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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine January 2006
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Theanine

Natural Support for Sleep, Mood, and Weight By Terri Mitchell

Balancing Fat and Muscle

If there’s one place people want to restore balance, it’s in the area of body fat. As everyone knows,when fat loss is the goal, calorie expenditure is the game plan. One of the differences in people who are overweight and those who are not is that overweight people sit about two hours longer every day.50 Clearly, inactivity causes imbalance in the system, yet the mere thought of exercising makes some people tired. Motivation is lacking, and they might as well try to climb Mt. Everest as do a round on the stair climber.

But what if they really did have to climb Mt. Everest? Researchers in the United Kingdom made a surprising discovery in a study of mountain climbers. Hot tea, they found out, does wonders for fatigue and vigor (as in let’s get up and go!).51 Finnish researchers made a similar discovery when questioning people about depression. None of the subjects who drank five or more cups of tea a day was depressed, whereas those drinking no tea had the highest rate of depression.7 Neither research team attributed the motivational effects of tea to caffeine. Caffeine is effective for a different aspect of weight loss: speeding up metabolism. But 100 milligrams of caffeine only increases the resting metabolic rate 3-4%.52 Upping the dose can leave a person tired and shaky. So, caffeine by itself isn’t the answer to weight loss. Enter green tea.

Researchers know that green tea extract promotes thermogenesis above and beyond its caffeine content.53 They have been aware for several years that compounds in green tea increase caffeine’s calorie-burning effects. What those compounds are was a mystery until Japanese researchers decided to look into it in 2004. They divided green tea into its various components and investigated how catechins, theanine, caffeine, and green tea powder itself affect weight gain in female mice.54 They found that all the components suppressed weight gain. Green tea powder, catechins, and theanine also reduced triglyceride levels. The researchers concluded that not only can caffeine help prevent weight gain and fat accumulation, but theanine can, too. It’s not known whether the same results occur in humans.

In Japan, you will more likely find theanine in your beverage than caffeine. The Japanese value the rejuvenating, mind-clearing qualities of theanine. It’s not surprising that something that restores balance is very popular in a culture where restoring balance is the foundation of medicine. Westerners would do well to take note of this gift from the East.

Theanine is unique in a sea of supplements that promise much but deliver little. It’s one of the few supplements that crosses the blood-brain barrier. Research to date indicates that theanine is very useful for restoring balance to systems neglected by people who are on the go. It helps counteract the stimulating effects of caffeine, but complements caffeine’s positive aspects such as fat burning. It relaxes and rejuvenates. It reduces alcohol levels in the bloodstream and supports liver health. It restores mood and motivation, increases thermogenesis, and protects the brain. Supplemental theanine thus helps recreate the calming and centering effects of a tea ceremony in a convenient and accessible form.

References

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