Tuesday, August 23, 2016

L-Theanine

A mention of this non-essential amino acid in a recent blog by Jeff Duntemann sparked my interest: his blog linked to this article, which mainly discusses theanine in conjunction with caffeine. Another site - apparently written by a teenager who doesn't know the word "you" (too much Prince) makes all kinds of claims. After some research, it seems that theanine is quite well known in life-style circles but hasn't made the leap to front page news, despite the fact that it appears to have hard proof about it efficacy.

As far as I can establish, l-theanine (the d-enantiometer appears, like many organic compounds, to be less active), a natural compound isolated from green tea, appears to increase the occurrence of alpha waves in the brain, leading to relaxation, and helps with anxiety, blood pressure control, mood, and cognition (wikipedia). I certainly don't have a problem with cognition and I'm not normally anxious, but it seems that this supplement can make a difference to my life. Other abilities which have been attributed to theanine are a reduction in headaches and in perennial colds; basically it seems that it can generally improve one's well being and reduce all manner of irritants. As someone who suffers from these mild complaints, any improvement will be greatly appreciated.

One of the articles which I read mentions suppliers; one of these is Solgar, which to the best of my knowledge is an Israeli company (there are shelves devoted to Solgrar products in the food supplement section of the local pharmacy). I couldn't find theanine on those shelves, and discovered that Solgar don't market the supplement in Israel. No matter; I found a supplier in America who ships the Solgar product to Israel, and about ten days after ordering, a bottle of 60 capsules, each 200mg, arrived here. The cost was a mere $26 plus $4 shipping; a local company is selling imported capsules here at at least twice the price, but they have run out of stock.

As at the moment I'm interested in improving the quality of my sleep, I have been taking one capsule about an hour before going to bed. Here are my notes:
  • Friday: first capsule. Very intense dreams during the night. I awoke with a slight headache.
  • Saturday: woke at about midnight in an attempt to free myself from a 'dream loop', in which I dream about the same thing over and over again. Sleep through till the alarm at 5:30. Again, a slight headache.
  • Sunday: nothing special about the dreams. I awoke feeling refreshed, no mild headache. It seems that the remark which I read  about the body needing to adapt to the new stimulus is true: I am adapting and now the theanine is doing what it is supposed to do.
  • Monday: no apparent effect
The scientist in me is pleased that there are three measures which I can use to establish whether theanine has a positive effect on me; two of these - blood pressure and weight - are fairly weak measures as they can be affected by many factors, but one - sleep apnea - is easily measured and should be a very good test of whether the quality of my sleep is improving. Sleep quality is considered to be very important with regard to general health, and all the good things which theanine is supposed to promote - lowered blood pressure, reduced weight, higher immunity to viral infections - all derive from improved sleep quality.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Two films

Over the past few weeks, I've seen a couple of interesting films, both coincidentally starring young British actress Rosamund Pike.

The first, 'What we did on our holiday', was exceedingly enjoyable and I would recommend this to anyone who shares the same tastes as I. Blessed with Scottish highlands scenery, the events of this film take place over a weekend and seem somewhat realistic (as do all British films). Apparently much of the children's dialogue was improvised, or at least based on improvision.

 I am less sure about the second film, 'Hector and the search for happiness', about which I find it difficult to form a concrete opinion. Whilst the film discusses a very important topic, it does so in a very facile and fairly unbelievable manner. The film is enjoyable on a surface level, but falls apart when one starts to probe under its surface. The photography itself is stunning but the activities depicted in this globe spanning film are very white, middle class, Guardian-reading, biased. The film is based on a French book, so I imagine that many faults derive from the book.

It is noble that the eponymous Hector, a psychiatrist, wants to find causes for happiness in order to help his patients improve. No doubt that this is the impetus behind real life psychiatrist Martin Seligman and his search for happiness (or more accurately, his search for the causes of happiness), but Seligman goes about it in a somewhat more orderly manner. Even I have written about this search.

Somehow I doubt that anyone who is unhappy is going to learn very much from this film.

If this blog's opening paragraph mentioned Rosamund Pike, then I should close by noting that her character in 'Hector' is another thing which leaves me somewhat bemused (I'm not writing about her acting which is fine enough). Supposedly a marketing star for a pharmaceutical company, she has enough time to mother Hector in their very large flat. One of her Skype conversations with Hector is very strange - she's preparing to go out, but there's no mention about where she is going, with whom or with why. I thought that maybe she was moving on and meeting new people instead of staying faithful to the globe-trotting Hector, but no. That scene - at least, to me - is somewhat ambiguous and could easily left out.