People claim that despite GABA's important benefits to the human health, it also has its own set of controversies. And, one of which is its potency and efficacy as a nootropic supplement. Have these claims been proven already or do they still remain as something which confuses us? For us to be enlightened, let us know first what GABA really is and why it has been used or is not used by people at the present time.
Basically, GABA or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid is the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter of our body's Central Nervous System. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, this implies that GABA acts by reducing the activity of our neurons such as those associated with overexcitement or heightened state of excitability. It also regulates an individual's muscle tone. Although GABA has been classified as an amino acid, it does not work like one since it is not involved in the protein building process. (1)
Now, what are the benefits that GABA can provide us? Since it is inhibitory in nature, GABA is a known anxiolytic. It promotes feelings of calmness, reduces stress, anxiety and nervousness, can increase focus and concentration and can also be used as a sleeping aid. In addition to that, GABA works by balancing chemicals in the brain such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is the neurotransmitter involved in our body's “fight or flight"response. It provides our muscles the energy to respond quickly and more effectively when faced in a threat (2). Meanwhile, norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter also being referred to as the stress hormone. As the name implies, it is responsible for our body's ability to respond to stress and is also involved in the “fight or flight"response. Norepinephrine increases a person's breathing rate and heart rate thus, increasing blood circulation. Now with GABA at hand, it balances and regulates the levels of these two other neurotransmitters which then results in a calm body and state of mind. In contrast to that, low levels of GABA have been associated with feelings of restlessness, depression, anxiety, and excessive stress.