Ever heard of L-tryptophan? Probably not yet, but the amino acid is extremely important for your well-being. Various factors, such as stress and an unhealthy diet, have a negative effect on the L-tryptophan content in our body and thus cause a bad mood.
But what exactly are L-Tryptophan’s benefits?
In this article, you will learn how L-Tryptophan works and what its benefits are.
L-Tryptophan is a vital amino acid and is essential for our body. This means he can not make them himself and therefore needs to be ingested with food. Which foods are rich in tryptophan, will be covered later in this article.
L-tryptophan is one of the 21 proteinogenic amino acids that are needed for protein synthesis in the human body. Due to its chemical structure, it belongs to the aromatic amino acids.
1. L-tryptophan produces the “happiness hormone” serotonin
The amino acid is especially beneficial for one thing: it is the building block for the release of the happiness hormone “serotonin”. This means that L-Tryptophan directly influences your mood. The better you are supplied with the amino acid L-tryptophan, the higher your serotonin level and the better your mood.
2. L-Tryptophan is also the precursor for the “sleep hormone” melatonin
Not only serotonin but also melatonin is produced from this amino acid. Surely you have heard that melatonin as a hormone regulates our “sleep-wake-rhythm”.
The production in our body depends on the incidence of light. For example, melatonin is increasingly produced and released in the dark and diminished when exposed to light. This happens in a very small, endocrine gland in the midbrain, namely the pineal gland.
By the way: The maximum concentration is about midnight!
3. L-tryptophan is the provitamin for nicotinic acid synthesis
Why was nicotinic acid so beneficial again? Nicotinic acid is the most important ingredient in the important coenzymes NAD + and NADP.
Coenzymes can activate all of the enzymes in our body by binding to the enzymes and changing their own structure. As a result, they regulate hundreds of processes in our body: enzymes are involved in everything from digestion and the immune system to all metabolic pathways.
A short excursion to NAD +:
NAD + is the most important coenzyme in our organism. What benefits have and why it is so important, can be seen here in this summary:
NAD + are coenzymes dehydrogenase of all kinds and so involved in more than 250 redox reactions in the human body. It acts in hydrogen transfer, which means that it transfers a hydrogen atom (H + atom) from one molecule to the next. This, in turn, has significant implications for subsequent reactions.
An example of this is the involvement of NAD + in glutamate dehydrogenase in our mitochondria. In the clinic, glutamate dehydrogenase is an important marker in liver diagnostics.
NAD + is involved in glucose degradation, especially in glycolysis. To be able to draw energy from the carbohydrates supplied by food, they first have to be broken down into smaller components. An important step in this is glycolysis.
3. Fructose formation
NAD + is involved in the formation of fructose from glucose. This synthetic route is also called the polyol route and takes place in all tissues outside the liver (extrahepatic). If glucose is metabolized, the byproduct is sorbitol. This is then further processed to fructose.
4. Citrate cycle
In the citrate cycle, NAD + is involved as a coenzyme. Here the degradation pathways of carbohydrate, protein and fatty acid metabolism come together and serve the energy yield.
Because the electrons produced here are then provided in the respiratory chain of the ATP synthesis and thus the essential energy in our cells.
5. Respiratory chain
NAD + is also involved as a coenzyme in the respiratory chain just mentioned. The electrons from the citrate cycle pass through 4 different complexes before finally ATP synthesis can occur. This step takes place in the mitochondria of the cells, which are therefore also called power plants of our cells.
In addition to carbohydrate metabolism, NAD + is also involved in fatty acid metabolism, namely the ?-oxidation of fatty acids. This allows the body to gain energy from the fatty acids ingested by food.
So it becomes clear why nicotinic acid synthesis is so extremely important. It has numerous benefits.
Incidentally, NAD + is synthesized in the nucleolus, the nucleus of the nuclei of our cells!
Take-Home-Message # 1: Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and is the precursor for the synthesis of serotonin, melatonin and nicotinic acid. These three are the main benefits of tryptophan.
