Protecting a Most Precious Asset: GABA Proved to Fortify Cognitive Health in Human Trials

As life spans in industrialized nations increase, so does anxiety about the effects of cognitive decline on individuals, on society. New twin studies offer significant hope for strengthening the neurobiological environment, reversing that trend.

The market for brain health supplements in the United States, which has shown double-digit growth in the past several years, blares a message about the concerns of the health-conscious. They want to have agency over the state of their mental health as they age, as they do their physical health.

The benefits of the naturally-occurring amino acid neurotransmitter GABA [γ-Aminobutyric acid], found across a range of healthful foods, have never really been in doubt. It’s the reason that Pharma Foods International Co. Ltd., manufacturer of PharmaGABA™ and supplying partner of Mitsubishi International Food Ingredients Inc., has devoted decades of constant research and development to deriving it from natural sources, refining it, and making it bioavailable for daily intake.

Though its importance in moderating mood and enabling relaxation was traditionally recognized — the concept of harnessing and refining GABA in its pure form was based on observing its high concentration in fermented staples of ancient East Asian cuisine, such as kimchi — the modern world seeks authoritative evidence for GABA’s ability to bolster mental and emotional health.

This evidence arrived in the form of twin randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical studies involving the administration of 100 and 200 mg of GABA daily to two separate groups of 60 healthy adult subjects aged over 40.

The results of the studies show that over a 12-week period of daily administration of GABA, subjects performed significantly better on tests of their mental acuity, as well as surveying higher on indices evaluating quality of life, than subjects administered a placebo. Assessments using the Cognitrax and RBANS (Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status) tests, which involve direct engagement of simple, everyday mental operations, were made at 4, 8, and 12 weeks. The results clearly show improvements in a host of cognitive areas, a palpable, calculable elevation of quality of life; and further, the studies attest unconditionally to the safety of daily supplemental GABA intake for healthy adults.

It has long been known that a decreased systemic level of GABA is associated with the presence of Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia. Based on this knowledge, researchers sought connections between the presence of GABA and related conditions, including increased alpha and decreased beta wave production, mental alertness, and coordination; proving, first in animal models, that intake of GABA improved maze memory and avoidance learning among other neurobiological manifestations. These were the precursors to human trials.

Participants in this first human study showed significant improvement in visuospatial/construction faculty tests, involving spatial construction and coordination, and delayed memory, which is keyed to short-term attention and recall, in the 100 mg group. The most striking finding was that when intake was doubled to 200 mg, additional improvements were recorded in the crucial areas of non-verbal reasoning, working memory, and sustained attention. In both studies, quality of life, which is, of course, closely related to cognitive function, was shown to be identifiably higher with regular GABA intake, in the distinct areas of physical functioning, vitality, and mental health.

It needs to be noted that as far back as 2016, Pharma Foods responded to research from the University of California-Berkeley showing that non-REM sleep deficiency was associated with a higher buildup of toxic beta-amyloids in the brain — setting the stage for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease at an accelerated pace — with clinical proof that GABA reduced sleep latency while lengthening the successive deep, non-REM stage of sleep. In fact, the current study adds to a wealth of knowledge realized in previous clinical studies carried out over decades, indicating sweeping benefits that accompany the daily administration of supplemental GABA, including the ability to aid rigorous physical exercise and build muscular strength and endurance .

In Japan, the PharmaGABA™ brand has long held the confidence of health-conscious consumers. The world’s third largest economy also has the distinction of having the longest overall life expectancy. Factoring in its low birth rate and immigration, the complex matter of the “greying population” is always at the forefront of social discourse; discussions that inevitably include the assertion that longer life, without the internal resources to successfully live it, is unsustainable, both individually and nationally.

Pharma Foods was established in 1997 with its development of a proprietary process to derive GABA from an entirely natural source, the fermentation of Lactobacillus hilgardii . In PharmaGABA™ it produced a supplement of unequalled quality and over 80% purity. In fact, PharmaGABA is the only Self-Affirmed GRAS GABA product on the market today. In Japan, where an active, aging population is confronting the imperative of maintaining cognitive health throughout life, PharmaGABA commands over 80% of the market, with sales of the supplement in Japan and the U.S. increasing over 25% in the past year alone.

Our human condition calls for action now to preserve the vibrancy and value of our future, and the path is through healthy cognition and a mental and emotional disposition that allows us to meet every challenge vigorously and creatively. The current studies published by Pharma Foods International offer the promise that a naturally-occurring, naturally derived supplement, GABA, may lead the way.



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