Tryptophan: The essential amino acid that is needed to maintain optimum health.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and is needed to maintain optimum health. Tryptophan must be obtained from the diet. The unusual indole side chain of tryptophan is also the nucleus of the important neurotransmitter serotonin, which is biosynthesized from tryptophan.  The aromatic portion of tryptophan also serves as an ultraviolet marker for detection of this amino acid either separately, or incorporated into proteins and enzymes, via ultraviolet spectrophotometry. Tryptophan is incorporated into proteins and enzymes at the molar rate of 1.1 percent compared to other amino acids, making it the rarest amino acid found in proteins.

Tryptophan is required for the production of niacin (vitamin B3). It is used by the human body to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is important for normal nerve and brain function. Serotonin is important in sleep, stabilizing emotional moods, pain control, inflammation, intestinal peristalsis, etc.

It is further important in controlling hyperactivity in children, assists in alleviating stress, helps with weight loss and reducing appetite. It has been found that people suffering from migraine headaches have abnormal levels of tryptophan. In this case, supplementation may be helpful.

Function and Benefits of Tryptophan

  • Tryptophan is essential for the production of the B vitamin, niacin, which is vital for the brain to manufacture the key neurotransmitter, serotonin.
  • It enhances the release of growth hormones, and suppresses the appetite.
  • It is used by the brain to produce serotonin, a necessary neurotransmitter that transfers nerve impulses from one cell to another and is responsible for normal sleep. Consequently, tryptophan helps to depression and insomnia and to stabilize moods.
  •  It helps to control hyperactivity in children, alleviates stress, is good for the heart, aids in weight control by reducing appetite, and enhances the release of growth hormone.
  •  It is good for migraine headaches and may reduce , some of the effects of nicotine.
  • Sufficient amounts of vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and C, folate, and magnesium are necessary for the formation of tryptophan, which, in turn, is required for the formation of serotonin.
  • A study reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that women with a history of bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder, experienced relapses after they took an amino acid mixture lacking tryptophan.
  • A shortage of tryptophan, combined with a shortage of magnesium, may be a contributing factor to heart artery spasms.

Deficiency Symptoms of Tryptophan

Deficiency Symptoms of Tryptophan are dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and digestion problems.

Rich Food Sources of Tryptophan

  • Tryptophan is a routine constituent of most protein-based foods or dietary proteins.
  • It is particularly plentiful in chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, corn, spirulina, bananas, and peanuts.
  • Asparagus, beet greens, broccoli raab, raw [broccoli rabe, rapini],  mushrooms, watercress, amaranth leaves, chicory greens, parsley, radishes, ginger root, winter squash, endive, kale, swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, garlic, lettuce, sea vegetable, etc.
  • Despite popular belief that turkey has a particularly high amount of tryptophan, the amount of tryptophan in turkey is typical of most poultry.

More inforamtion on Tryptophan

Most tryptophan was banned from sale in the US in 1991, and other countries followed suit. Tryptophan from one manufacturer, of six, continued to be sold for manufacture of baby formulas. At the time of the ban, the FDA did not know, or did not indicate, that EMS was caused by a contaminated batch, and yet, even when the contamination was discovered and the purification process fixed, the FDA maintained that L-tryptophan is unsafe. In February 2001, the FDA loosened the restrictions on marketing (though not on importation), but still expressed the following concern: “Based on the scientific evidence that is available at the present time, we cannot determine with certainty that the occurrence of EMS in susceptible persons consuming L-tryptophan supplements derives from the content of L-tryptophan, an impurity contained in the L-tryptophan, or a combination of the two in association with other, as yet unknown, external factors.” Since 2002, L-tryptophan has been sold in the U.S. in its original form. Several high-quality sources of L-tryptophan do exist, and are sold in many of the largest healthfood stores nationwide. Indeed, tryptophan has continued to be used in clinical and experimental studies employing human patients and subjects. In recent years in the U.S., compounding pharmacies and some mail-order supplement retailers have begun selling tryptophan to the general public. Tryptophan has also remained on the market as a prescription drug (Tryptan), which some psychiatrists continue to prescribe, in particular as an augmenting agent for people unresponsive to antidepressant drugs


11 Replies to “Tryptophan: The essential amino acid that is needed to maintain optimum health.”

  1. It is commonly believed that depression is linked to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. An important chemical is serotonin as this influences mood. The amino acid tryptophan comprises one of the building blocks of DNA and is required by the body to produce serotonin. It is an essential amino acid, which means your body can not produce it and so it must be obtained through diet.`

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