Proteins (amino acids)

Proteins, one of the major components of diet, are made up of Amino acids (compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen). Also called the building blocks of proteins, different amino acids combine with each other to develop a single (specific) protein. The quality of the protein is therefore judged by their amino acids profile (i.e. by its constituent amino acids).

Deficiency of certain amino acids may cause depression and/or anxiety. Some of these include:

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids i.e. it cannot be produced by human body. Dietary supplements of tryptophan are being increasingly recommended in the management of psychiatric disorder (mainly depression ; but also in anxiety and insomnia). *Consult your physician before taking such dietary supplements.

How does tryptophan work ?

Tryptophan finally converts into serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Thus the production of serotonin is directly related to the tryptophan concentration in blood. Since the level of certain neurotransmitters (including serotonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) is decreased in depression, it is only logical that increase in tryptophan intake would adequately manage depression. Sesame and sunflower seeds, cereals (excluding corn), whole grains with germs, cheese, eggs, milk, turkey fish, banana, dried dates, peanuts and soybeans are considered sources of Tryptophan.

How much Tryptophan should one consume per day?

Age group Requirements (mg/kg/day)
Infants, 3-4 months 17
Children, 2 years 12.5
Children, 10-12 years 3.3
Adults 3.5

Methionine

Methionine is also an essential amino acid (contains sulphur).It is converted to S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which is known to raise serotonin levels and acts as a mild antidepressant. Therefore, intake of methionine rich products (dietary supplements) can help in the treatment of depression. It is advisable to verify the quality of dietary supplement through medical consultation.

Cereals, whole grains with germ, sesame and sunflower seeds, corn, nuts, seed oils, peanuts, soybeans, eggs, milk and green leafy vegetables are rich in methionine.

Tyrosine

It is not an essential amino acid but it can convert to various neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine, which are implicated in depression.