GABA - the emerging science and how it could help you

GABA - the emerging science and how it could help you

The Latest Developments in the Science of GABA and Your Health

You may know that Gamma-aminobutyric acid, commonly known as GABA, is a critical neurotransmitter in the brain, primarily known for its inhibitory functions that help reduce neuronal excitability. But GABA's influence extends beyond the nervous system, playing vital roles in various bodily functions and behaviours in humans and beyond.

Let’s check out some of the latest developments in the study of GABA, from your muscles to the trillions of bugs populating in your digestive tract.

GABA, Muscles, and Exercise

A recent study explores how GABA functions outside of the nervous system, particularly during exercise. When muscles are engaged in physical activity, they release GABA in a process that depends on muscle protein regulators - molecules that control the growth, repair and function of your muscles. This increase in GABA not only occurs in muscle cells but also elevates its levels in the bloodstream, suggesting that GABA could act as a signalling molecule, linking exercise to various physiological benefits. The study found that GABA may enhance the body's response to growth hormones during exercise, contributing to the overall health benefits of physical activity. These findings indicate that GABA plays a broader role in the body's response to exercise than previously understood, highlighting its potential as a target for improving exercise outcomes and overall health.

GABA as a potential treatment for Obesity?

In recent scientific investigations, GABA is gaining attention for its potential role in combating obesity. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences explored how GABA can influence body weight management and metabolic health. The research found that orally administered GABA significantly reduced weight gain in mice by decreasing fat accumulation. GABA was also shown to improve blood sugar levels, evidence that it could be a promising natural treatment for obesity and its associated metabolic disorders.

This suggests GABA has potential as a safe, natural alternative in the fight against obesity, offering hope for more sustainable, health-conscious solutions to weight management.

GABA and Sleep: New Developments

It’s been known for some time that GABA in the brain plays an vital role in sleep. A recent review of studies has shed light on the potential of GABA in improving sleep quality, offering hope for those struggling with insomnia and sleep disturbances.

Researchers have explored the effects of dietary GABA, found in foods like brown rice, soy, and certain beans, as well as in supplements, on sleep patterns. One study looked at the impact of consuming GABA-enriched rice among middle-aged individuals with poor sleep. Participants who consumed GABA rice reported enhanced sensation upon awakening, suggesting improved sleep quality compared to those who consumed regular white rice.

Similarly, another study involving post-menopausal women found that consuming GABA enriched rice led to improvements in insomnia scores after just four weeks of treatment. In addition to rice, GABA supplements have also shown promise in improving sleep parameters. Studies have reported reductions in sleep onset latency among individuals taking GABA supplements compared to control groups. Interestingly, GABA modulating plants like Passionflower have been investigated for their sleep-inducing effects.

These studies highlight the growing interest in GABA as a potential aid for improving sleep quality and managing sleep-related issues, with the promise of GABA supplementation and GABA-rich foods offering alternatives for individuals seeking better sleep without relying on traditional sleep medications.

GABA, between Gut and Brain

Recent research has uncovered fascinating connections between our gut and brain, shedding light on the potential role of GABA in influencing our mental well-being. Traditionally, scientists believed that GABA couldn't cross the barrier between our bloodstream and brain, so its effects via oral administration were thought to be limited.

However, emerging evidence suggests otherwise.

Recent studies have shown that changes in both circulating and brain levels of GABA are linked to shifts in the composition of our gut microbiota—the trillions of microbes residing in our intestines. This revelation has sparked interest in exploring the potential of GABA as a mediator in the communication between our gut and brain, known as the gut-brain axis. Researchers have identified certain microbes in our gut, like Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium, that can produce GABA. These friendly bacteria can ferment dietary components into GABA, potentially influencing our brain function.

Studies have even found that consuming probiotics containing these GABA-producing bacteria could lead to increased levels of GABA in both the gut and brain. This suggests that maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria, possibly through diet or probiotic supplements, could have a positive impact on conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress.

This emerging field of research holds promise for novel treatments for neurological and psychological disorders, offering hope for those struggling with these conditions. By understanding the intricate relationship between our gut microbiota, GABA production, and brain health, scientists are uncovering new avenues for improving mental well-being, highlighting the profound influence our gut can have on our brain.

Whilst these studies are interesting food for thought, their results aren’t likely to hit your shelves, medicine cabinets, or chemists for a while yet. In the meantime, if you want to have a look at some more practical advice, check out the following posts in our journal on sleep, gut health, and diet.