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l-theanine, an amino acid uniquely contained in green tea (Camellia sinensis), has been suggested to have various psychotropic effects. This study aimed to examine whether l-theanine is effective for patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) in an open-label clinical trial.
Subjects were 20 patients with MDD (four males; mean age: 41.0±14.1 years, 16 females; 42.9±12.0 years). l-theanine (250 mg/day) was added to the current medication of each participant for 8 weeks. Symptoms and cognitive functions were assessed at baseline, 4, and 8 weeks after l-theanine administration by the 21-item version of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-21), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Stroop test, and Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS).
HAMD-21 score was reduced after l-theanine administration (p=0.007). This reduction was observed in unremitted patients (HAMD-21>7; p=0.004) at baseline. Anxiety-trait scores decreased after l-theanine administration (p=0.012) in the STAI test. PSQI scores also decreased after l-theanine administration (p=0.030) in the unremitted patients at baseline. Regarding cognitive functions, response latency (p=0.001) and error rate (p=0.036) decreased in the Stroop test, and verbal memory (p=0.005) and executive function (p=0.016) were enhanced in the BACS test after l-theanine administration.
Our study suggests that chronic (8-week) l-theanine administration is safe and has multiple beneficial effects on depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbance and cognitive impairments in patients with MDD. However, since this is an open-label study, placebo-controlled studies are required to consolidate the effects.
Glutamatergic dysfunction in the brain has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Previous studies suggested that l-theanine affects the glutamatergic neurotransmission and ameliorates symptoms in patients with schizophrenia. The aims of the present study were twofold: to examine the possible effects of l-theanine on symptoms in chronic schizophrenia patients and to evaluate the changes in chemical mediators, including glutamate + glutamine (Glx), in the brain by using 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).
The subjects were 17 patients with schizophrenia and 22 age- and sex-matched healthy subjects. l-Theanine (250 mg/day) was added to the patients’ ongoing antipsychotic treatment for 8 weeks. The outcome measures were the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index scores and MRS results.
There were significant improvements in the PANSS positive scale and sleep quality after the l-theanine treatment. As for MRS, we found no significant differences in Glx levels before and after the 8 week l-theanine treatment. However, significant correlations were observed between baseline density of Glx and change in Glx density by l-theanine.
Our results suggest that l-theanine is effective in ameliorating positive symptoms and sleep quality in schizophrenia. The MRS findings suggest that l-theanine stabilises the glutamatergic concentration in the brain, which is a possible mechanism underlying the therapeutic effect.
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