This randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover, and double-blind trial aimed to examine the possible effects of four weeks L-theanine administration on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in healthy adults. Participants were 30 individuals (nine men and 21 women; age: 48.3 ± 11.9 years) who had no major psychiatric illness. L-theanine (200 mg/day) or placebo tablets were randomly and blindly assigned for four-week administration. For stress-related symptoms, Self-rating Depression Scale, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-trait, and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) scores decreased after L-theanine administration (p = 0.019, 0.006, and 0.013, respectively). The PSQI subscale scores for sleep latency, sleep disturbance, and use of sleep medication reduced after L-theanine administration, compared to the placebo administration (all p < 0.05). For cognitive functions, verbal fluency and executive function scores improved after L-theanine administration (p = 0.001 and 0.031, respectively). Stratified analyses revealed that scores for verbal fluency (p = 0.002), especially letter fluency (p = 0.002), increased after L-theanine administration, compared to the placebo administration, in individuals who were sub-grouped into the lower half by the median split based on the mean pretreatment scores. Our findings suggest that L-theanine has the potential to promote mental health in the general population with stress-related ailments and cognitive impairments.
Keywords: L-theanine; cognition; emotion; sleep; stress.