Should you have to measure everything you eat to lose weight?

If you have a deficiency in serotonin, weight loss can be achieved by increasing your serotonin levels. Serotonin is produced in your brain by tryptophan, an amino acid. Tryptophan comes from food. Many forms of depression and anxiety are associated with low serotonin levels and eating and sleep disorders. Most obese people have been observed to be deficient in tryptophan.

Tryptophan Degradation  Obesity has been shown recently to decrease or degrade tryptophan levels in your body. Body fat creates and liberates an inflammatory cytokine called interferon-gamma (IG). Cytokines are molecules used in cellular communication. IG activates the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase that degrades tryptophan’s ability to produce serotonin.

Unsatisfied Hunger Some obese individuals eat less, and exercise more and still have lower tryptophan levels because of their excess fat. A lower level of tryptophan produces less serotonin and contributes to a reduction in satiety. Satiety should cause us to stop eating because we feel full. Obese people are caught in a loop of wanting to eat less but eating more because they constantly suffer hunger.

Tryptophan Supplementation Studies have shown that obese patients supplemented with large doses of L-tryptophan before meals resulted in a significant decrease in carbohydrate consumption compared to proteins. A precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP (L-5 hydroxytryptophan), can be found as a dietary supplement. 5-HTP is the preferred chemical to create serotonin because it passes through the blood-brain-barrier easier than L-tryptophan.

L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid (one of the twenty amino acids found in your body) and is the only form involved in protein synthesis. Your body cannot synthesize an essential amino acid. Subsequent double-blind (the gold standard in testing) studies showed that obese patients could lose weight with tryptophan supplements and protein-rich diets than patients given placebos.

Tryptophan Ban by FDA In 1989, nutritional supplements of L-tryptophan were banned by the FDA from being sold in the United States. The disability disease, eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), was attributed to the commercial manufacture of L-tryptophan. Further analysis revealed that the manufacturing process was contaminated and was limited to one producer. In 2001, The FDA approved the sale of L-tryptophan again.

Tryptophan Competition in Your Brain So, if I get tryptophan from eating the right foods, why should I take a tryptophan supplement? L-tryptophan competes with other amino acids to cross your blood-brain barrier. This competition reduces the amount of L-tryptophan that can enter your brain and be converted to serotonin.

I am sure most of you have had a craving for sugar (chocolate or some other carbohydrate) at some time in your life. Some scientists speculate that this craving causes us to eat more carbohydrates, which results in larger quantities of insulin being produced. Insulin helps L-tryptophan cross your blood-brain barrier, resulting in more serotonin production. We feel good almost instantly, and our cravings are met. Maybe this is your body’s mechanism to produce more serotonin when levels plummet below the norm.

Tryptophan and Aging  The level of tryptophan-degrading enzymes in your brain increases as you age. People over 50 years of age have 30% more of these tryptophan-degrading enzymes. This may explain why many older adults have difficulty sleeping. Increasing levels of the tryptophan-degrading enzyme also contribute to difficulty in losing weight. Low-calorie diets typically decrease tryptophan levels.

Tryptophan and Vitamin B Competition Tryptophan is one of the least plentiful of the amino acids. There is aggressive competition for your available tryptophan. Assume for a moment that your body is deficient in vitamin B3. 60 mg of tryptophan is required to make 1 mg of vitamin B3 in your liver. Vitamin B3 deficient individuals use most, if not all, the available tryptophan to synthesize vitamin B3 – leaving little for serotonin synthesis in your brain. The same is true for individuals deficient in vitamin B6.

Tryptophan from Dietary Sources The food you eat provides extraordinarily little of this essential amino acid, L-tryptophan, directly to your brain. Typically, your brain receives around 1% of the ingested tryptophan from dietary sources. Yet, L-tryptophan is the only chemical that your brain can use to synthesize serotonin. As a result, you may gain weight, develop insomnia, or possibly depression – all because you might be deficient in serotonin.

Natural L-tryptophan sources are chicken, eggs, cheese, fish, peanuts, milk, turkey, pumpkin and sesame seeds.


Losing weight is hard for nearly everyone packing an extra twenty, thirty, or more pounds. The heavier and older we get, the more difficult it becomes. Some people give up because it seems impossible.

I am an advocate for nutritional balance – getting over 30 nutrients your body needs daily. Your full, healthy potential cannot be achieved when you are deficient in the vitamins and minerals required daily.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


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