Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The age old saying of turkey being good for your brain is right on! Turkey has tryptophan, which is involved in producing and activating healing hormones and chemicals. Tryptophan won't put you to sleep this Thursday, but it can produce several helpful substances, including serotonin, melatonin, and kynurenines. Serotonin affects mood, melatonin helps regulate sleep, and kynurenines may be useful in regulating the immune system. A drug called tranilast, available in Japan as an allergy medication, is chemically similar to kynurenines and shows promise for the treatment of certain autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases result from overactive immune systems that attack important cells, kynurenines seem to shut down only "bad" immune responses—responses that degrade the body's ability to defend itself. Purified tryptophan is available in some countries as a prescription medication for the treatment of depression, but not in the United States anymore. Another of its products, serotonin, has been strongly linked to mood. Tryptophan is effective in treating mild depression but not major depression at this time. Medicinal doses are three to six times stronger as the amount of tryptophan a person might eat in a day. Studies on humans and other primates have linked low serotonin levels with low mood, increased aggression, and even suicide. Recent studies of humans suggest that tryptophan may be effective in altering behavior. Tryptophan decreased quarrelsome behavior, relative to a placebo, and behavior was changed without even knowing it. More recently seen is an increase in agreeable behaviors. So tryptophan may not only have effects on mood but some effects on social interaction as well.