The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin

The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin
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Tryptophan is the precursor to the “happiness hormone” serotonin, so why not take tryptophan supplements to improve mood and relieve symptoms of depression?

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Recent studies like this suggest that dietary patterns characterized by high intakes of vegetables, fruit, mushrooms and soy products are associated with fewer depressive symptoms.

The year before, it was this study, “The association between dietary patterns and mental health in early adolescence,” showing “[i]mproved behavioural scores…significantly associated with higher intakes of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruit.

Could any of this be because of the psychoactive substances found in plant foods?

The neurotransmitter serotonin, often referred to as the “happiness hormone,” is found in plant foods. But, serotonin doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. So, it shouldn’t affect our mood, no matter how much we eat.

The precursor to serotonin, however, what your body makes serotonin out of, is an amino acid called tryptophan. And, there’s a transport protein in the brain that plucks tryptophan out of the bloodstream, and so, what you eat can end up affecting your mood.

Back in the 70s, they did tryptophan depletion experiments, where you give people specially concocted tryptophan-deficient diets. And, indeed, their mood suffers. They get irritable, annoyed, angry, depressed, right? Their body just can’t make enough serotonin.

Likewise, you can give people tryptophan pills to improve their mood. And, indeed, it became a popular dietary supplement—until people started dying from something called eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, an incurable, debilitating, and sometimes fatal flu-like neurological condition, caused by the ingestion of tryptophan supplements.

May have been due to some unknown impurity, but, better safe than sorry. Instead of supplements, there are dietary strategies one can use to improve mood—which we’ll talk about next.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Esquilo, Jynto, and Neutrality via Wikimedia Commons

Recent studies like this suggest that dietary patterns characterized by high intakes of vegetables, fruit, mushrooms and soy products are associated with fewer depressive symptoms.

The year before, it was this study, “The association between dietary patterns and mental health in early adolescence,” showing “[i]mproved behavioural scores…significantly associated with higher intakes of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruit.

Could any of this be because of the psychoactive substances found in plant foods?

The neurotransmitter serotonin, often referred to as the “happiness hormone,” is found in plant foods. But, serotonin doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. So, it shouldn’t affect our mood, no matter how much we eat.

The precursor to serotonin, however, what your body makes serotonin out of, is an amino acid called tryptophan. And, there’s a transport protein in the brain that plucks tryptophan out of the bloodstream, and so, what you eat can end up affecting your mood.

Back in the 70s, they did tryptophan depletion experiments, where you give people specially concocted tryptophan-deficient diets. And, indeed, their mood suffers. They get irritable, annoyed, angry, depressed, right? Their body just can’t make enough serotonin.

Likewise, you can give people tryptophan pills to improve their mood. And, indeed, it became a popular dietary supplement—until people started dying from something called eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, an incurable, debilitating, and sometimes fatal flu-like neurological condition, caused by the ingestion of tryptophan supplements.

May have been due to some unknown impurity, but, better safe than sorry. Instead of supplements, there are dietary strategies one can use to improve mood—which we’ll talk about next.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Esquilo, Jynto, and Neutrality via Wikimedia Commons

Doctor's Note

This is the second of a four-part series (mentioned in Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death) on natural ways to boost serotonin in the brain. Yesterday’s video-of-the-day Human Neurotransmitters in Plants noted that plants themselves can contain serotonin. Tomorrow’s video-of-the-day A Better Way to Boost Serotonin will talk about getting dietary tryptophan into the brain, which we’ll then optimize in The Best Way to Boost Serotonin. Avoidance of soda (see Diet & Hyperactivity) and artificial colors (see Are Artificial Colors Bad for You?) may also improve behavior in children and adolescents. Also, check out my other videos on supplements–the good (see Safest Source of B12); the bad (see Update on Vitamin E); the ugly (see Update on Herbalife®); and the just plain snake oil (see Dietary Supplement Snake Oil). Unfortunately, too many people rely on the questionable advice from health food store employees (see my four-part video series that begins with Health Food Store Supplement Advice). 

For more 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.

54 responses to “The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin

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  1. This is the second of a four-part series (mentioned in Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death) on natural ways to boost serotonin in the brain. Yesterday’s video-of-the-day Human Neurotransmitters in Plants noted that plants themselves can contain serotonin. Tomorrow’s video-of-the-day A Better Way to Boost Serotonin will talk about getting dietary tryptophan into the brain, which we’ll then optimize in Best Way to Boost Serotonin. Avoidance of soda and artificial colors may also improve behavior in children and adolescents. I’ve got dozens of videos on supplements–the good, the bad, the ugly and the just plain snake oil. Unfortunately, too many people rely on the questionable advice from health food store employees (see my four-part video series starting here). If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

    1. Elpool,
      Dr G. must admire Sly Stallone, because this is an, “Avalance of ‘psycho’ Thrills” with his cliffhangers.
      ;-}

      1. I could totally hang like that off of a cliff ledge with one arm carrying 75 pounds of guns and ammo. I could. I just don’t want to is all.

  2. I read that tyrosine and phenylalanine compete with tryptophan for absorption. Apparently because of this, some healthcare practitioners believe that food
    sources of tryptophan do not cause a significant enough increase in
    blood levels of tryptophan to produce therapeutic results—so therefore it ought to be taken as a supplement to increase its
    blood levels.

    http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=103

  3. Since 2002 when the ban on tryptophan was lifted there have been no cases of EMS liked to it. It is unlikely that you could achieve therapeutic levels of trytophan through diet.

  4. Love what you do and this particular video I find a bit disingenuous or something. It is quite well known that the toxicity/deaths from tryptophan were caused by manufacturer contamination. One of the few, large manufacturing companies, Showa Denko K.K., Tokyo, had contaminated their fermentation tanks. This was jumped on by the FDA to crush the tryptophan supplement market just as the market for Prozac (approved just 2 years prior) was really taking off. Likely no connection but still, makes me wonder. It is not as if it was a big mystery why tryptophan use was associated w/ EMS. It was not the tryptophan, it was sloppy manufacturing and contamination.  Should we avoid lettuce because it has been sold contaminated.

    I totally agree that supplementing is 2nd choice at best with diet as 1st line treatment. But I certainly would not call tryptophan pills “the wrong way” nor would I imply that they are particularly dangerous.

    1. This is not correct. There have been cases since the disaster just check the Mayo Clinic site or the CDC. Let me tell you, it’s NOT WORTH IT! I would give anything to have my life back.

      Yes, Showa Denko KK produced contaminated product but it was because they eliminated one of the charcoal filtering processes in order to produce more bulk product…make more money. There’s nothing in place to stop this kind of disaster from happening again, with any supplement.

  5. History tells us that isolating one single factor from food can be dangerous (E-vitamin, betacarotene) – I wote for the package!

  6. I am really intersted in your information but hate the video format.Would it be possible to include a written article with the information together with the video for those who prefer tro get information via print? Thanks.

      1. Jhellen and Nancywb947: volunteers have begun transcribing Dr. Greger’s videos (in English and languages other than English). If you know anyone who could pitch in with the effort, please point them to these instructions: https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1VLQvCUNrC47Yrti861QcH09YesAmY5e-pJgzBQAyBR4

  7. this is a really old story regarding Tryptophan… Jonathan Wright, MD covered it in great detail about 20 years ago. If memory serves it was a genetically modified strain of Japanese origin that caused the problem having nothing to do with the amino acid.
    That did not however stop the FDA from pulling it off the market in typical Gestapo technique. Were they only so responsive for the myriad drugs they approve!

  8. I have been into nutritional research for 51 years…and personally experiment with food and substances, before recommending or panning them.  I have been using tryptophan for the last two years without a problem…it is a great sleep promoter, when taken at bedtime.  I go to sleep happy and wake up happy on a daily basis…and I am in my late seventies.

    1. I have great admiration for Dr. Greger and have followed his work for sometime and appreciate the time and energy he has put into it. But yes, I agree with many of the responses. I personally have never had to take tryptophan, perhaps due to my very healthy, nearly vegan diet, but for those that have a chemical imbalance and benefit from it’s use, more power to them for being smart enough to try it. I’m a certified nutrition consultant and equally important, I worked at a vitamin store for over 10 years and never heard of a negative incident, only positive, while using tryptophan. So while I’m ranting, I’m a bit offended by Dr. Greger’s comments about people that work at health food stores. I learned and experienced so much through the feedback of clients and the training the facility I worked for offered. There maybe exceptions, as there are in many occupations, but I have met and worked with many VERY knowledgable staff at various health food stores that have the utmost level of integrity helping clients improve their health through supplementations.

