The Tryptophan It is one of the 23 proteinogenic amino acids (protein precursor) found in nature. Humans need this nutrient as an important component to process proteins and to synthesize the neurotransmitter serotonin, known as the "happy molecule."
It is also one of the nine essential amino acids for humans. Essential amino acids are necessary for the proper functioning of our body, however the body cannot produce these compounds internally. Essential amino acids, including tryptophan, must be absorbed through diet or dietary supplements.
- 1 Where is Tryptophan?
- 2 What can Tryptophan do for us?
- 3 How Tryptophan increases serotonin levels
Where is Tryptophan?
Tryptophan is found in many protein foods, such as red meat, eggs, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, chickpeas, almonds, and peanuts mainly.
Unfortunately, due to its characteristic biological composition, very little tryptophan in the diet actually becomes synthesized by our body.
Research in this field has shown that an increase in Tryptophan in our diet is unlikely to help increase the concentration of Tryptophan in the blood.
In addition, the amount of Tryptophan in the diet, or its metabolites such as 5-HTP, which can cross the barrier that separates the blood and the brain is very limited. Moreover, taking into account that other amino acids from the same protein sources use the same transport channels through the blood barrier to the brain as Tryptophan uses. This obviously limits the amount of tryptophan that can enter the brain.
For many people, this is no problem, but for others its deficit can bring more unpleasant symptoms.
Depression, anxiety, ADHD, memory loss, binge eating and a number of other mental health problems have been correlated with a low level of Tryptophan.
What can Tryptophan do for us?
It has been found that increasing serotonin levels with Tryptophan can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, memory loss and much more. This is because serotonin plays an important role in mood, sleep, learning and appetite control.
The most popular antidepressant medications such as Prozac and Zoloft are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that work by promoting their absorption in the brain.
How Tryptophan increases serotonin levels
We should know that serotonin molecules alone are too large to enter the brain, so there are no "pills" of serotonin. But we can increase its synthesis by providing its raw material in the form of Tryptophan.
Purified tryptophan supplements have been shown to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, while, as we have said, eating foods rich in Tryptophan does not always produce any effect. For this reason many people have started using Tryptophan supplements to increase their levels of serotonin in the brain, which can provide in a better mood and better sleep patterns.
In addition, Tryptophan is not soluble in water and also has a remarkable resistance to heat, so it is a very durable compound. It also has a high degree of bioavailability.
Thus, Tryptophan has nootropic qualities (brain enhancement) that help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, increase restful sleep, improve attention and balance mood.
Booij L, Merens W, Markus CR, Van der Does AW. The diet rich in α-lactalbumin improves memory in depressed patients who are not medicated. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2006
Fernstrom JD. Side effects associated with the non-nutritional use of tryptophan in humans. The Journal of Nutrition 2012
Markus R, Panhuysen G, Tuiten A, Koppeschaar H. Food effects on cortisol and mood in vulnerable subjects under controllable and uncontrollable stress. Physiology and Behavior. 2000
Ruhé HG, Mason NS, Schene AH. Mood is indirectly related to serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels in humans: a meta-analysis of monoamine depletion studies. Molecular Psychiatry 2007