It's called L-theanine, and makes her feel "so much better."

By By Emily Shiffer
March 07, 2019
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Taylor Swift is just like us: She's on a mission to find the next best miracle cure for her stress and anxiety.

She shared in a recent interview with ELLE magazine that she's into taking vitamins and supplements to keep herself mentally (and physically) healthy. "Vitamins make me feel so much better! I take L-theanine, which is a natural supplement to help with stress and anxiety," she shared. "I also take magnesium for muscle health and energy."

While magnesium rightfully gets a lot of attention (here's more on the benefits of magnesium-and how to get more of it in your diet) there's a good chance you haven't heard of L-theanine (or even know how to pronounce it). We talked to a dietitian to get the scoop on the supplement-and whether or not it can really help with stress and anxiety. (Related: What Happened When I Tried CBD for My Anxiety)

What Is L-theanine?

"It's an amino acid (amino acids are the building blocks of protein) that helps the transmission of neurotransmitters to elevate levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, the 'feel-good' chemicals," explains Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

"L-theanine is found naturally in green and black tea, as well as mushrooms," she says, but it's also most commonly taken as a supplement (Weinandy suggests two doses of 200mg a day). (Related: Are Dietary Supplements Really Safe?)

Does It Actually Help Relieve Stress/Anxiety?

One small 2016 double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that participants who drank an L-theanine-based nutrient drink significantly reduced their stress response to a multitasking cognitive stressor just one hour later, compared to the placebo group. That same group also experienced reduced salivary cortisol response (a marker of stress) three hours after drinking the L-theanine-based drink.

Past studies have also shown that L-theanine can relax the mind without causing drowsiness, and that it can increase mental alertness and arousal. But overall, there hasn't been enough research to say that it can definitively help.

"While taking L-theanine can't hurt, don't bank on it magically curing your stress and anxiety," says Weinandy. "The jury's kind of out on that. If people are taking it and expecting it to decrease their levels of anxiety, they might be disappointed."

What to Know Before Buying Any Supplement

First, know that dietary supplements are not regulated, which essentially means a brand can make "claims" about its benefits (i.e., reduce stress, support immune function), without having to back them up. As noted above, there has been some research indicating some potential benefits to mood when taking L-theanine. But you should consult a doctor and/or a dietitian before beginning any supplement regimen.

In the case of buying a supplement to treat a specific symptom like stress or anxiety, Weinandy suggests first taking a look at how other factors might be contributing to an increase in these feelings, such as not getting enough sleep. Not only can sleep loss increase cortisol levels, it can also increase belly fat, she adds. A healthy diet has also been found to decrease depression and anxiety, which makes it a great place to start before adding in supplements, says Weinandy. (Related: What You Should Know About the Anti-Anxiety Diet)

And if you have low blood pressure, you may want to skip it. "L-theanine has been shown to lower blood pressure, so if you already have low blood pressure or are on blood pressure regulating medication, you should use caution," says Weinandy.

Bottom line: Sure, these might help T-Swift, but only you and your doc know what's best for your individual health. It's also important to be cautious when it comes to supplements in general, which aren't regulated by the FDA. "Always talk to your doctor first," Jena Sussex-Pizula, M.D., a doctor at the University of Southern California, previously told us. "Taking supplements prior to a full diagnosis and discussion with your doctor can be dangerous, potentially delay needed care, and interfere with other more appropriate medications."


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