Tag Archives: neurotransmitters

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/

Amino Acids: Taurine Essential For Brain Development

An interesting study of human brain cells highlights the crucial role the amino acid taurine has on the development of our brains. This amino acid is vital for optimal development of newborn and infant brains.

Taurine is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter. It’s essential for our cardiovascular function, and the development and function of our central nervous system. Every human needs taurine, adults and babies. Adults metabolize taurine from cysteine, using vitamin B6. High levels of B6 are found in shellfish, such as oysters and clams. It’s also present in meat and fish proteins.

Newborns get their taurine from breast milk, and taurine has been added to many infant formulas.

The role of taurine for optimal brain development has been studied in animal trials. Taurine increases the proliferation of neural stem cells in embryonic and adult rodent brains. But what about humans?

Researchers Hernández-Benítez R, Vangipuram SD, et al, from the Instituto de Fisiología Celular, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico, developed a study of taurine’s effect on cell numbers in human neural precursor cells, which are stem cells.

Neural precursor cells can become neurons (nerve cells), and can also become the two other main cell types in the nervous system. They can also be cultured in the laboratory, so have great potential for a variety of transplant treatments.

Effect of Taurine on human brain development

The researchers in this human cell study used neural precursor cells from three fetal brains (14-15 weeks of gestation). The cells were cultured, and then tested with taurine. After four days of culture, taurine induced an impressive increase of neural precursor cells: an increase of up to 188%. Taurine also dramatically increased the percentage of neurons formed: up to 480% in the best case.

These results show the positive effect taurine has on the formation and development of the brain.



Can Amino Acids Help with Weight Loss and Cure Alcoholism?

Amino Acids, or lack thereof, can be a significiant cause behing weight gain. And, amino acids can help reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms or even help with addictions. In fact, amino acids can be more powerful than street drugs!

If amino acids sound like a crazy way to help with empowering individuals who seem weak-willed regarding overeating, always reaching for comfort foods, and are suffering from emotional stress and are self-medicating, then think again. Amino acids have no come to the rescue! Amino acids are said, by Julia Ross of The Diet Cure, to help with mental health issues since amino acids are 1,000 times stronger than street drugs, such as heroin.

Brain chemistry is the key to amino acids’ powerful mood-enhancing effects

The brain uses neurotransmitters and receptors that alter brain chemistry. Amino acids can be used as a will-power aid since they affect neurotransmitters directly by producing feel-good chemicals in the brain that alleviate the “emotional basket-case” situations of people who cannot seem to get by without reaching for comfort food. Overeating of drug-like foods such as refined flour and sugar, as well as alcohol or other drugs/medicines can slow the production of the brain’s natural chemicals that produce pleasure.

Thinking that your brain’s receptors are “full,” it slows or stops producing them, creating a need to replenish it via more of the same unhealthy consumables that created the problem in the first place. It’s a vicious circle that causes serious health issues like insulin resistance, associated diabetes, and other health problems. Mood-enhancing drugs can therefore wind up being food, sugar, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or a number of other drugs. Emotional eating then becomes a physical dependency with enough power to keep its users in a co-dependent state of use.

Amino acids from protein or supplements are the key to willpower

Eating protein, and fatty foods that are higher in protein, are the only things that naturally provide the very thing you need to stop those dependencies in their tracks… amino acids! Amino acids make all of the mood-enhancing brain chemicals you may need to find the willpower to slow or stop the intake of those other items that cause the problem. Proteins generally take longer to digest than other foods, too, giving a feeling of satiety.

Your body has to have amino acids. People deficient in them find that supplements and eating more protein in their diets can help them find the relief they need. As always, please consult your doctor before altering your diet or adding amino acid supplements.



Ross, Julia; Articles on Health: Mental Health and Protein Nutrition; From Well Being Journal Vol. 11, No. 5; Sept/Oct 2002; p. 2