What Is Guarana: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects

You’re here because you’ve heard of Guarana. But what you don’t know, is what it does, how it works, or what the benefits are. Well, we can help. Guarana is native to Brazil and found in a plant within the Amazon basin, from the soapberry family called Sapindaceaea. Pharmacological studies have shown that Guarana contains four-six times the amount of caffeine or 200% of that found in coffee beans and is commonly used as a tonic or stimulant. We’re going to get into the details about Guarana and how this exotic caffeine infused bean can impact your health and wellness.

What Is Guarana 

Guarana, or Paullina cupana, is a potent caffeine infused seed used in a wide variety of products for its stimulating and thermogenic effects. Guarana powder is derived from the seeds, which resemble the human eye, and are the size of a coffee bean.

How Does Guarana Work, What Does Guarana Do

Like caffeine, guarana has psychostimulatory actions and effects. Chemically, guarana has several bioactive compounds, antioxidants, and stimulants. Guarana contains caffeine the main bioactive compound, as well as other xanthines, theophylline and theobromine. It also contains catechins and epicatechins, and dietary fibers such as pectins and xylans.

In fact, guarana has a very similar antioxidant profile similar to green tea [R]. Green tea is known for containing epicatechins and catechins.

Catechins and epicatechins are powerful bioactive plant compounds, or phytochemicals called polyphenols. Polyphenols are organic compounds primarily found in plants. They compromise a wide family of molecules bearing one or more phenolic rings. A growing body of research indicates that polyphenols may play a vital role in health through the regulation of metabolism, weight, chronic disease, and cell proliferation. Studies show that polyphenols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could have preventative and or therapeutic effects on cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, and obesity [R].

Guarana has a direct effect on brown adipose tissue. In the human body there are two types of body fat, white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT).  WAT and BAT have essentially antagonistic functions, meaning opposite functions biologically. WAT stores excess energy as triglycerides or body fat and BAT is specialized in the dissipation of energy through the production of heat. Higher quantities of BAT are associated with lower body weight since it helps control body fat content through thermogenesis

Brown adipose tissue activation is one of the action mechanisms involved in guarana supplementation-induced weight loss and that direct AMPK activation may underlie this mechanism.

Guarana Benefits

Decreased Body Fat

Studies have shown that Guarana has thermogenic properties. It can effectively promote weight loss and burn body fat by increasing metabolic rate and burning more calories at rest, resulting in increased total energy expenditure. [R].

Animal studies show that Guarana seed powder supplementation can prevent weight gain, insulin resistance, and adipokine dysregulation [R], by it’s effect on brown adipose tissue (BAT).

Similar to Paradoxine (Grains of Paradise), mechanistically, guarana effects brown adipose tissue. Studies show that Guarana induces brown adipose tissue expansion, mitochondrial biogenesis, uncoupling protein-1 overexpression, AMPK activation, and minor changes in gut microbiota. Brown adipose tissue is responsible for energy expenditure, thus more brown adipose tissue, will induce greater thermogenesis.

Cognitive Performance

Due to the psychoactive compounds found in Guarana, studies have shown that it does improve cognitive performance.

A meta-analysis, examined 8 studies with 328 participants, and found that Guarana had a small effect on the response time (faster performance) during a variety of cognitive tasks without affecting the accuracy. Researchers believe this is due to the caffeine and stimulatory effects [R].

An interesting study investigated the effects of guarana supplementation on cognitive performance before and after a bout of maximal intensity cycling and compared this to an equivalent dose of caffeine.

25 study participants were entered into a randomized double-blind crossover trial by performing cognitive tests with one of three supplements, on three different days: guarana (125 mg/kg), caffeine (5 mg/kg) or placebo (65 mg/kg protein powder).

Word recall and reaction tests were performed 30 minutes after rest. This was followed by a cyclng vo2 max test and cognitive tests were performed again. Results showed that cognitive performance and speed tests improved with guarana supplementation [R]

Guarana Dosage

300mg of Guarana extract, typically provides 100mg of caffeine, therefore, doses of 300-500 have shown clinically efficacy. Doses above 500mg have been found to have mild side effects, similar to caffeine. 


Guarana Side Effects

 In high doses, guarana may cause similar side effects to those of caffeine, such as tremor, jitteriness, agitation, confusion, hypertension and dehydration. Most of its beneficial effects as well as its side effects can be explained by its caffeine content. 

Other side effects, include

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea

What Is Guarana: Takeaway

With similar benefits and structure as caffeine, guarana can increase energy expenditure, improve weight loss, and enhance cognitive performance. As a stimulant, guarana is a great choice when you're looking or some more get up and go.  

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