The effects of tryptophan had been considered safe for more than 30 years until an incident in 1988 changed this. In 1988 more than 1000 people were injured, and 37 people lost their lives due to tryptophan supplement use.
Research carried out by the CDC showed that the cause of this incident was not from the tryptophan supplement itself but from contamination in the products. The discovery of this information, however, did not affect the ban on tryptophan that the FDA introduced and is still enforcing today.
What is Tryptophan:
Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce. Amino acids as you know, are the building block of protein, a substance that is required by the body in order to survive. As our bodies do not produce tryptophan, we need to provide it by eating tryptophan-rich foods, or by taking a tryptophan supplement.
The amino acid tryptophan is a vital element for neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin. These chemical messengers carry nerve impulses from one cell to another. Put in simpler terms, our brains can not function properly without adequate amounts of these messengers. As the amino acid tryptophan helps with the production of both serotonin and melatonin, it is vital that our body gets the required amount from sources such as tryptophan-rich foods or supplements.
Studies have shown that a deficiency in serotonin levels can lead to depression and insomnia, and both these conditions are aggravated as serotonin levels decrease.
Our body also uses the amino acid tryptophan to create vitamin B3, known as niacin. Many nutritionists believe that as long as you supply your body with enough tryptophan-rich foods, you will be able to produce adequate amounts of niacin, which reduces cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Niacin also helps to reduce depression.
What Nutrients Are Needed For The Metabolism Of Tryptophan
In order for tryptophan to carry out its bodily functions efficiently, vitamin B6 is required. Other nutrients that are also required are vitamin C, folate (vitamin B9), and the mineral magnesium.
The Health Benefits of Tryptophan
- Effects of Tryptophan On depression: Studies indicate that people who suffer from depression have low levels of the amino acid tryptophan. Physicians who utilize nutrition in their treatments have been using tryptophan to treat depression and insomnia as they believe that by increasing the serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain, the symptoms of depression and insomnia are greatly reduced.
It is wise to note that although many people believe that antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft increase serotonin levels, they actually do not. What these antidepressants actually do is keep the limited amount of serotonin available in the brain.
- L tryptophan helps you sleep: Studies suggest that low serotonin levels can cause sleep problems. If you suffer from insomnia, L tryptophan is an excellent alternative to prescription drugs, and there are no side effects.
Other Tryptophan Benefits on Health
- It may be helpful in children with autism.
- Studies show that when the serotonin levels increase, food cravings decrease. Therefore, it may aid weight control programs.
- Tryptophan increases pain tolerance.
- Amino acid tryptophan can elevate the release of growth hormones.
Due to the fact that tryptophan has been banned in many countries, a derivative of tryptophan known as 5-HTP can be used. This supplement can also be a safer alternative for treating depression without the side effects of SSRI drugs. A supplement I would recommend is the Xtend-Life Neuro-Natural Serenity, containing 250 mg of 5-HTP along with key brain and body nutrients to fight depression.