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Mental Health Tryptophan - Information and benifits

Mental Health > supplements-vitamins : Tryptophan



Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and a precursor to 5-hydroxytryptophan, serotonin and melatonin. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression and insomnia. Low levels of melatonin are also associated with the inability to sleep. Supplements of tryptophan have been given for both depression and sleep disorders. It has also given for headaches and obesity. The dose ranged from 1000 - 4000 milligrams per day, often starting with 1000 milligrams twice a day. In 1989, a syndrome, called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) was associated with the use of L-tryptophan supplements.

Symptoms of EMS included muscle aches and pains, weakness, abdominal pain, oral ulcers, shortness of breath and skin rash. The white blood cell count and the eosinophil count were also elevated. L-tryptophan was recalled and in 1990, all L-tryptophan containing dietary supplements were taken off of the market. More than 1500 cases of EMS were eventually reported to the FDA and 38 deaths were blamed on L-tryptophan.

It was eventually thought that a contaminant, labeled "peak X" was the real cause of EMS but some research continued to pointed to tryptophan itself. Currently, 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP) is on the market and is considered a safe alternative to L-tryptophan. In the body, tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP before it is converted to serotonin. 5-HTP is more potent than L-tryptophan and the doses are lower, ranging from 300-600 milligrams per day, in divided doses. Side effects of 5-HTP include anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, headache, and muscle pain. It should not be taken with Prozac or other SSRIs since the combination can result in high levels of serotonin in the brain.

Mental Health > supplements-vitamins: Tryptophan