Second study bolsters relaxation benefits of AlphaWave brand of l-theanine, supplier says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Luis Alvarez
©Getty Images - Luis Alvarez

Related tags stress management stress L-theanine relaxation

Ingredient supplier Ethical Naturals said a second study on its AlphaWave shows the ingredient eased stress among participants who were completing a mental arithmetic test. Several measures, including a brain wave scan, supported the conclusion.

AlphaWave is a branded form of l-theanine produced by a proprietary process. L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea leaves that has been shown to cross the blood brain barrier where it can increase the secretion of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.  It has also been shown to decrease heart rate and the concentration of immunoglobulin A in saliva (a marker of stress).  And it has been shown to increase alpha brainwaves, a mode of brain activity associated with a relaxed state.

To test the effect of AlphaWave, Ethical Naturals hired contract research organization KGK Science to design a study to test the ingredient’s effects under a condition of induced stress.

The ingredient study noted that stress is a constant in modern life, the effects of the global pandemic notwithstanding. According to the study 75% of Americans have reported a stress-related outcome such as irritability, change in appetite or sleep habits or general negative thoughts in the past month. It’s estimated that the negative effects of stress could account for as much as $300 billion in lost productivity annually.

Study: Single dose blunts stress response

The investigators designed a triple blind, placebo controlled, randomized trial with 16 participants aged 19 to 60.  There were nine women and six men, all of whom consumed 200 mg of AlphaWave or a placebo prior to participating in a mental arithmetic test, in which they were required to subtract down from 700 by 7 while keeping pace with a metronome set at 90 beats a minute. Incorrect responses were corrected and participants started again, all the while being encouraged to go faster and keep pace with the metronome by the clincal staff who used “a neutral tone.”  The participants then completed two questionnaires on their stress levels and saliva was collected.

After a dose of the AlphaWave or a placebo, the participants took the math test again, this time with concurrent heart rate and blood pressure measurements. After the test the questionnaires and salvia collection were repeated, and three hours after the supplement or placebo administration an alpha wave EEG was conducted.

After a seven day washout period, the participants returned to the lab to repeat the protocol.

Teh results showed the single dose of l-theanine showed significant effects on brainwave activity, salivary cortisol and self reported stress.

Cal Bewicke, president of Ethical Naturals, said the results bolstered earlier evidence the company has collected on the ingredient.

The significant effects observed were similar to what was expected, and similar to the previous study that was conducted on AlphaWave,”​ Bewicke told NutraIngredients-USA.

Bewicke said it’s significant that AlphaWave was able to show a relaxation response even three hours after the event.  The authors noted that more research is called for to see how subjects respond to AlphaWave on a chronic basis, which might open a door to help people suffering from chronic anxiety.

Broadening the indications

Bewicke said his company has focused on AlphaWave’s relaxation benefits and has not sought yet to investigate whether it could not only keep people calmer when completing a challenging mental task but might also allow them to perform better.  Such a study might need a complicated design to account for confounding factors, he said.

“Different people deal with stress differently – some people might do well even when there is stress. . At this time, we’re not contemplating a performance-oriented study,”​ he said.

But customers have looked beyond the tight focus of Ethical Naturals’ research and have successfully broadened the indications for the ingredient.

“One leading brand (Dr’s Best) has combined AlphaWave with ingredients such as 5-HTP for sleep support, and this product has been well received. Other brands, such as Sports Research and California Gold, have combined AlphaWave with natural caffeine sources to achieve focused performance energy. These products all seem to be popular with consumers,” ​Bewicke said.

Source​: Neurological Research
doi: 10.1007/s40120-021-00284-x​ [Epub ahead of print]
A Randomized, Triple-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study to Investigate the Efficacy of a Single Dose of AlphaWavel-Theanine on Stress in a Healthy Adult Population
Authors: Evans M, et al.

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