According to researchers from McGill University in Montreal, consuming tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein foods, may help people be more confident. Their study found that people who consumed 3 grams of tryptophan daily were more confident and less quarrelsome than they were when taking an inactive placebo.
Tryptophan is an important precursor to the brain chemical serotonin, which helps regulate mood. Moderate dieting is known to lower blood levels of tryptophan, which may alter serotonin levels in the brain. Low serotonin has been related to depression, impulsivity and aggression.
The scientists recruited 98 healthy volunteers who were split into two groups. One group took 1 gram of tryptophan with each meal for 12 days, while the other group took a placebo pill. At the end of 12 days, both groups received no treatment for 2 days and then switched pill types for another 12 days. During the entire study period, the men and women completed daily questionnaires that assessed various mood states and behaviors.
Tryptophan had a more consistent effect on behavior than mood. It is thought that tryptophan may enhance mood in depressed individuals, but tryptophan does not improve mood in individuals without a mood disorder. When taking tryptophan dominant behaviors increase further in frequency and quarrelsome behaviors decrease in frequency.
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