A Better Way to Boost Serotonin

A Better Way to Boost Serotonin
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Contrary to popular belief, the consumption of animal foods may actually decrease tryptophan levels in the brain. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, can boost transport across the blood-brain barrier, which has been used to explain premenstrual cravings.

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When people think tryptophan, they think Thanksgiving turkey, and warm milk. But researchers at MIT dispelled those myths about a decade ago.

Tryptophan is one amino acid among many found in proteins, and they all compete with one another for transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. And, since tryptophan is present in most animal proteins in relatively small quantities, it gets muscled out of the way.

If you eat plant foods, though, the carbohydrates cause a release of insulin, which causes your muscles to take up the non-tryptophan amino acids as fuel. And so, your tryptophan can be first in line for brain access.

Animal foods can even make things worse: “When tryptophan is ingested as part of a protein meal, serum tryptophan levels rise, but brain tryptophan levels decline…due to the mechanism of transport used by tryptophan to cross the blood–brain barrier.”

The tryptophan levels in those given a high-protein turkey, egg, cheese breakfast dropped, whereas in the waffle-OJ group, their tryptophan levels went up.

This may actually explain the carbohydrate cravings one sees in PMS—your brain may be trying to get you to boost tryptophan levels to feel better. “Consumption of a carbohydrate-rich, protein-poor evening test meal during the premenstrual period improved depression, tension, anger, confusion, sadness, fatigue, alertness, and calmness scores [significantly] among patients with premenstrual syndrome.”

“Because synthesis of brain serotonin, which is known to be involved in mood and appetite, increases after carbohydrate intake, premenstrual syndrome subjects may overconsume carbohydrates in an attempt to improve their dysphoric mood state.”

Ideally, though, it would be more than just carbs—we’ll cover the ideal mixture in tomorrow’s video-of-the-day.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Images thanks to nonelvis and wintersoul1 via flickr

When people think tryptophan, they think Thanksgiving turkey, and warm milk. But researchers at MIT dispelled those myths about a decade ago.

Tryptophan is one amino acid among many found in proteins, and they all compete with one another for transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. And, since tryptophan is present in most animal proteins in relatively small quantities, it gets muscled out of the way.

If you eat plant foods, though, the carbohydrates cause a release of insulin, which causes your muscles to take up the non-tryptophan amino acids as fuel. And so, your tryptophan can be first in line for brain access.

Animal foods can even make things worse: “When tryptophan is ingested as part of a protein meal, serum tryptophan levels rise, but brain tryptophan levels decline…due to the mechanism of transport used by tryptophan to cross the blood–brain barrier.”

The tryptophan levels in those given a high-protein turkey, egg, cheese breakfast dropped, whereas in the waffle-OJ group, their tryptophan levels went up.

This may actually explain the carbohydrate cravings one sees in PMS—your brain may be trying to get you to boost tryptophan levels to feel better. “Consumption of a carbohydrate-rich, protein-poor evening test meal during the premenstrual period improved depression, tension, anger, confusion, sadness, fatigue, alertness, and calmness scores [significantly] among patients with premenstrual syndrome.”

“Because synthesis of brain serotonin, which is known to be involved in mood and appetite, increases after carbohydrate intake, premenstrual syndrome subjects may overconsume carbohydrates in an attempt to improve their dysphoric mood state.”

Ideally, though, it would be more than just carbs—we’ll cover the ideal mixture in tomorrow’s video-of-the-day.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Images thanks to nonelvis and wintersoul1 via flickr

Nota del Doctor

This is the third of a four-part video series (mentioned in Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death) on natural ways to boost serotonin in the brain. Human Neurotransmitters in Plants shows that plants themselves can contain serotonin. The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin is a cautionary tale about tryptophan supplements, and we’ll next discover the Best Way to Boost Serotonin. The arachidonic acid in animal foods may also contribute to negative mood states through an inflammatory mechanism. See, for example, my videos Plant-Based Diet & MoodInflammatory Remarks About Arachidonic Acid; and Chicken, Eggs, and Inflammation

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: How To Boost Serotonin NaturallyTop 10 Most Popular Videos of the YearSaffron vs. Prozac for Depression; and Treating Parkinson’s Disease with Diet.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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