Where does GABA occur naturally?

Gamma-amino-butyric acid ( GABA for short) is one of the best-known neurotransmitters. The messenger substance docks onto so-called GABA receptors and thereby inhibits signal transmission between nerve cells. In this way, it has a calming and relaxing effect.

Where is GABA naturally found?

GABA natürlich

Unfortunately, GABA does not occur naturally, for example in food. Even if it did, the amino acid would probably not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier, although science has not yet reached a definitive conclusion here [1]. For this reason, however, it does not seem possible to supply the body with GABA from outside. Therefore, the body produces the amino acid itself, both in the brain and in the pancreas. For the body's own production, however, some substances are required that can be supplied to the body through food.

Thebasis for the formation of GABA is the amino acid glutamic acid, also known as glutamate. It is found in a great many plant and animal foods. The amount of glutamate found in 100 grams of food is in the milligram range. However, there is a wide range here. Comparatively high amounts of glutamate can be found in cheese (e.g. Parmesan or Roquefort), ripe tomatoes, mushrooms or peas, among other things.

Another building block is tryptophan, the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is also involved in the production of GABA. Tryptophan is found primarily in protein-rich foods such as soybeans, nuts, fish, meat and cheese. But large amounts of tryptophan are also found in certain types of fruit such as bananas, figs or dates.

GABA Vitamin B6

In addition, vitamin B6 is also required for the formation of GABA. If there is not enough vitamin B6, the amount of GABA that can be formed is reduced. This can have dangerous consequences, especially for infants [2]. Fortunately, vitamin B6 is present in almost all foods, so the choice is wide. It is mainly found in meat and fish, but also in various whole grain products and certain vegetables such as potatoes or green beans.

Conclusion on natural GABA

The neurotransmitter GABA occurs naturally, i.e. hardly ever outside the body. Therefore, the body must produce the neurotransmitter itself. GABA production takes place in the brain and in the pancreas and can be supported by a balanced diet, which contains such substances that are necessary for the formation of GABA. These include, for example, glutamic acid (glutamate). Also helpful are foods high in tryptophan and vitamin B6, which naturally support the formation of GABA.


[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26500584/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11084/