No one escapes the stress of our 24/7 contemporary lifestyles. Research has exhaustively demonstrated its damaging effects. The list is long and familiar. It includes the seemingly benign and the fatal. Just to increase your stress level for a moment here’s a sampling; headache, stomach upset, sleep problems, anxiety, overeating, drug and alcohol abuse, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, depression, erectile dysfunction, irregular menstrual cycle, decreased libido, impaired immune system…
What if a natural compound could prevent or ameliorate these conditions caused by our unnatural lifestyles.
L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea, appears to fit the bill.
Discovered by Japanese scientists in 1949, it has fueled a remarkable body of research. Even the good science writing on this powerful agent reads like an advertisement.
By boosting levels of several neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin and dopamine, L-thianine exerts a broad spectrum of health benefits. These neurotransmitters regulate emotion, concentration, energy, appetite and sleep. L-thianine decreases excitatory brain chemicals that produce stress and anxiety while increasing those that promote calm.
Unlike most pharmaceutical agents used to combat stress, L-thianine exerts its therapeutic effect without sedation. Researchers have documented enhanced alpha brain wave activity, the pattern associated with REM sleep and the wakeful relaxation achieved through meditation. At night this allows one to fall asleep faster and enjoy better quality sleep. However during the day it promotes a calm focused wakefulness.
By lowering levels of stress hormones (cortisol, corticosterone) that impair memory formation, L-theanine boosts cognitive function, attention span and learning. Research also suggests that this mechanism also slows heart rate and reduces blood pressure.
And yes, it helps with weight loss. L-thianine provides umami or the savory taste of teas. Investigators have found umami lowers the risk for obesity by stimulating metabolism, boosting a sense of fullness and lengthening the after-meal time before hunger returns.
Extensive investigation indicates that L-thianine is well tolerated but one should always consult with a physician before starting a supplement. Because it can lower blood pressure, those with low blood pressure should be cautious. Possible interactions with other medications or supplements that effect blood pressure should also be considered.
In conclusion, L-thianine appears to be a remarkably effective and safe antidote to many of the consequences of stress.. It is not however a replacement for the truly miraculous health benefits of physical activity. So keep moving and explore nature’s anti-stress agent.