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Amino Acid May Be a Confidence Booster

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Consuming tryptophan, the essential amino acid, may help people be more sure of themselves, according to a report.

People who consumed 3 grams of tryptophan daily were more confident and less quarrelsome than they were when taking an inactive placebo, report Dr. Debbie S. Moskowitz and colleagues from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The findings are published in the August issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Tryptophan is an important precursor to the brain chemical serotonin, which helps regulate mood, Moskowitz noted. For example, moderate dieting is known to lower blood levels of tryptophan, which may alter serotonin levels in the brain.

``Low serotonin has been found to be related to depression, impulsivity and aggression,'' Moskowitz told Reuters Health.

Moskowitz and her team recruited 98 healthy volunteers who were split into two groups. One group took 1 gram of tryptophan with each meal for 12 days, while the other group took a placebo pill. At the end of 12 days, both groups received no treatment for 2 days and then switched pill types for another 12 days. During the entire study period, the men and women completed daily questionnaires that assessed various mood states and behaviors.

``Tryptophan had a more consistent effect on behavior than mood,'' Moskowitz told Reuters Health. ``The absence of a consistent effect on mood is consistent with other studies that have shown that tryptophan may enhance mood in depressed individuals, but tryptophan does not improve mood in individuals without a mood disorder,'' she added.

Agreeable and dominant behaviors are more common in most people's social repertoire than quarrelsome or submissive behaviors, Moskowitz explained.

``This pattern continues even when people take tryptophan,'' she said.

``When taking tryptophan dominant behaviors increase further in frequency and quarrelsome behaviors decrease in frequency,'' the researcher concluded. ``It is particularly interesting to note that daily peaks of quarrelsome behaviors decreased.''

SOURCE: Neuropsychopharmacology 2001;25:277-289.

Reference Source 89


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