GABA supplementation and growth hormone response

Med Sport Sci. 2012:59:36-46. doi: 10.1159/000341944. Epub 2012 Oct 15.


The secretion of growth hormone (GH) is regulated through a complex neuroendocrine control system, especially by the functional interplay of two hypothalamic hormones, GH-releasing hormone and somatostatin. These hormones are subject to modulation by a host of neurotransmitters and are the final mediators of endocrine and neural influences for GH secretion. Interest in the possible role of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the control of GH secretion began decades ago. However, interest in its role as an ergogenic aid is only recent. It is well accepted that GABAergic neurons are found in the hypothalamus and recent evidence suggests its secretion within the pituitary itself. Inhibition of GABA degradation and blockade of GABA transmission as well as administration of GABA and GABA mimetic drugs have all been shown to affect GH secretion. However, there are many controversial findings. The effects may depend on the site of action within the hypothalamic-pituitary unit and the hormonal milieu. Experimental and clinical evidence support the presence of a dual action of GABA - one mediated centrally, the other exerted directly at the pituitary level. The two sites of action may be responsible for excitatory and inhibitory effects of GABA on GH secretion. This chapter will outline the anatomical basis for possible influences of GABA on GH secretion and present evidence for a role of GABA in the control of GH release by actions at either hypothalamic or pituitary sites. The potential ergogenic benefits of oral GABA supplementation will also be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements*
  • GABA Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone / drug effects
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Human Growth Hormone / drug effects*
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System
  • Pituitary Gland / drug effects
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Pituitary Gland, Anterior / drug effects*
  • Pituitary Gland, Anterior / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA / drug effects
  • Receptors, GABA / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / therapeutic use*


  • GABA Agents
  • Receptors, GABA
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone