News No Comments 20 February 2018


Tryptophan is one of the 8 essential amino acids used by our body, known for its involvement in protein synthesis and sleep and mood regulation.

As all essential amino acids, it should be taken in the diet, because our body is unable to synthesize it. In food it is found mainly in: dairy products, red meat, poultry, eggs, chocolate, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, peanuts, wheat germ and fish. At herbal level, it is present in particular in Griffonia, Hypericum and Rhodiola rosea.

To contribute to the feelings of calmness, relaxation and satisfaction, tryptophan must first reach the central nervous system. It is transported by sugars, such as glucose, allowing it to cross the blood brain barrier to reach its destination. For this reason it is believed that, for better assimilation, it is better to take it with a meal rich in carbohydrates and not protein.

Tryptophan is then transformed into 5 hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and subsequently into serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), known by all as the high spirit hormone. In fact, serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of tranquillity and serenity. So a lack of tryptophan leads to a resulting serotonin deficiency that is translated into mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and irritability. For this reason tryptophan is attributed antidepressant properties.

Its use is useful to fight mood-related illnesses even during the premenstrual syndrome and seasonal affective disorders. These are characterized by depressive symptoms that manifest in healthy subjects during the winter and are repeated every year. We consider that the intake of tryptophan as a supplement may limit the inconvenience of this disorder and help tackle this period with greater peace of mind.

Serotonin is important also in sleep disorders as it is converted to melatonin, which is the substance responsible for the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle (circadian cycle). Consequently, it is important the presence of tryptophan also to maintain the proper sleep-wake cycle. In fact, it has been shown that it helps to induce drowsiness and decrease the time required to fall asleep, so much so that it is widely used in cases of light insomnia.

Tryptophan also has the ability to inhibit appetite, especially if linked to the need to eat sweets. This happens both because of its involvement in the production of serotonin, and for the mechanism used for its transport within the central nervous system. It is no coincidence, then, that the desire for sweets is linked to tryptophan deficiency centrally.

Finally, it is responsible for the synthesis of niacin, also known as vitamin B3, that we see involved in energy metabolism, and then in converting the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein) into energy.
Tryptophan turns out to be a great help in cases of stress, insomnia and irritability. An ally of cheerfulness and relaxation, useful in everyday life to better face the stressful situations that may arise in the workplace and when studying. Its multiple role is interesting also in the sports world where, in addition to its involvement in protein synthesis, it becomes a support to overcome the stress due to the intensity of your workouts or anxiety before a competition.

Our body needs about 5 mg of tryptophan per kg of body weight per day. Recommended dosages for taking supplements are approximately from 300 to 1000 mg per day. We do not recommend its integration in pregnancy, when breastfeeding, in cases of kidney disorders, Eosinophilia and when taking certain medications.

Dr.ssa Olga Meletis
Chemist specialized in sports nutrition



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