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Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that functions in the central nervous system as a neurotransmitter. It is found in animals and in many plant forms. It has been used for over five years in Asia in food and beverages to calm or relax individuals. Examples include ready-to-drink iced coffee and tea, juice and meal replacement drinks and sports and energy drinks for stressed individuals. In Japan, Coca-Cola’s Aquarius Sharp Charge is a drink containing GABA to “improve and relax the mind.” There is even a GABA-based healthy instant drink designed for seniors in Taiwan.
GABA is also used as a functional ingredient in confectionery products, as in the case of Ezaki Glico’s GABA Super Bitter chocolates, which contain 280 mg of GABA. Also in Japan, Dai Nippon Ink launched GABA Lina S, a nutritional supplement positioned for stress relief and relaxation. It contains glutamic acid, vegetable fiber and blue-green algae, which claim to transform into GABA via fermentation using Dai Nippon's technology.
Like many functional food ingredients, it was soon found that GABA had cosmetic benefits. As a natural muscle relaxant, it is said to smooth or reduce fine lines. According to Mintel GNPD Cosmetic Research, one of the first skin care products to capitalize on GABA was Dr. Brandt Crease Release Rapid Wrinkle Reducer introduced in 2004. It is formulated with a GABA complex that “works synergistically with the complexion to immediately smooth fine lines, wrinkles, crows feet and signs of stress with remarkable effects especially around the eyes and mouth, and between the brows.”
Since then, GABA has appeared in other skin care products in both mass market and selective distribution. In many cases, products claim to offer quick wrinkle-free results. Others position themselves as substitutes for cosmetic injections.
Like Dr. Brandt, Freeze 24-7 was one of the early adopters of this ingredient. The company has been using GABA in its formulations since 2004. In 2007, it introduced a new concept, "GABA on the Go." Freeze&Go Instant Smoother and Brightener is a lightweight compact that contains a GABA-based targeted wrinkle reducer. In addition to smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, the product claims to immediately diminish “enlarged pores and rosacea on the face as well as stretch marks on the body.” The formula also contains polymers, black tea, pomegranate and orchid extracts, as well as shea butter and minerals.