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Why Aging People Might be Over-Weight, Depressed, and Not Sleeping Well - But Maybe They Can Sleep Well, Be Happier & Start Loosing Weight

The neurotransmitter serotonin calms the brain, which assists with sleeping, stress management, and healthy dieting.  According to empirical findings, serotonin levels diminish with age.  

Serotonin production requires tryptophan, an amino acid that has been recalled by over-zealot regulators.  After tryptophan was restricted, obesity, sleep-deprivation, and depression increased.  This correlation has exposed the importance of serotonin for aging individuals.

Why the Elderly Can't Transport Tryptophan

Tryptophan is one of the eight amino acids not synthesized by humans.  It is notoriously under-utilized in the average diet, which supplies up to 1,500 milligrams of it per day.  Because this amino acid is used to cross the blood-brain barrier, synthesize niacin in the liver, and facilitate cellular processes, 1,500 milligrams is insufficient.

The Eight Essential Amino Acids Include:

Tryptophan 
Threonine
Lysine
Valine
Methionine 
Isoleucine
Phenylalanine
Leucine

These amino acids must be absorbed through the diet.  Tryptophan is found in turkey, but is quickly broken down by enzymes.  As the sole contributor to serotonin production, tryptophan deficiency is correlated to weight gain and depression.  

The brain derives serotonin from tryptophan to use its craving and mood-regulating properties.  Tryptophan also aides in melatonin and niacin production.  Empirical evidence exposed that tryptophan deficiencies accompany insomnia, inflammatory diseases, and HIV contraction. 

While a full-grown man needs 250 milligrams of tryptophan a day, the 1,500 milligrams provided in the average diet gets reduced to much less. 

Tryptophan's Potential Pathways in the Body

Tryptophan can pool with other proteins to serve the structure-building purposes of amino acids.  It can also be converted to water, adenosine triphosphate, and other substances.  The enzymes that degrade tryptophan are known as L-tryptophan  2,3-dioxygenase and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase.  Simply consuming more tryptophan will only increase these enzymes.

The competition for transport across the blood-brain barrier dwarfs the amount of tryptophan consumed as it is “bested” by other amino acids.  

Tryptophan Supplementation

To remedy the problem of the enzymatic breakdown of L-tryptophan with age, L-tryptophan supplements supply the nutrients needed to restore serotonin levels.  This effectively addresses sleeping disorders, appetite problems, and depression.

Carbohydrate intake also increases tryptophan transmission.  As the body releases insulin to counter  blood sugar that carbohydrates cause, the aforementioned amino acids that compete with tryptophan are depleted.  Inversely, high-protein diets increase competition.  

A useful vitamin, pyridoxine, inhibits the enzyme that degrades tryptophan.  Pyridoxine also targets competing metabolites, allowing more tryptophan to reach the brain.

Addressing Sleep Disorders with Tryptophan

For decades, research has exposed the effects of L-tryptophan supplementation on sleeping patterns.  Doses of just 250 milligrams can help improve stage four sleep while minimizing the effects of obstructive sleep apnea.  Unlike potent sleep aides, L-tryptophan does not incapacitate the user.  

Applications in Treatment of Depression

Without enough serotonin, the brain can enter a depressed state. Studies confirmed this by administering amino acid mixtures to subjects, which diluted their tryptophan levels and increased depression.  Similarly, recovering alcoholics with highly diminished L-tryptophan and depression experienced fewer symptoms after receiving a tryptophan supplement.

Treating Premenstrual Syndrome

The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome are also managed by tryptophan supplementation.  About 6,000 milligrams of tryptophan a day will regulate mood for premenstrual syndrome sufferers.  

Curbing Carbohydrate Cravings 

Tryptophan deprivation prompts carbohydrate cravings, motivating people to consume excess carbohydrates in an attempt to produce insulin.  This reduces the number of amino acids that tryptophan has to compete with.  Using a tryptophan supplement, then, minimizes cravings for carbohydrates.  

A study has indicated that obese individuals have a much lower ratio of tryptophan to amino acids.  With proper supplementation, serotonin production will increase, allowing much more control over appetite and mood.

Another study used tryptophan against placebos to expose its efficacy as a weight loss supplement.  Even serious eating disorders like anorexia can be treated by regulating tryptophan.

The Problem of Aging and Serotonin Depletion

Increased inflammatory cytokine production in the aging population raises the amount of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase in the blood.  While the first impulse of experimenters is to increase tryptophan levels accordingly, that will also increase the enzyme.  So how can the elderly restore serotonin levels?  

Addressing this Issue

There are several supplemental nutrients that have been proven to help circumvent this problem.  Niacinamide, curcumin, and lysine prevent tryptophan oxidation while inhibiting the production of the enzymes that break it down.  Similarly, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium streamline the process of creating serotonin.  By incorporating these into their diets, aging people can still increase their relative amounts of tryptophan.  

Proper Dosage

Taking multiple doses of tryptophan each day best deters the enzyme that breaks it down.  Instead of consuming one large dose of 3,000 milligrams, which would elevate serotonin for eight hours, three smaller doses can keep serotonin up for the entire day.

Tryptophan is easily integrated into any diet because of its minimal side effects.  When used to treat insomnia, the lowest recommended dose of tryptophan is 1,000 milligrams.  For maximum effectiveness, insomniacs should start a regiment with a high dose, then taper to a lower dose.  To improve poor sleep, 1,000 to 3,000 grams is recommended daily.  


Tryptophan is no longer restricted for use in dietary supplements.  The discovery of tryptophan-targeting enzymes in aging people, as well as the research that exposed the nutrients that facilitate serotonin production, have helped restore this invaluable product.  A renewed formulation combines tryptophan with nutritional additives to rejuvenate consumers by regulating their serotonin levels.