      1. I worked for many years in health food stores (including the “big dog” Whole Foods as well as small independent store).  My experience goes both ways. I have encountered quite a few employees who are very knowledgeable and I have also heard truly appalling ignorance being expressed as fact.  I think caveat emptor is always an excellent rule no matter what you are buying and no matter where.  I think it is most important of all when dealing with your own health and how your body is treated and what is going into it.  Sadly, our educational system and media train people to be ignorant sheep rather than to take responsibility and learn what is needed.

      2. The health food store I’ve frequented for the past 25 years, has had problems with both past owners, and some employees not knowing the side affects of the “supplements” and herbal remedies they are peddling to customers.

        For example, when I was looking for the essential oil of Calendula, another essential oil was thrust upon me from another part of the marigold, which while fragrant, was toxic if ingested.

        The owner downplayed my comments on the essential oil saying that it was pharmaceutical industry propaganda. This may be partially true. But, where there is smoke, there should be more investigation.

        I did not purchase what she was pushing, and that may have saved my dog’s life. I did bring in information that was on the web site, and was told we cannot believe everything on the web. True. But, we cannot believe everything a salesperson peddles to us either.

        This store owner-sales person died of liver damage, not from drinking, but from ingesting far too many supplements of comfrey, a natural plant which she declared “safe” –she and the industry who trained her.

        Investigate before you buy whether it is food, drugs, or supplements!!! And, it’s okay to walk away.

    2. Curious. I’ve read it is turned into 5-htp in small intestine by high ratio of good bacteria, probiotics. That 5-htp is brain converted to melatonin to sleep and serotonin for alert wakefulness and feel good. Sleepy daytime use. ??

  9. I agree about having a written article with the video. We’re far out in the country and the video will not play with our extremely slow internet connection.

      1. There is a very fascinating story about just this issue in the book “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth”. This is a GMO issue. A Japanese company developed a strain of bacteria that produced 5-HTP. In all they developed 5 strains, and each strain yielded more 5-HTP, but they started making their users miserable sick, and by the time of the last strain which was the most potent people were dying. The implication was that the genetic engineering industry wanted to keep this a big secret, so they blamed it on the refining process, but the refining process did not change, whereas the genetic strain of the bacteria did. it is pretty clear there was a byproduct of the genetic engineering process that was extremely toxic, and either not present in the original strain or at a much much lower level. The issue for me is, what other “vitamins” or health additives are created by genetic engineering — because they are slow to react and find any problems like this, slow to acknowledge it, but quit to hide it. The genetic engineering process they use has been more like shotgunning and not really engineering. They use an accelerator to jam genes into the nuclear of cells, and those that do not die they allow to grow and see what happened. They have consistently done no testing on GMO foods if they foods look like the parent species …but that really tells you nothing about what is going on in the cells after the insertion of foreign genes.

  10. I took tryptophan supplements which I might say were huge, some twenty seven years ago for a sleep problem.  During that period I experienced a severe gallbladder attack (unusual considering I was only 31yrs old and ate healthy). As a subsequence I lost my gallbladder.  The surgeon said it was so full of large gallstones that it had to be removed.  Shortly after I noticed that the tryptophan tablets were taken off the market!  I believe I lost my gallbladder because of tryptophan! For some people to die because of them, (it is believed), is terrible.

    1. It is well proven that the problems caused by tryptophan supplements were due to bacterial contamination in manufacture and had nothing at all to do with the tryptophan.  So far as I know, there is also zero connection between tryptophan intake in any form and gallbladder health (aside from it being one the essential ones to consume since we can’t synthesize it).  It is unfortunate that you lost your gallbladder but the stones and surgery had no connection to your taking tryptophan supplements.  Belief is quite different from causality or proof.

      1. Eagles438, also curious as to what you meant by “healthy diet”?  I would guess that about 95% of people, is asked would say they eat a healthy diet. If you get the actual detail of what they eat, more likely 5% or less actually do so.

  11. I was one of the victim’s of L-tryptophan and it scares me to see this product back on the shelves. This is a horrible illness that ruins your life!! 

  12. I love this site, and I have enjoyed many of these videos, but I must take exception with your assertion about “L-tryptophan supplements” causing those deaths, when the very article in your video stated–as have many of your informed readers below–that those deaths were all linked to ONE source (Showa Denko), which produced the contaminated supplements that caused ALL of the L-tryptophan deaths. Of course, Geoffrey Levens (below) pointed out the Prozac link–and I don’t think that was an accident. Big pharma spends tons of money on lobbying efforts–and the spreading of misleading information in this case caused widespread panic over the supplement, which led to a ban on L-tryptophan–meaning the consumer had fewer choices (especially between supplements or drugs–if you can’t get the supplement, you have to buy the drug–not counting the few educated folks who manage to get decent info on nutrition for countering deficiencies). This gave Prozac a big (unfair, artificially-created) market advantage. Glad the ban has since been lifted. 26 people died from that contaminated supply, but more than 2500 deaths have been linked to Prozac–almost 100x more than the contaminated L-tryptophan supplements! Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

  13. Eosinophilia–myalgia syndrome came about with the introduction into the marketplace of genetically engineered L-tryptophan, from a Japanese company.

