Excerpted from Spectrum Magazine and http://www.garynull.com/Documents/spectrum/return_of_tryptophan.htm
The Return of Tryptophan
To understand the importance of tryptophan, you have to understand a bit of brain chemistry. Tryptophan is an amino acid occurring naturally in food. In the brain, it is converted to 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP), which, in turn, is converted to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter essential to regulating appetite, sleep, mood and pain levels.
Prozac, Zoloft, imipramine and some other antidepressant drugs also affect serotonin levels. But unlike tryptophan, which increases serotonin production, these drugs block the destruction of serotonin in the brain by interfering with the body's natural physiological regulatory system.
Tryptophan supplements were once used as a safe, inexpensive and effective means to treat depression, insomnia, weight gain, migraines and anxiety. But in 1989 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) banned sales of the nutrient after one contaminated batch caused thousands of cases of eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS). Before the outbreak was over, between 7,500 and 10,000 cases of EMS were identified and 39 people had died.
Almost a decade later, the FDA has yet to lift the ban on tryptophan. Why would the agency ban all sales of a nutrient because one batch became contaminated? Critics suggest that the FDA's unfair action is typical of its pro-pharmaceutical-industry agenda. They point out that the ban on tryptophan, a safe, natural substance was soon followed by the introduction of expensive, prescription-only mood-elevating drugs such as Prozac that have serious side effects.
Fortunately, tryptophan is now available to the public in its 5-HTP form, which studies have shown may be helpful for insomnia, anxiety reduction, depression, weight loss, and migraines. Studies comparing 5-HTP with prescription drugs have found that they are equally effective, but 5-HTP produced no side effects. (It is suggested that daily doses of 5-HTP not exceed 100 milligrams, since higher doses may produce mild side effects.)
Since vitamin B6 is necessary for conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin, some nutritionists recommend that it may be taken on the same day as 5-HTP to enhance effectiveness. Based on information in: Alternative Medicine, Issue #25
Excerpted from Spectrum Magazine