L-Theanine Research. L-theanine (γ-glutamylethylamide), an amino acid in green tea, has been shown to affect brain function by alleviating stress disorders, improving mood, and maintaining normal sleep. However, the cognitive functions for which theanine is effective are unclear.

After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Tea is known as a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants. However, tea also contains the unique amino acid L-theanine, which can modulate aspects of brain function in humans. Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies shows that it has a direct effect on the brain (Juneja et al. Trends in Food Science & Tech 1999;10;199-204). L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band, suggesting that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. However, this effect was only demonstrated at higher doses than typically found in a cup of black tea (approximately 20 mg). The goal of the current research was to demonstrate this effect at a more realistic dietary level. EEG was measured in healthy, young participants at baseline and 45, 60, 75, 90, and 105 minutes after ingestion of 50 mg L-theanine (n=16) or placebo (n=19). Participants rested with their eyes closed during the EEG recording. There was a greater increase in alpha activity over time in the L-theanine condition (compared to placebo (p+0.05). A second study replicated this effect in participants engaged in passive activity. These data suggest that L-theanine on a realistic diet levels, has a significant effect on the overall state of mental alertness or arousal.In addition, alpha activity is known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention, and further research is therefore focused on understanding the effect of L-theanine on attentional processes.

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L-theanine, a natural component of tea, and its effect on mental state

Anna C Nobre 1, Anling Rao, Gail N Owen

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