    Because President Herbert Walker Bush was about to allow GMO foods and drugs into the marketplace, his administration banned all sources of L-tryptophan to save lives, or so they said.

    I’ve had a bottle of L-tryptophan, for decades which I have used sparingly whenever I absolutely cannot get to sleep, and I have never had any adverse health problem related to its ingestion.

    Now, we have myriad of foods and pharmaceuticals whose dna has been altered with antibiotic resistant bacteria, genes from other species, and possibly from other kingdoms, all because scientists can do this. http://www.nature.com/cr/journal/v22/n1/fig_tab/cr2011158ft.html
    And the FDA has a rubber stamped policy that these foods/drugs are not significantly different from any other foods, a policy likely written by Michael Taylor, then a lobbyist now a VP, for Monsanto.

    I don’t trust anything that the U.S. FDA puts out.

    Anyone guess what the health outcomes will be besides death and endocrine disruption?

    1. Buy what you want over the internet if you’re sure it’s safe. If it’s allowed in most countries, but not your own, it may be safe.

      Here in the UK we can buy some things that are banned in the USA but we can’t buy melatonin over the counter.

  14. I have articles that say triptophan from food like white meat is turned into 5-htp by the small intestine and that this is what the brain uses to make serotonin for awake or melatonin for sleep. It said to take 5-htp pill with white meat. It did not mention L-triptophan pills. I may have felt some improvement doing this last mth. But hard to be sure

  15. I have article that says healthy gut bacteria needed to turn triptophan into 5-htp which the brain makes serotonin and melatonin from. It says take strong hq delayed release probiotic, 5-htp pill, triptophan rich white meat. Didn’t mention triptophan pills. Maybe due to past quality risk concerns. ?? 1 mth tried so far withmaybe some drep depression help. Would adding triptophan pills be worth trying. ??

  16. Is it too late to comment on this video? Coincidentally, I was reading about

    this very thing a few weeks ago and took the time to track it down and read

    about … OK, Wikipedia about it.

    Here is what Wikipedia says about Tryptophan as a dietary supplement:

    > Tryptophan supplements and EMS[edit]

    > There was a large outbreak of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in the
    > U.S. in 1989, which caused 1,500 cases of permanent disability and at least
    > thirty-seven deaths. After preliminary investigation revealed that the outbreak
    > was linked to intake of tryptophan, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
    > (FDA) banned most tryptophan from sale in the US in 1991, and other
    > countries followed suit.[38]

    > Subsequent epidemiological studies[39][40][41] however, were able to pinpoint
    > the syndrome to those exposed to specific batches of L-tryptophan supplied
    > by a single large Japanese manufacturer, Showa Denko KK.[42]

    > It eventually became clear that the cause had not been the tryptophan itself,
    > but rather that flaws in Showa Denko’s 1980s manufacturing process
    > (long since corrected) had allowed trace impurities to contaminate these
    > batches, and those impurities were in turn responsible for the 1989 EMS
    > outbreak.[38][42][43][44]

    So, I am wondering if this changes anything in your video about the safety or
    danger or taking L-Tryptophan supplements.

    This video is in a whole different century that those deaths supposedly due
    to Tryptophan were, and it was not mentioned about the defects in the
    manufacturing process.

    So, did Wikipedia not get something right, or is taking Tryptophan supplements
    not deadly? That seems like a strong claim to make if there is not hard evidence
    to support it?

    1. Brux, FWIW I worked in supplement dept of Whole Foods while simultaneously being an acupuncturist at that time. The wiki article is correct, the problems were all from contamination due to mfg process and not the tryptophan. So far as I know it is quite safe as is 5-HTP which is what tryptophan becomes in your body on its way to becoming seratonin and is also available as a supplement. 5-HTP has a bit more chance to cause g.i. upset though as it (but not tryp.) can be converted to seratonin in the gut where it is biologically active

      1. Thanks Geoffrey, a lot of the videos here seem to rely on hyperbole and scare tactics just as much as any other food industry niche? My understanding was that the Japanese lab was using genetic engineering to make their tryptophan, but I would like to understand more about the problem, and if there is enough of a difference in the way other labs produce tryptophan to warrant any possible risk of any problem.

