA supplements in which GABA is tagged with other molecules, are aimed at delivering GABA to the brain effectively.
Effects of GABA
GABA supplements are popular among athletes, especially body builders because GABA is directly responsible for the regulation of muscle tone. It has also been shown by some researchers that using GABA may control high blood pressure. It is also suggested that GABA supplements may increase the insulin levels for controlling blood sugar but the hypothesis is not clinically tested. Low GABA levels could responsible for women undergoing depression during premenstrual period. However there is another study available which suggests the opposite. So use of GABA by affected women should be backed by a physician’s recommendations.
Side Effects of GABA
Although GABA is considered safe in lower amounts, higher GABA doses may result in burning sensations, increased breathing rate and blood pressure or nausea and anxiety attacks.
People suffering seizures, should be careful in using GABA supplements. Use of GABA by pregnant or lactating women is also not well-studied. Due to its drowsing effect, one should not drive or operate heavy machinery after administering GABA. For recommended dosages as well as necessary instructions, a physician should be consulted prior administration of GABA supplements.
GABA and high blood pressure - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19811362
GABA and insulin levels - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4639630/