Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an amino acid and powerful neurotransmitter, may become a valuable ally in the battle against the bulge. GABA has been touted as a weight-loss supplement, but little scientific evidence existed to support such claims. However, there are encouraging signs that GABA plays a key role in energy balance and, as such, can help to facilitate weight loss.
What It Is
GABA acts primarily as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This action makes it useful in calming nervous activity in the brain, which manifests itself as anxiety. Because of these properties, GABA has long been available as a supplement, marketed primarily as a natural tranquilizer. This application has been the subject of heated controversy, with many scientists questioning whether GABA in supplement form can actually reach the brain. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence of GABA’s usefulness as a calming supplement continues to mount.
A study published in the August 2008 issue of "Nature Neuroscience" shows evidence of GABA’s role in the regulation of energy balance. The primary goal was to test the theory that GABA mediates the function of AgRP, or Agouti-related protein, neurons known to regulate feeding and energy balance. Researchers generated a batch of laboratory mice with disrupted release of GABA from the AgRP neurons. These mice exhibited profound changes in metabolic function, were lean, showed less response to the appetite-stimulating effects of the ghrelin hormone and were more active than mice in the control group.
Human Growth Hormone
In “Fitness ABCs,” author Chuck Krautblatt points out that GABA also is believed to stimulate the pituitary gland to produce more human growth hormone, or HgH. HgH in turn promotes a decrease in body fat and increased muscle growth. These properties also make GABA attractive to those who are trying to shed pounds.
Scientists researching the role of GABA in increasing HgH production used a total daily dosage of 3 grams to 18 grams, according to Denver Naturopathic Clinic. It would be advisable to start low and increase dosage gradually until the desired effects are obtained. Whatever the total daily dosage, divide it into three or four equal portions to be spaced over the course of your waking hours.
Possible Side Effects
Higher doses of GABA -- over 4 grams -- may produce a sensation of tingling, which can be eased by reducing your daily intake of the supplement. Other possible side effects include drowsiness. Do not take GABA if you have been diagnosed with bipolar or unipolar depressive disorders. Exercise caution in taking GABA with alcohol, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.