GABA innovation in functional foods: Ingredient added to chocolate, rice products in Japan

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) can be found in rice. ©Getty Images
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) can be found in rice. ©Getty Images

Related tags: GABA, Blood pressure, stress

There has been a slew of product innovation surrounding gamma-aminobutyric acid – better known as GABA – in Japan, with the ingredient incorporated in an array of dosage formats under the Foods with Function Claims (FFCs) framework.

Examples of recently approved GABA-containing FFCs include Van Houten chocolate and rice products by Deria Foods.

GABA can be found in​ food sources such as soya bean, cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms, rice, and chestnut.

Best known for its relaxing effects, GABA was one of the most commonly used ingredients​ in FFCs, alongside black ginger and indigestible dextrin, in 2020.

Deria Foods’ GABA-containing white rice
Deria Foods’ GABA-containing white rice.

Based on data from FFCs database Plusaid, Deria Foods’ GABA-containing white rice, which is available in two SKUs – chilled and room temperature – is one of the latest FFCs approved by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA).

The products make blood pressure lowering claims and are targeted at both healthy adults and those with high blood pressure.

Containing 12.3mg of GABA, the products are scheduled to go on sale in mid-June.

This is not the first time the company has developed a FFC that comes in the form of carbohydrates and contains GABA.

Two years ago, the company first sold a potato salad, also containing 12.3mg of GABA and claims to lower the blood pressure.

GABA has been reported to show blood pressure lowering effects​. However, there could be possible interactions between GABA and anti-hypertensive medications.

The ingredient is also incorporated into other food forms such as chocolate beverage.  

Van Houten’s chocolate powder beverage containing GABA is another product that has been approved as a FFC in March.

Van Houten Cocoa GABA
Van Houten's chocolate powder beverage containing GABA.

Scheduled to go on sale in September, the product claims to improve sleep quality, with a recommended daily intake of 100mg of GABA and is recommended to be consumed before bedtime.

Van Houten is under the exclusive distribution of Tokyo-based food and beverage firm Kataoka in Japan.

Aside from GABA, Kataoka has also commercialised a functional chocolate beverage FFC containing inulin which claims to improve intestinal flora and increase the number of Bifidobacterium.

There is a trend of incorporating GABA in FFCs that come in general food forms, and not just the capsule and tablets formats.

In the past, GABA has also been incorporated in soybean sprouts launched by Salad Cosmo​, while Kensyo has launched a raw shitake mushroom FFC containing GABA. Both products claim to reduce the blood pressure.

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