There are various different types of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, supplements, and they can be used in many applications. Some of the most common uses are promoting relaxation and good mood, encouraging weight loss and lean muscle formation, and treating hypertension and aging issues. The supplements used in these applications differ slightly in composition and dosage, but all target the GABA neurotransmitter and encourage its physiological effects on the body. There are constantly new forms of GABA supplements being created because GABA does not readily cross the blood brain barrier (BBB). Researchers continue work on developing GABA “smart drugs,” which are on the frontline of research and development of GABA supplements.
GABA is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and is deficient in many people suffering from a mood disorder, especially those disorders on the anxiety spectrum. In theory, GABA supplements can correct this chemical imbalance and restore feelings of well-being to an individual under emotional stress. While there is some research that supports the effectiveness of simple GABA supplementation, most scientists agree that GABA does not cross the BBB effectively and that most, if not all, the reported success with the supplement stems from a placebo effect. There is significant debate among the anxiety treatment community, however, and pure GABA supplementation continues to be used with some success.
In order to counteract the obstacle posed by the BBB, Russian scientists developed a GABA derived “smart drug” called Picamilion or nicotinoyl-GABAm. It contains GABA bound to a molecule of niacin, and the niacin functions as a carrier molecule to transport GABA into the targeted regions of the brain that contain receptors. In experiments, it has shown to have more anxiolytic properties than pure GABA supplements. The side effect profile of Picamilion is very low, and the supplement has shown some promise of being an effective treatment for anxiety disorders which could help quell dependence on highly addictive benzodiazepine drugs.
In larger doses, GABA stimulates the pituitary gland to produce human growth hormone (HGH). HGH promotes fat loss and encourages lean tissue production, making it popular as a bodybuilding supplement and diet aid. It still faces some of the same scrutiny because of the BBB issue, but used in this application, the research shows more promise. GABA is an ingredient in many anti-aging creams as well, because its inhibitory properties may stop minute involuntary facial movements that contribute to wrinkle formation. It also plays a role in collagen formation, which could help combat sagging skin.