      2. I am considering the use of 5-HTP for migraine and looking for data on its safety and efficacy. I found the following resource on 5-HTP. It contains citations to over 100 scientific journal articles. http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2793000#hn-2793000-uses

        BTW in Dr. Greger’s video he shows a diagram in which 5-HTP is an intermediate step from tryptophan to serotonin. I wonder why he did not elaborate on the role of 5-HTP and the wide use of it as a (safe, I think) supplement. I especially wonder this because in my reading on the topic many people’s bodies are not very effective in converting tryptophan to serotonin.

        1. I seem to recall this video claims that tryptophan can cause death.
          That seems to be not true. At least what I read was that there was
          a process a Japanese lab used to produce tryptophan that introduced
          a toxic impurity that caused the deaths of some people. A very serious
          problem which I think deserves to be addressed or understood – as
          well as are the labs producing tryptophan now using that process and
          have their been any subsequent problems, poisonings … and exactly
          what is the risk.

          How do we know that 5-HTP does not have problems in its production
          as well or is not toxic or a risk? I would like to hear more about this so
          this issue can be understood.

            1. Hi Jeffrey thanks for the info.
              You know it is from 2004, right.
              It says L-Tryptophan has been pulled from the market, but
              today it is available all over, from Whole Foods Market to
              Amazon.Com.

              >> Extensive analyses of several sources of 5-HTP have shown no toxic contaminants similar to those associated with L-Trp, nor the presence of any other significant impurities. A minor chromatographic peak (peak X) reported in some 5-HTP samples lacks credibility due to chromatographic artifacts and infinitesimal concentrations, and has raised undue speculations concerning its chemistry and toxicity.

              Not really sure what that is committing to?

        2. I occasionally take 100 mg 5-htp as test of comparison, either hr before bed, with usual (few yrs now) melatonin 5mg fast/5mg delayed. Have also tried 5-htp with breakfast to see if noticeable diff with feeling, mood, etc. Deep depression for yrs making going to sleep hard, as well as not feeling like getting up, often over sleep past 8 hrs to as much as 10 or 11 even 12. During a sever sadness bout, it seemed to get worse when 5-htp tried. Didn’t seem to help get to sleep any better then just melatonin. Asperin, hr after taking mel, 82 mgs, does seem to boost get to sleep effect of mel. Wake up from just mel is bit droggy. No headache. Wakeup from both htp and mel, often has slight headache. When symptoms seemed to be made worse by trying 5-htp, research found info suggesting I may have caused serotonin syndrome, too much serotonin. Stopping the 5-htp testing made less severe those symptoms. Suggesting maybe was too much ser. Maybe the use of melatonin pills, which is normally made from serotonin when body enacts sleep mode, can cause serotonin to build up in brain that would usually get converted to melatonin for sleep. Hence the worsening of over thinking, sadness, etc, by using 5-htp to further raise serotonin levels which went much too high maybe. So, seems to me, 5-htp pills best not used, especially if habit of using melatonin. If not a melatonin user, 5-htp may be less risky of upset over thinking issues. For sleep issues, seems just melatonin and if needed, 82 mg asa asperin, may be helpful and least risky of issues.

  17. From Wikipedia: Subsequent epidemiological studies suggested that EMS was linked to specific batches of L-tryptophan supplied by a single large Japanese manufacturer, Showa Denko.[12][13][14][15] It eventually became clear that recent batches of Showa Denko’s L-tryptophan were contaminated by trace impurities, which were subsequently thought to be responsible for the 1989 EMS outbreak.[12][16][17] While a total of 60 trace contaminants were eventually identified, only 6 of them were associated with EMS.[3][18] The compound EBT (1,1′-ethylidene-bis-L-tryptophan, also known as “Peak E”) was the only contaminant identifiable by initial analysis, but further analysis revealed PPA (3-(phenylamino)-L-alanine, also known as “UV-5”), and peak 200 (2[3-indolyl-methyl]-L-tryptophan). Two of the remaining uncharacterized peaks associated with EMS have been labeled “UV-28” and “peak AAA”, with peak AAA being “the contaminant most significantly associated with EMS”.[3] The specific impurity or impurities responsible for the toxic effects was never firmly established. EBT has been frequently implicated as the culprit, but there is no statistically significant association between EBT levels and EMS.[3]

    1. Read the book “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth” by Stephen Drucker. The reason Showa Denko, and the world did a hush-hush about this is that the L-tryptophan was manufactured by genetic engineering, and as the mess unfolded they switched to different bacteria to produce the product. They made bacteria that produced successively more L-tryptophan, but also more impurities … so that relationship shows it was not due to the processing method or impurities, it was due to the GMO method itself and the fact that none of these things have ever been tested in any methodical complete way.

