L-Theanine Benefits for Mood, Sleep & Weight Loss

L-Theanine Benefits for Mood, Sleep & Weight Loss

So why do the Japanese love theanine so much?

Of all the plants we use in our daily lives, arguably the most healthful is green tea. It is a wonderful botanical that has been consumed by humans for millenia and has had a starring role in many cultures and societies. The Japanese hold it in such high esteem, they have an entire ceremony dedicated to it. Full of polyphenols, anti-oxidants, minerals and amino acids, and remarkably dense with broad nutritional value, it has been studied more than any other plant and is consistently associated with improved health.

Each of the various nutrients in green tea has its own set of benefits, but one of the most useful is a water-soluble amino acid called L-theanine. It is structurally related to glutamate, easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, and works by increasing GABA, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating neuron excitability, and dopamine, another neurotransmitter that produces calming and mood boosting effects. By promoting increased production of these 'feel-good' chemicals in the brain, L-theanine's effectiveness has been clearly demonstrated in reducing stress, nervousness, insomnia. Using EEG equipment to monitor brain activity in subjects, scientists were able to categorically establish the significant relaxing, calming effects of theanine on the body.

Theanine is remarkable for it's ability to promote relaxation and alertness!

Moreover, studies suggest it may also produce feelings of alertness and focus, as well as improved cognition and mood, especially when taken in combination with caffeine (synergistic effects.) This is likely the reason why people who drink tea report having a more focused and productive energy than coffee drinkers. Research shows that L-theanine counteracts the jittery, nervousness often associated with caffeine, but does not reduce any of caffeine's numerous benefits (The acute physiological and mood effects of tea and coffee: the role of caffeine level. Quinlan PT, Lane J, Moore KL, et al. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2000 May.)

Supplements that combine L-theanine and caffeine have shown particular efficacy in boosting energy and focus without jiterriness (Psychological effects of dietary components of tea: caffeine and L-theanine. Nutrition Reviews; Bryan, J. et al.)

L-theanine also has rewards for people looking to lose weight. When Japanese researchers deconstructed green tea into its separate components -- catechins, theanine, caffeine, etc -- and tested them for effects on body weight in female mice, they found that not only did L-theanine help reduce triglyceride levels, but it also helped prevent weight gain and reduced fat stores in the same way that caffeine does. It actually increased the thermogenic effects of caffeine in the mice but without any increase in heart rate (Anti-obesity effects of three major components of green tea, catechins and theanine, in mice. In Vivo. Zheng G, Sayama K, Okubo T, Juneja LR, Oguni I. 2004 Jan-Feb.) While these studies were not done on humans, the prevailing logic is that the effects would be similar.

Another benefit of L-theanine is that it can reverse damage caused by alcohol to the liver. Drinking alcohol causes significant suppression of glutathione, an antioxidant and detoxifying agent. With regular alcohol consumption, the resulting lack of glutathione means damage to the liver cannot be accomodated and concomitant negative effects occur throughout the body. L-theanine helps by counteracting the loss of glutathione. (Influence of alcohol and caffeine consumption on caffeine elimination. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 1986 Oct.)

So even though green tea has many nutrients, L-theanine is clearly one of the most beneficial. As further evidence, the Japanese use theanine in all sorts of products, highly prizing its rejuvenating and mind-enhancing effects. Interestingly, it may be that the cultural appreciation for balance is what drives the Japanese to value the balancing effects of L-theanine.

Here at 4 Organics, our own estimation of L-theanine led us to incorporate it into several of our goal-specific formulas, probably because it so helpful for restoring balance to bodies neglected by busy people. Of all the various nutrients that are used in supplements these days, there is no question that L-theanine offers the most significant and most evidence-based value. In our JUMPSTART EX energy and mood supplement, L-theanine works with caffeine to enhance energy, focus and mood. In our SERENE sleep supplement, it helps relax the body and mind, promoting deeper sleep.

Finally, L-theanine has been shown to be safe for general use and without side-effect or risk. However if you are taking any kind of medication, you must check with your doctor before using any theanine supplement.

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Higashiyama, A. et al. Effects of L-theanine on attention and reaction time response. Journal of Functional Foods (2011) 3, 171-178
Bryan, J. et al. Psychological effects of dietary components of tea: caffeine and L-theanine. Nutrition Reviews 66(2):82-90
Unno K, Takabayashi F, Kishido T, Oku N. Suppressive effect of green tea catechins on morphologic and functional regression of the brain in aged mice with accelerated senescence (SAMP10). Exp Gerontol. 2004 Jul;39(7):1027-34.
Quinlan PT, Lane J, Moore KL, et al. The acute physiological and mood effects of tea and coffee: the role of caffeine level. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2000 May;66(1):19-28.
Hintikka J, Tolmunen T, Honkalampi K, et al. Daily tea drinking is associated with a low level of depressive symptoms in the Finnish general population. Eur J Epidemiol. 2005;20(4):359-63.
Kakuda T, Nozawa A, Unno T, Okamura N, Okai O. Inhibiting effects of theanine on caffeine stimulation evaluated by EEG in the rat. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2000 Feb;64(2):287-93.
Kimura R, Kurita M, Murata T. Influence of alkylamides of glutamic acid and related compounds on the central nervous system. III. Effect of theanine on spontaneous activity of mice (author’s transl). Yakugaku Zasshi. 1975 Jul;95(7):892-5.
Coursey RD, Frankel BL, Gaarder KR, Mott DE. A comparison of relaxation techniques with electrosleep therapy for chronic, sleep-onset insomnia a sleep-EEG study. Biofeedback Self Regul. 1980 Mar;5(1):57-73.

The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.


    • Avatar
      Jul 20, 2016

      Would like to try it.

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