GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid, is a fascinating little amino acid-like molecule with certain properties researchers are finding are super-beneficial to human health. As a component of the brain, it works to inhibit the neurotransmission of certain chemicals, notably those responsible for producing anxiety.

Recently, UCLA researchers demonstrated that GABA may help inhibit development of insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, conditions that are involved in the development of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

In this early preclinical study, GABA was given orally to mice that were obese, insulin resistant and in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that GABA suppressed the inflammatory immune responses that are involved in the development of this condition.

In the study, GABA improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and even helped to halt progression of Type 2 diabetes in mice. Researchers noted that GABA taken as a supplement may be effective in the treatment of obesity-related Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

The GABA study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of adverse features including inflammation, abdominal obesity, hypertension, and insulin resistance that are linked to an increased chance of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

According to the American Heart Association, five main markers determine metabolic syndrome (also known as syndrome X). It only takes the presence of three of these five markers to generate a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome:

  • Low levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or “good cholesterol
  • Elevated triglyceride levels
  • Waist circumference greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women
  • Elevated fasting blood glucose levels, and
  • Elevated blood pressure.

Metabolic syndrome is estimated to afflict about one-quarter of adults ages 20-70, and fully half of elderly adults.

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