What's The Deal With L-theanine, Taylor Swift's Anxiety Remedy Of Choice?

An expert explains why this advice is best handled "Delicate"-ly.
House Beautiful

Do you stay up too late? Have nothing in your brain? Taylor Swift has her own solution for that when it’s stress-related.

Ahead of her 30th birthday in December, Swift shared with Elle 30 lessons she has already learned about life. Included on the list? The importance of vitamins.

“Vitamins make me feel so much better!” she wrote. “I take L-theanine, which is a natural supplement to help with stress and anxiety. I also take magnesium for muscle health and energy.”

Swift’s giant platform likely includes some of the 40 million adults in the United States who experience anxiety, who no doubt might be curious about whether this supplement ― an amino acid found in tea ― actually works.

Liz Weinandy, a registered dietician at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, says it’s best to handle Swift’s advice delicately.

“It’s reportedly used for anxiety and stress, although the research doesn’t always necessarily show that,” she said. “The research shows mostly that it could be beneficial for mental performance ― attention, making less errors, things like that.”

Research published in 2014 in the PIT Journal did explore the impact a combination of caffeine and L-theanine has on testing anxiety and a person’s performance on college exams, and found that it reduced anxiety prompted by mental tasks. But, as Weinandy said, the paper concludes that more research is needed to make a definitive conclusion.

Weinandy told HuffPost she doesn’t think the supplement is dangerous in any way, but noted that it has not been tested in kids, who make up a huge portion of Swift’s fan base. As supplements are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, she also warns that you should make sure you know exactly what’s inside any vitamin or supplement you try.

That’s why she says the best way for people to try to manage stress and anxiety initially is through diet. “There’s a lot of research to show that an overall good, healthy diet helps with stress reduction and mental health overall, including a number of studies that link mostly fruit and vegetable intake to decreased depression,” she said.

She also added that there a few ways to consume L-theanine without taking a pill ― it’s found in black and green tea and even in some mushrooms.

Additionally, the placebo effect may come into play, meaning that people are told the supplement works so they automatically feel like their stress or anxiety is lower, even if it isn’t. But Weinandy said that’s hard to measure because everyone metabolizes things so differently.

“I think it definitely might help [Swift],” she said, adding, “I just don’t think it’s as effective as things like getting enough sleep, exercise and a healthy diet. Those are going to likely have much more of an impact than a single amino acid.”

Still, if Swift is going to be promoting something, this is low on the risk list. “I can think of much worse,” Weinandy said.

So, not an End Game for stress, per se. But it doesn’t necessarily hurt either.

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