Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) was first synthesized in 1883. It was first identified as a biochemical substance in 1910 by Ackermann and Kutscher who showed that putrefactive bacteria could produce it by decarboxylation of glutamic acid. It was later found in many microorganisms and plant tissues and in 1950; its presence in considerable amounts in mammalian brain was also reported.

Chemical structure of γ-aminobutyric acid

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

Chemical and physical properties of GABA

IUPAC Name: 4-aminobutanoic acid
Molecular Weight (Molar Mass): 103.121 g/mol
Molecular Formula (Structural Formula): C4H9NO2
Canonical SMILES: C(CC(=O)O)CN
CAS Number: 56-12-2
MDL Number: MFCD00008226
Melting point: 203.7 °C (398.7 °F; 476.8 K)
Solubility in water: 20 mg/mL (25 °C)
2D Molfile: Get the molfile
Other names: 4-aminobutanoic acid; 4-aminobutyric acid; 4Abu; GABA; gamma-Aminobutyric acid; piperidic acid; piperidinic acid.

Functions of Gamma-aminobutyric acid

GABA is a non-essential amino acid synthesized from glutamic acid. Within the central nervous system, GABA emerges as a crucial regulator of nerve cell activity, playing a pivotal role in maintaining the delicate balance of neurotransmission. Not only is it non-essential, but its indispensability for brain metabolism underscores its significance in neurological functions.

The primary function of GABA in the central nervous system revolves around its role as a neurotransmitter. Acting as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA modulates nerve cell activity by reducing the excitability of neurons. This regulatory function is essential for preventing excessive neural activity, contributing to the overall stability and proper functioning of the nervous system.

Some researchers highlight an intriguing aspect of GABA's influence on hormone release. They propose its potential usefulness in reducing enlarged prostate problems. GABA stimulates the release of the hormone prolactin by the pituitary gland, potentially alleviating issues related to prostate enlargement. Recommended doses range from 20 mg to 40 mg daily, preferably dissolved under the tongue. However, it's crucial to emphasize that GABA supplementation should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical advice in addressing prostate problems.

GABA's therapeutic potential has been harnessed in the treatment of various medical conditions. Notably, it has been employed in managing epilepsy and hypertension. The mechanism involves GABA inducing a state of calmness and tranquility by inhibiting neurotransmitters that decrease the activity of neurons associated with manic behavior and acute agitation. This calming effect positions GABA as a valuable asset in neurological disorder management.

In conclusion, the multifaceted role of GABA as a neurotransmitter and its therapeutic applications underscore its significance in neurological health. From regulating nerve cell activity to its potential in addressing specific medical conditions, GABA continues to be a subject of interest in both neuroscience and clinical research. Further exploration of its mechanisms and applications holds promise for enhancing our understanding of neural function and improving therapeutic interventions.

Is a GABA supplement available?

Yes, GABA supplements are available and can be found in various forms, including capsules, tablets, and powder. These supplements are marketed for their potential to support relaxation, reduce stress, and promote better sleep. However, it's essential to approach GABA supplementation with caution and be aware of certain considerations.

Crossing the Blood-Brain Barrier: GABA molecules are relatively large, and there is debate among researchers about whether supplemental GABA can effectively cross the blood-brain barrier to exert its calming effects directly in the brain. Some studies suggest that GABA ingested through supplements may not effectively reach the central nervous system in significant quantities.

Individual Variation: Responses to GABA supplementation can vary among individuals. While some people may report feeling more relaxed or experiencing improved sleep with GABA supplements, others may not notice any discernible effects.

Professional Guidance: Before considering GABA supplementation or any other dietary supplement, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have existing medical conditions or are taking medications. This is crucial to ensure that the supplement is safe and compatible with your overall health.

Dosage Considerations: If someone decides to try a GABA supplement, it's essential to follow recommended dosages and guidelines. Excessive intake of GABA supplements may lead to side effects or interactions with medications.

Dietary sources of Gamma-aminobutyric acid

Here are you can find some food sources that contain GABA:

Fermented Foods. Fermented foods are known to contain higher levels of GABA due to the action of certain bacteria that produce GABA during fermentation. Examples of such foods include:
Fermented soy products like tempeh and miso
Fermented grains, such as in the fermentation of rice to produce sake (Japanese rice wine)

Vegetables. Vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and peas have been found to contain GABA, although in lower concentrations compared to fermented foods.

Tea. Certain types of tea, particularly varieties of tea made from Camellia sinensis leaves (such as green tea), have been reported to contain GABA. GABA tea is often processed in a way that enhances GABA levels.

Sprouted Grains. Sprouting grains, seeds, and legumes may increase GABA content. Some studies suggest that the germination process can lead to an accumulation of GABA in sprouted products.

It's important to note that the GABA content in food can be influenced by factors such as processing, cooking methods, and the specific cultivar or variety of the food. Additionally, while GABA from food sources is generally considered safe, its effectiveness in exerting physiological effects in the body may be influenced by various factors, including its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Incorporating a variety of GABA-rich foods into a balanced diet can contribute to overall GABA intake. However, if someone is considering GABA supplementation for specific health reasons, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.