The link between Zinc, Tryptophan and eating disorders
How you think and feel is directly affected by what you eat, because our brain and body are made from molecules coming from food, air and water. Eating the right foods can improve your mood, energy levels and even boost your ! Changes in your diet impact not only your body but also our mental health.
The idea that nutrition or malnutrition could play a part in the development and treatment of eating disorders did not come up until the 1980s when scientist began to realise how similar the symptoms of anorexia nervosa and deficiency were (see table 1).
Zinc is the most commonly deficient mineral, and the most critical nutrient for mental health. In addition to anorexia nervosa, many neurological disorders are linked to zinc deficiency, including depression and schizophrenia.
Your body doesn’t naturally produce zinc so you obtain it through or supplements. Those who have an eating disorder often choose to become vegetarian or vegan, and most of these diets are lower in zinc due to reduced intake and poor absorption.
Zinc deficiency may be one of the earliest predictors of anorexia nervosa. However, there is substantial research to support the inclusion of zinc supplements in the treatment of Anorexia nervosa, zinc deficiency represents only one factor of this complex disorder.
Most recently, strong evidence has come to light that those with and may be more prone to tryptophan deficiency. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and the building block of serotonin the brains “happy neurotransmitter”. Tryptophan controls mood, mental health, sleep, , and more. The body can’t produce it, so as with , it must come from your .
A study of 20 women showed that those with bulimia nervosa took in more calories (39% more) and showed mood irritability due to tryptophan depletion. These results indicate that women with bulimia nervosa have an exaggerated or pathological response to transient alterations in serotonin activity. Also, starvation and excessive exercise have been shown to influence the availability of tryptophan in the blood of anorexic patience.
The bottom line
All this research suggest that those prone to anorexia or bulimia have a particular need for tryptophan and . And that when deprived of these nutrients, they are more likely to develop unhealthy reactions, including loss of appetite control.
Remember to always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements — they could interfere with your health condition, treatment or medications! And as Hippocrates said:
“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food.
Food sources of tryptophan include:
- Dried prunes
- Milk and cheese
- Tuna fish
- Chicken and turkey
Food sources of zinc include:
- Seafood (oysters, crab, lobster)
- Red meat and Poultry
- Whole grains
- Fortified cereals
- Dairy products
Tips to boost serotonin!
- light therapy
Patrick Holford, (optimum nutrition for the mind)