Carbohydrates And Depression


    I suffer from depression, but I am not on medication. Why is it that my mood always lifts whenever I eat a lot of starchy foods?

    This is a very good question and probably one that is plaguing all of America, and if not, it will soon plague everyone as the standard of living drops drastically with the coming devaluation of the dollar.

    I would also suggest that many Americans who are suffering with depression probably have weight gain, including other symptoms such as mood swings and carbohydrate (starch) cravings.

    On June 2, 2004, a study presented at the National Institutes of Mental Health's new Drug Evaluation Unit showed that chromium piccolinate supplementation decreased cravings for carbohydrates. This manifestation is defined as atypical depression, which is generally undiagnosed. It is characterized by mood swings, weight gain and carbohydrate cravings.

Researchers think that atypical depression is a function of less chromium, because chromium has a role in insulin function---Life Extension Magazine, August, 2004, Page 67.

Mechanism Of How This Works

    It has been found that insulin helps improve serotonin levels in the brain, which helps elevate mood. When serotonin levels are low, carbohydrate cravings go up as depression increases. When carbohydrate fulfillment is achieved, at least for a while, depression tends to drop, because unbeknownst to the carbohydrate addict who may be suffering depression, it is a biochemical attempt to stimulate insulin, which in turn causes brain serotonin levels to elevate.

    Now, let's get to the crux of the matter. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter found primarily in the brain, cannot get past the blood brain barrier (BBB). However, tryptophane, serotonin's precursor, can cross the BBB with transport molecules. It is like passengers on a bus going from one city to another.

    But here's the difficulty. Tryptophane, which is converted into serotonin in the brain, must share its bus ride with other amino acids, but 5 others in particular compete directly with tryptophane to get into the brain via the BBB. They are:
  • Phenylalanine,
  • Leucine,
  • Isoleucine,
  • Valine and,
  • Tyrosine.

    Therefore, you can see that tryptophane is easily outnumbered by the competition to enter the brain via the BBB, where it can be converted into serotonin and bring about mood elevation.

    Serotonin neural circuits help with feelings of:
  • Personal security,
  • Well-being,
  • Calmness,
  • Concentration and confidence.

    However, our lifestyle in America is one of arousal--just look at the success of "reality" TV shows. People want arousal and excitement.

  • Anxiousness,
  • Agitated depression,
  • Anger,
  • Fear,
  • Tension,
  • Aggression,
  • Violence,
  • Obsessive-compulsive actions,
  • Overeating,
  • Especially of carbohydrates,
  • Sleep disturbances, and especially of
  • Anxiety
    All the above are stimulated by dopamine and noradrenaline nerve circuits. Serotonin circuits counterbalance this tendency of the brain's dopamine and noradrenaline circuits to over-arousal, which is illustrated by fear, tension, aggression, etc.

    So one finds that by overeating excessive carbohydrates, he tends to increase brain tryptophane supply. It happens this way.

Eating Large Amounts of Carbohydrates:

When you eat large amounts of carbohydrates, your body secretes more insulin to lower the high blood sugars that follow from the excessive starch, and here comes the rub. The insulin not only increases protein synthesis, but can also lay down more fat in the fat cells of the body. Insulin still does one thing more--it clears from the blood most of the other 5 amino acids from the transport bus that compete with tryptophane, such that tryptophane now has a free ride practically all to itself to the brain to be converted into serotonin.

    People who are depressed often subconsciously know that if they ingest large amounts of pies, cakes, ice creams, breads, chips, pizza, candy and sweets--all carbohydrates--especially when feelings of depression are upon them, they start blocking these feelings and start feeling better because of having eaten this high amount of starch. This practice, they have found, makes them feel good and changes their outlook on life. It lowers arousal and anxiety, thus generating a short-lived sense of well- being and security.

    But remember, if this is short-lived, one such practice generates another practice, and the side effect is weight gain.

The Connection:

    Therefore, this is the carbohydrate addiction, serotonin elevation and obesity connection.

    We suggest, to break this cycle, that one ingest high doses of B-complex vitamins, a good all-round vitamin, and a separate,
  • Mineral tablet high in calcium, magnesium and trace minerals, plus extra
  • Chromium.
    Also you should consume a high-protein diet, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to take a supplement such as Muscle Milk by CyberSport, or Enhanced Life Extension Whey Protein by Life Extension Foundation.

    Surprisingly, not known to most health food stores or the average citizen, is that L-tryptophane in 500 mg capsules, has been back on the market, allowed by the FDA, for 2 years now. Call your local natural foods store for L-tryptophane.

When To Take It:

    Tryptophane should be taken either late at night on an empty stomach prior to bed, or once or twice during the day, without any competing foods or drinks. Also drink only filtered water, to avoid many of the "endocrine disrupters" such as plastic components and drugs now being found in drinking water.

    It is further suggested that if you are a male, (or a female) you may be low in testosterone, which is very good as a mood elevator, because a certain amount of testosterone is converted to estradiol, which is necessary for brain function.

    We recommend that you get a 20% testosterone cream. Men should use a dime to quarter-sized amount on the muscles, spreading it around. Women should use a dime-sized amount, again spreading it around on the muscles.

    Mild exercise would be advantageous also, such as brisk walking, with jogging as the body allows.

    Take Melatonin also, to reduce cortisol levels, another thing that helps serotonin to rise. Get melatonin at your natural foods store.

Compulsive Gambling, Suicidal and/or Thrill-Seeking Behavior, Pyromania :

    If you have problems with compulsive gambling, suicidal behavior, thrill-seeking behavior or pyromania, these and others have been shown to be connected with neural activity of low- serotonin nerves, and excessive dopamine and noradrenaline activity.


    Tryptophane years ago was used for anxiety and sleep disturbances. Its use appears to have come full circle, but its advent back onto the market was so surreptitious, no one knows it is available again. It is purified, toxin-free and allowed by the FDA.

---Vitamin Research News, April, 2004, Vol. 18, #3, Pages 1-2, 10-11.


    Tryptophane is the original spelling. However, when the Japanese company did genetic modification with it to have bacteria make it cheaper and more; a toxin was produced by the microbes and it inadvertantly was included with the tryptophane final product. Some people who ingested this "new" manufactured tryptophane from bacteria died, and it was taken off the market. Now, since it is re-introduced and purified, it appears the companies who presently manufacture the amino acid want to distance themselves from the word "tryptophane" and now call it "tryptophan."

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