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L-Theanine Relieves Positive, Activation, and Anxiety Symptoms in Patients With Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder: An 8-Week, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, 2-Center Study

J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(1):34-42
10.4088/JCP.09m05324gre

Objective: L-Theanine is a unique amino acid present almost exclusively in the tea plant. It possesses neuroprotective, mood-enhancing, and relaxation properties. This is a first study designed to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of L-theanine augmentation of antipsychotic treatment of patients with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Method: 60 patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder participated in an 8-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. 400 mg/d of L-theanine was added to ongoing antipsychotic treatment from February 2006 until October 2008. The outcome measures were the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS), the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) for neurocognitive functioning, and additional measures of general functioning, side effects, and quality of life.

Results: 40 patients completed the study protocol. Compared with placebo, L-theanine augmentation was associated with reduction of anxiety (P = .015; measured by the HARS scale) and positive (P = .009) and general psychopathology (P < .001) scores (measured by the PANSS 3-dimensional model). According to the 5-dimension model of psychopathology, L-theanine produced significant reductions on PANSS positive (P = .004) and activation factor (P = .006) scores compared to placebo. The effect sizes (Cohen d) for these differences ranged from modest to moderate (0.09–0.39). PANSS negative and CANTAB task scores, general functioning, side effect, and quality of life measures were not affected by L-theanine augmentation. L-Theanine was found to be a safe and well-tolerated medication.

Conclusions: L-Theanine augmentation of antipsychotic therapy can ameliorate positive, activation, and anxiety symptoms in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder patients. Further long-term studies of L-theanine are needed to substantiate the clinically significant benefits of L-theanine augmentation.

Trial Registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00372151

J Clin Psychiatry

Submitted: May 2, 2009; accepted July 14, 2009.

Online ahead of print: November 30, 2010 (doi:10.4088/JCP.09m05324gre).

Corresponding author: Vladimir Lerner, MD, PhD, Be’er-Sheva Mental Health Center, PO Box 4600, Be’er-Sheva, 84170, Israel (lernervld@yahoo.com).