RELEVATE Nutrients


Key Food Groups: Tea

L-Theanine: Role in Brain Health

L-Theanine is an amino acid that is structurally similar to glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter that controls the release of other neurotransmitters. By binding in places where glutamate would in the brain, l-theanine acts as a selective signaling molecule between neurons controlling dopamine and serotonin release, which are important in learning1 and memory.2

Thus, l-theanine can have a calming effect through the release of dopamine and serotonin and their effect on our brainwaves – these are the electrical pulses we are continuously producing through our thoughts and emotions. Of the few types of brainwaves associated with their own mental states, alpha waves are created during a relaxed state, and they can be brought about by l-theanine consumption.3

In addition to its impact on neurotransmitters, l-theanine is also connected with increased production of anti-inflammatory molecules and a reduction of oxidative damage to neurons through its antioxidative properties.4

Intake Deficiency and Relevance

The major dietary source of l-theanine is tea. However, only a modest population of Americans drink black tea, one of the richest sources of l-theanine.5 Green teas and white teas may also have a significant amount of l-theanine, given longer brewing times of these particular teas that allow more time for the nutrient to escape the leaves into the water.5 However, again, Americans intake even less green tea compared to Europe and East Asia. This suggests population level neglect of l-theanine and its neuroprotective benefits. A compelling study considering intake of black, green, and oolong tea found a positive trend between increased tea consumption per day and a lower risk of cognitive disorders.6

RELEVATE’s Form of L-Theanine

RELEVATE contains a diet-achievable dose (not mega-dose) of l-theanine, comparable to what is consumed through approximately two cups of tea a day. Also, we use a pure l-theanine. Other products may use a synthetic form of theanine that includes both l-theanine and d-theanine, a structurally similar form of the amino acid. However, studies suggest that the l-theanine form predominantly occurs in nature and is the preferred form used by the body.7

Concluding Thoughts to Consider

There is a considerable amount of research following the intake of tea and late-in-life cognitive function.6,8 Our motivation for l-theanine is primarily driven from human epidemiological studies that find positive associations between tea drinking (rich with l-theanine) and overall better cognitive function.9,10 L-theanine’s promise as a neuroactive substance is also supported by its immediate effect in short-term clinical trials, where it benefits cognition and memory.2 When combining l-theanine with catechins (another nutrient included in our product), we feel it makes for a more complete neuroprotective composition, as well as a better representation of green tea as a whole.


Cited Research

  1. Nathan, P. J., Lu, K., Gray, M. & Oliver, C. The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): A possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent. J. Herb. Pharmacother. 6, 21–30 (2006).
  2. Kakuda, T. Neuroprotective effects of theanine and its preventive effects on cognitive dysfunction. Pharmacol. Res. 64, 162–168 (2011).
  3. Raj Juneja, L., Chu, D.-C., Okubo, T., Nagato, Y. & Yokogoshi, H. L-theanine – a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends 10, 199–204 (1999).
  4. Saeed, M. et al. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) and L-theanine: Medicinal values and beneficial applications in humans—A comprehensive review. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 95, 1260–1275 (2017).
  5. Keenan, E. K., Finnie, M. D. A., Jones, P. S., Rogers, P. J. & Priestley, C. M. How much theanine in a cup of tea? Effects of tea type and method of preparation. Food Chem. 125, 588–594 (2011).
  6. Liu, X., Du, X., Han, G. & Gao, W. Association between tea consumption and risk of cognitive disorders: A dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies. Oncotarget 8, 43306–43321 (2017).
  7. Deb, S. et al. Neuroprotective attributes of L-theanine, a bioactive amino acid of tea, and its potential role in Parkinson’s disease therapeutics. Neurochem. Int. 129, (2019).
  8. Dodd, F. L., Kennedy, D. O., Riby, L. M. & Haskell-Ramsay, C. F. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 232, 2563–2576 (2015).
  9. Tomata, Y. et al. Green tea consumption and the risk of incident functional disability in elderly Japanese: The Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 95, 732–739 (2012).
  10. Naumovski, N. et al. The association between green and black tea consumption on successful aging: A combined analysis of the Attica and Mediterranean Islands (MEDIS) epidemiological studies. Molecules 24, (2019).