      So, think about it, a lot of food and nutrients are like this, and could be manufactured by bacteria. How many of the things we buy are produced in this manner, and how many are GMO? What about B12, or any of the many nutrients companies are looking for ways to produce fast, cheap and patentable?

  18. Hey, that’s BS.
    The supplement that caused oesinophiila was from a single manufacturer in Japan – it was incorrectly synthesised by pharma chemists. (Possibly deliberately? To orchestrate a ban because it was more effective than pharma drugs?) Although ‘chemically’ the same, the synthetic was structurally slightly different, and deadly. Proper L-trytophan was competing with sleeping pills and anti-depressants, and we can’t have a food supplement doing that, can we?
    As a reaction, the FDA did a favour to the owners of Pharma, and banned ~all~ L-tryptophan supplements, although they knew it was only the one brand at fault. And they know the true story, that they made a mistake, but they won’t un-ban it.

    The FDA is funded by the pharmaceutial industry, who also kindly lend support to politicians, and indeed to medical charities and websites who subversively support their cause (profits) by presenting skewed ‘facts’.

    What do you call alternative medicine that works?
    – Banned medicine.

  19. I have read Suzanne Somers and have been interested in HRT Hormone Replacement Therapy but naturally. I would like to know how you feel about this and would appreciate any information that you have.

  20. Dear Dr. Greger,

    According to the research compiled by Johann Hari in his recent book on depression, “Lost Connections”, the serotonin theory of depression was never established with adequate rigor, and several studies which used drugs to suppress serotonin yielded significant positive results in treating depression. At this point, it appears that the placebo effect outweighs the impact of serotonin.

    Could you look into this? If it really is the case that the serotonin theory slipped into widespread belief from conjecture, and was never actually proven, this is a really big deal, and ought to be pointed out to your viewing audience.

  21. I find this video misleading about tryptophan and how it killed people. It was WELL KNOWN back in the late 90’s the exact cause. Surly 12 years later reality has not changed. I ran a health food store and it was on the cover of trade publications at the time. Showa Denko corp, the Japanese company that made all amino acids at that time, had reduced the amount of filtration of the product when at the very same time unexpectedly the genetically engineered bacteria that they use to make the tryptophan mutated and started producing a substance that was toxic. They did not know until people started becoming ill.

    What surprised me was to learn that all amino acid supplements came from the same company and were sold to all of the supplement labels. And the fact that most all of them were made using genetically engineered bacteria to break down substances that are high in the desired amino acid was very surprising considering how many years amino acids were embraced by the ‘natural’ product industry.

  22. Tryptophan eventually causes bladder cancer. Nothing good can come out of ANYTHING manmade. Study from 1957. Tryptophan causes pulmonary hypertension. Tryptophan causes blood clot formation. Speaking from experience. Let this be a warning. Go completely natural. Psilocybin, chaga mushrooms. Same effect, almost zero risk. Good luck to all. I had to learn the hard way.

    1. Tryptophan isn’t a man-made drug. It is one of the essential amino acids—amino acids that we need to eat because our bodies can’t synthesize it.

      See this list of the essential amino acids: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_amino_acid

      You can see that tryptophan is listed among them. It is actually a precursor to serotonin. This is not disputable. The matter in dispute is whether or not low serotonin levels are responsible for depression.

    2. I’m not disputing the therapeutic usefulness of psilocybin mushrooms in saying this, but it is not true that there is “almost zero risk” nor that they have the same effect. Psychedelics do not have the same effect. I don’t even know what the effect of tryptophan is; I’m not sure it works at all. Mushrooms may alleviate depression, but if they do so, it’s because they cause widespread brain connections and activity that don’t normally occur, and these may resolve some underlying and not well understood cause of depression. But they absolutely have risks; serious bad trips can cause lasting psychological harm. This is not to be underestimated as a risk. Stating that they have “almost zero risk” is irresponsible. These substances need to be handled with respect because they are effective, but also have real risks.

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