What is tryptophan?

Tryptophan or L-tryptophanis an essential amino acidfor our body. This means thatthe organism cannot produceit on its own and therefore it must be ingested through food. It belongs to the 21proteinogenic amino acidsfor the human body.

Functions of tryptophan in the body

This amino acidplays a very important rolein various metabolic functions in the body. Below we describe them to you:

Intervene in development and growth

Tryptophan is an amino acid thatis actively involved in the formation of proteins. Proteins are fundamental molecules for muscle development and growth, especially in babies.

To highlight: In an update article entitled “Breast milk: composition and conditioning factors of breastfeeding”, the presence of this amino acid inbreast milk is highlighted. (1)

Similarly, another study on “Growth and development ” describes the action of this amino acid that intervenes in the growth of animals . (two)

Promote the production of proteins in the body

This is an essential amino acid, which helps the body make its own proteins . Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, and one of these amino acids that are present in this chain is tryptophan.

In an article of “Selected Topics of General Biochemistry” , tryptophan is described as an essential amino acid of the aromatic type that participates in the formation of proteins for the organism. (3)

promote sleep

The hormone that produces sleep in the body is melatonintag. This hormone is synthesized in thecells of the pineal gland , located below the brain, which take tryptophan from the blood and, through a process of hydroxylation and decarboxylation , convert it into serotonin and then into melatonin.

In this sense, melatonin helps induce sleep and prevents the appearance of sleep disorders such as types of insomnia .

Note: Melatonin reaches its highest concentrations at night. A scientific article on “Melatonin in sleep disorders” indicates the mechanism by which melatonin is produced from tryptophan . (4)

improve mood

The hormone whose function within the organism is the state of mind, is serotonintag. This hormoneis also produced from tryptophantag. Serotonin originates in the brain, from a biochemical conversion process that combines tryptophan from the blood, a component of protein, with tryptophan hydroxylase, a chemical reactor.

To highlight: A scientific article on “Regulation of serotonin release in different neuronal compartments” , describes serotonin as a modulator of mood in individuals. (5)

Regulate pleasure

Similarly, tryptophan is involved in emotional sensations such as pleasure in humans, through the production of serotoninin the brain. This neurotransmitter is also known asThe Happiness Hormone , since when its levels increase it generates feelings of well-being, satisfaction and increases self-esteem.

Note: Tryptophan deficiency , derived from an unbalanced diet, can cause lack of energy , stress, nervous system disorders and immune system vulnerability.

Appetite Control

Another function of serotonin, produced from the essential amino acid tryptophan in the brain, is to regulate appetite. The lack of serotonin causes anxiety to eat , that is, eating more than necessary and in an outrageous way.

The sufficient presence of tryptophan in the blood guarantees that the body produces enough serotonin , a hormone that regulates this anxiety when eating food (especially sweets).

Help control insulin levels

Insulin helps maintain proper blood glucose levels. The tryptophan that we consume through food is transformed into serotonin, exerting an anxiolytic and antidepressant effecttag. This calms our nervous system, reducing anxiety levels about eating.

Reducing the anxiety to eat, especially sweets, regulates the levels of sugar that enters our body and therefore the pancreas does not need to produce excess insulin.

Note: The increase in serotonin in the body produces less anxiety to consume carbohydrates and, therefore, helps to control the flow of insulin in the blood.

natural sources of tryptophan

Thanks to nature, we can obtain this amino acid in a simple way, since it is included in the components of many of our foods in our daily diet. We mention the most important ones:

chicken and egg

Those foods whose main source is protein have a high tryptophan contenttag. In the case of chicken, for each 100 gr serving, it contains approximately between 150 and 200 mg. of this amino acid.

Important:In adults, the recommended daily amount of this essential amino acid is 3.5-6 mg/kg of body weight. In children, the recommended daily amount is 12 mg/kg of body weight.

blue fish and shellfish

Oily fish such as mackerel, anchovy, tuna, sardines, among others, are an important source of this amino acid,providing approximately 320 mg. for each portion of 100 gr. Shellfish that are an important source of tryptophan include scallops and shrimp.


Another important source of tryptophan are Dairy Products , such as yogurt, cheese, but especially skimmedor skimmed milk. In the case of cheese, it provides approximately 217 mg, for each 100 gr portion.

Tips: Choose the lowest fat dairy products.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, among others, constitute an important vegetable sourceof this amino acid. So are sesameseeds, pumpkin seeds, and Sunflower Seeds , among others, which provide a significant amount of tryptophan.

Cereals and legumes

, and therefore, it is also one of those that provides

As for legumes, the one that rules the roost is soybeans,with a contribution of approximately 500 mg. for each portion of 100 grams.


The banana is one of the most used fruitsand one of the most consumed first foods in the world. This fruit, apart from the amount of carbohydrates it provides as a source of energy, contains anapproximate amount of 17 mg . of tryptophanfor each serving of 100 grams. banana.


This fruit belongs to the category of fresh fruits, and contains 19 amino acids that, combined, make up the protein, including tryptophantag. It provides around 19 mg. of tryptophan, for each portion of 100 gr.

Dark chocolate

How many times have we not felt the need to consume dark chocolate , to feel good? It is because chocolate is an immediate and important source of tryptophan , which helps the body in the production of serotonin , a hormone that causes states of pleasure and satisfaction.

Note: This amino acid is also available in supplement form, however it can cause some side effects. Consult your doctor before consuming it in this presentation.

Key Findings

  • Tryptophan is an essential amino acid.
  • It must be consumed in the daily diet since the body does not produce it.
  • Helps the body manufacture serotonin and melatonin.
  • It is found in a wide variety of foods.
  • Promotes the production of proteins for the body.
  • It is responsible for the proper functioning of certain functions in the body.

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