4. L-tryptophan benefits protein synthesis
Proteins in our body undergo a constant expansion and dismantling. If this is in balance, it is called a “steady state”. After protein intake, these are digested into their individual components, namely the free amino acids.
Depending on the part of our body in which and how many free amino acids are located, the so-called “amino acid pools”, accordingly, proteins are synthesized new as needed. Thus, L-tryptophan enters the amino acid pool and is thus heavily involved in protein synthesis. That is another great benefit of L-Tryptophan.
Take-Home-Message # 2: L-tryptophan is not only beneficial for physiological processes but also in the supply of proteins to our body through protein synthesis.
Key Benefits of L-Tryptophan
Increasing its serotonin levels naturally by the amino acid L-tryptophan can have a positive benefit on various factors in terms of mind and body. We have summarized the most important three benefits here:
1. L-tryptophan benefits mood swings
A Washington University study has examined the relationship between depression and serotonin and has shown that low serotonin levels are a major cause of mood swings and poor well-being.
Similar to how antidepressants work, it increases brain serotonin levels. If too little serotonin is present in the brain, the transmission of stimuli between the nerve cells is no longer correct. The so-called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) increase the concentration of serotonin again.
Unfortunately, serotonin cannot simply be taken as a “building material”, but can only be increased with additional L-tryptophan. That’s why you should make sure your brain gets enough L-tryptophan.
The serotonin synthesis precursor function also modulates peripheral tissues and areas, such as bowel function, the immune system with its immune response, the inflammatory response, the differentiation of blood stem cells and many more.
2. L-Tryptophan benefits memory performance
Low levels of tryptophan may result in both short-term and long-term decreased memory.
Low levels of tryptophan may result in both short-term and long-term decreased memory and impair other cognitive functions. In a study from the University of Bordeaux, it was found that tryptophan improved memory in healthy adults as well as in adults with memory lapses.
The principle works in a similar way to the positive effect of tryptophan on mood. If there is too little of the amino acid in the brain, there is a lack of neurotransmitters in the brain. You are in a sense on the line, because the forwarding of information no longer works properly.
3. L-tryptophan benefits sleep disorders
As already mentioned, L-tryptophan is also an important building block for the sleep hormone melatonin. It is just as essential as the happiness hormone serotonin. If too little of L-tryptophan is present, it can lead to insomnia. Increasing the amino acid can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and wake up less often at night.
According to recent findings, L-tryptophan promotes your restful sleep by keeping the level of serotonin almost constant during the day so that enough melatonin is formed from it during sleep and at night.
Take-home message # 3: L-Tryptophan plays a key role in your overall well-being and has many benefits. If you are not sufficiently supplied with the amino acid, it can lead to mood swings, reduced memory, and sleep disorders.
Foods with L-Tryptophan
As you have learned so far, L-Tryptophan is essential for some physiological functions in our body. Therefore, a deficiency can lead to different ailments: Affective disorders, cognitive impairment, anorexia, obesity, weakness, and poor well-being may result from L-tryptophan deficiency.
Sufficient intake of L-tryptophan is therefore very important. The daily recommended amount is 3.5-6 mg/kg body weight.
Incidentally, newborns generally have a higher average protein requirement, so here is the daily recommended amount at 12 mg/kg body weight.
However, every person has an individual need. Because of this fact, it is recommended to include as many foods with a high content of L-tryptophan in your own diet in order to prevent a possible deficiency in good time.
Tryptophan is not free in food but always bound to proteins. Therefore, it is recommended to have animal and vegetable foods with high protein content.
Here is an overview of the foods with the highest tryptophan content:
- Milk and – Dairy products of all kinds (yogurt, cheese etc.)
- poultry, beef, lamb
- Cocoa (cocoa beans)
- sesame, walnuts, cashews
Take-Home-Message # 4: L-Tryptophan can be sufficiently supplied with the right food. Especially in protein-containing foods, the amino acid is included.
Conclusion: L-Tryptophan Benefits
Tryptophan has many important processes within our body. It regulates sleep, benefits our memory and has Â a major impact on our well-being,
Still, there is no need to supplement tryptophan, a protein-rich diet will do.