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There are enormous dangers and side effects with Prozac and the SSRIs. I do not recommend their use. L-tryptophan, though, is different. I think L-tryptophan is an amazing amino acid, with many uses. Because of one tainted batch of imported L-tryptophan, the FDA banned its sale for humans in the U.S. several decades ago, just a Prozac was primed for the marketplace. L-tryptophan is safe, healthy, and available.

from Ronald G. Sturtz, Health Freedom News

I still recall my nutrition class in junior high school where we were first shown the food pyramid, and like the ancient stone pyramids baking in the Sun near Giza, it had an aura of unshakable permanence. Of course, we now have a variety of food pyramids presented to us by researchers and professors battling it out in the halls of universities. Some researchers have turned the pyramid on its head, and others have left out levels altogether. One thing they all leave out, because, after all, food pyramids are intended for junior high-school students, is the chemistry behind their recommended choices of food. This is unfortunate because this is where you begin to find permanence, the bedrock of nutrition understanding. Among the unvarying food factors that we all need to learn about, for example, is the class of chemicals called amino acids. As important as amino acids have been since ancient times, we find that one is especially relevant to our lives today.

Like other amino acids, L-Tryptophan is one of the building blocks of protein, but unlike some amino acids, L-Tryptophan is considered essential because the body cannot manufacture its own. L-Tryptophan plays many roles in animals and humans alike, but perhaps most importantly, it is an essential precursor to a number of neurotransmitters in the brain. As such, L-Tryptophan is the only substance normally found in the diet that can be converted into serotonin. Since serotonin, in turn, is converted in the brain into melatonin, L-Tryptophan clearly plays a role in balancing mood and sleep patterns.

Originally developed to treat depression in humans, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and other anti-depressants are now being prescribed for a much wider variety of disorders, including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, migraine headaches, sleep disturbances, weight loss, PMS, obesity, and back pain. And the usage of these drugs in animal health-care is growing dramatically as well, thanks to lots of advertising.

All of these drugs work along the same principle. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI's as they are known, work by artificially increasing the level of serotonin in the synapse between nerves ... thereby greatly prolonging the effect of serotonin. It is a fact, however, that serotonin can be elevated in the way nature intended, namely, by replenishing serotonin's only dietary building block, L-Tryptophan, in the diet. Although L-Tryptophan is the least abundant amino acid in foods, the good news is that serotonin levels can be increased by supplemental L-Tryptophan.

While animal studies are commonly used to predict the benefits of a new drug or nutrient to humans, human studies also help to point the way to improved treatments in animals. In studies done with humans on two continents by Lehman, Braverman, and Pfeiffer, depressed patients were found to have very significantly lower plasma levels of L-Tryptophan than normal controls. By way of contrast, changes in thirty other amino acids were not significant. To list just a few potential applications, human studies have also demonstrated L-Tryptophan's benefits in treating Down's syndrome and aggressive behavior. In parallel to human studies, a survey of horse owners reported that horses fed soy meal, which has nearly five times the level of L-Tryptophan as oats, are less aggressive than those horses fed oats.

One question remains, how does L-Tryptophan compare with SSRI's in treating clinical conditions? A study done by a team of Swiss and German psychiatric researchers comparing the L-Tryptophan metabolite, 5-HTP, with the SSRI, Fluvoxamine, found that depression was alleviated more predictably with 5-HTP, and while side effects are commonly reported for Fluvoxamine, the Physician's Desk Reference does not list any for 5-HTP. The researchers went on to conclude that the L-Tryptophan metabolite, 5HTP, actually treats a broader range of symptoms than the drug, symptoms known as "serotonin deficiency syndrome," which may manifest as depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, aggression, nervousness, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and migraines ... many of the same symptoms that are being treated today in humans and animals alike with the SSRI drugs.

While both L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP are building blocks for serotonin, they are far from identical in their action. The fact is that L-Tryptophan, rather than 5-HTP, is the essential amino acid that plays a role in structural proteins and enzymes found throughout the body. L-Tryptophan, for example, is a precursor to the vitamin, niacin, and can be used in the treatment of pellagra. 5-HTP cannot perform this function. Furthermore, although 5HTP, like L-tryptophan, can promote the production of serotonin, 5-HTP bypasses an important rate-limiting step in the production of serotonin. This means that once 5HTP is given orally, the body has very little control over the level of serotonin it produces. Your body must, however, carefully regulate its biochemicals, and by side-stepping your body's control system, you run more risk of over-dosing or under-dosing.

Supplemental L-Tryptophan, on the other hand, allows the body to control serotonin levels and correct deficiencies of serotonin as needed. But whether or not deficiency symptoms exist, L-Tryptophan is clearly essential, and no other amino acid, herb, vitamin, or mineral can replace it.

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