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Nutrition and Depression: Amino Acids Can Improve Mood

We all know the importance of eating well. The link between an unhealthy diet and obesity, heart disease, and diabetes has led to bookshelves groaning with diet and nutrition books. But nutrition also affects our mental wellbeing. Are we getting enough amino acids to maintain our mental health?

A good diet is our best weapon in the war on disease. A healthy, well-balanced diet will also help our immune systems if we do become ill. This healthy diet will help combat some mental illnesses, too.

T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao, M. R. Asha, et al, explained the link between nutrition and depression in an article in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry. They found that the diets of many people suffering from mental disorders are deficient in essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Supplements containing amino acids have been found to reduce symptoms of depression. Some amino acids control our moods—they cross the blood-brain barrier, carrying the chemical signals in our brains. But if we are not getting the right amount, our moods are affected.

Amino acid supplements treat mood disorders

The major symptoms of depression include increased sadness and anxiety, loss of appetite, and loss of interest in pleasurable activities. Deficiencies in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and the amino acid GABA are often present patients with depression.

The amino acids tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine, and methionine are often helpful in treating mood disorders. Indeed, tryptophan is converted to serotonin–the chemical which controls happiness.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means we must get it from our food. But people with poor diets do not get enough tryptophan.

Antidepressants and other drugs are very successful at treating depression. The researchers hope that nutritional supplements containing amino acids will work with these drugs, possibly leading to lower doses, and fewer side effects. They suggest daily supplements of amino acids to help achieve an antidepressant effect.

Nutritional neuroscience gives us our best shot of preventing and treating some mental illnesses.

Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

Exercise and Branched-chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements Prevent Cardiac Atrophy

Cardiac atrophy–the wasting of the heart muscles–can lead to a variety of cardiovascular conditions. But supplementing with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), along with a program of exercise, can restore the heart and promote circulation again.

Cardiac atrophy is usually caused by prolonged bed rest, though astronauts living in microgravity are affected by atrophy.  People with congenital heart disease may also develop cardiac atrophy.

This atrophy means the heart muscles are deteriorating. They shrink, and the heart loses volume. As the muscles waste, the heart loses strength, and blood pressure is affected. This weakens the entire cardiovascular system. The reduced blood pressure results in orthostatic hypotension, where the brain isn’t getting enough blood, often resulting in dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting. But can BCAA supplements help?

Prolonged bed rest therefore is not good for the heart. However, it is prescribed for several medical conditions, including some complications in pregnancy. Coma and stroke patients, too, often spend long periods supine. BCAA supplementation was tested in a study for cardiac atrophy.

TA Dorfman, BD Levine, et al, researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, USA, developed a study to examine the effects of exercise and nutritional supplementation of proteins and branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) on women with cardiac atrophy.

Healthy volunteers were recruited. Their heart volumes were measured, then they were subjected to 60 days of 6 degrees head-down tilt bed rest. They were divided into exercise and BCAA supplement groups, and a control group.

Does BCAA help prevent cardiac atrophy?

The control group all suffered cardiac atrophy due to the prolonged bed rest. Both left ventricular and right ventricular volumes in their hearts were decreased. The exercise group, who used a supine treadmill, had no atrophy. The protein and BCAA supplement group also saw no reduction in either left or right ventricular mass. However, with the group who received only BCAA supplementation, and no exercise, the heart did lose some volume.

In conclusion, exercise is absolutely vital to prevent cardiac atrophy in long-duration bed rest. BCAA supplements are beneficial, especially when combined with an exercise program.

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17379748