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November 17, 2011
The Tryptophan Controversy

Tryptophan is one of the 20 standard amino acids, as well as an essential amino acid in the human diet. It cannot be synthesized by the human body and therefore must be part of our diet. It has also been villainized by big pharma as it competes with prescription sedatives.

In 1989, there was a fatal outbreak of eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS). EMS is a rare autoimmune disease that causes fever, numbness, and rashes; it also affects the muscles, arms and legs. In severe cases, EMS can cause death. This outbreak of EMS was traced back to contamination from a new tryptophan processing method that one Japanese manufacturer had implemented. (Life Choice was and is not associated with this manufacturer.) In years prior, tryptophan users never reported any EMS-related symptoms; only those who were unfortunate enough to receive the "bad batch" from 1989 reported health issues. Several of those who developed EMS from the contaminated tryptophan sued the Japanese manufacturer; in fact, some even attempted to further their cause by claiming that their illness and pain continued on after the symptoms were gone. This uproar resulted in a FDA mandate banning the sale of tryptophan in the US. The media, of course, published the "health risks" of tryptophan, as well, which only fueled the fires of panic.

How the Evidence Stacks Up

As Braverman points out in his book, The Healing Nutrients Within, many of those who complained of persisting EMS issues were not screened for muscle-aching disorders, and may have had pre-existing health conditions that affected how their bodies metabolized tryptophan in the first place. Research in recent years has revealed several disorders related to "defective tryptophan metabolism and elevated tryptophan blood levels." (Braverman, p. 54) Yet, no patients with these conditions were diagnosed with EMS, which means that tryptophan alone could not have caused it.

In addition, the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition studied amino acid supplementation and concluded that it is safe.

Where Tryptophan Stands Today

In the US, as of 1996, tryptophan can be obtained via prescription.
In Canada, Health Canada has granted an EN number (159012) to Life Choice's L-Tryptophan. Right now, our brand is the only licensed tryptophan in the country, which means that you can buy with confidence. Our products are safe and effective.

Medicinal Claims

Tryptophan is best-known as a natural relaxer. It helps improve sleep patterns, and aids the body in the metabolization of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Some Food Sources of Tryptophan

Food sources of tryptophan include: almonds, anchovies (salted), avocados, cheese, chicken, chocolate, cottage cheese, duck, egg, granola, lunch meat, oatmeal, pork, sausage, turkey, wheat germ, whole milk, wild game, and yogurt.

In Summary

The bad reputation given to tryptophan in 1989 was undue. The fault was not in the supplement, but in the poor choice of processing. Once again, health professionals are slowly appreciating the benefits of tryptophan supplementation. Life Choice's brand of tryptophan has been licensed by Health Canada, and is therefore safe for both retailer and consumer. Tryptophan improves sleep patterns and can be found in foods like turkey. This is why all too often, a post-Thanksgiving-dinner nap sounds especially appealing! At Life Choice, we believe in the power of tryptophan, and hope our product will make you a believer, too!

By Dr. Eldon Dahl, Life Choice

The Healing Nutrients Within,
by Eric R. Braverman, M.D., pp. 53-57


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