Improving therapeutics in anorexia nervosa with tryptophan

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Abstract

A growing body of evidence suggests that our diet is an important contributing factor in the development, management and prevention of a number of psychiatric illnesses. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is the sole precursor of neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT; serotonin). Administration of tryptophan can boost serotonin neurotransmission to produce therapeutically important effects in serotonin deficiency disorders. Anorexia nervosa (AN) an eating disorder associated with high levels of psychiatric comorbidity including psychosis, hyperactivity, depression and anxiety has highest lethality of all psychiatric illnesses. Evidence suggests that excessive dieting and food restriction can decrease brain tryptophan and serotonin in AN patients to precipitate depression, psychosis and hyperactivity. There are currently no FDA approved pharmacological treatments available for AN patients; antidepressants and antipsychotics, largely used to treat associated psychiatric comorbidities are also not very effective. The aim of this non-systematic review article is to evaluate and document a potential importance of tryptophan supplementation in improving therapeutics in AN patients.

Graphical abstract

Excessive dieting-induced nutritional deficiency of tryptophan: Effects on behavior and efficacy of antipsychotic and antidepressant medication.

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