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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994 Sep;51(9):687-97.

Mood-lowering effect of tryptophan depletion. Enhanced susceptibility in young men at genetic risk for major affective disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Abstract

METHODS:

A double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over study in which plasma tryptophan was manipulated by administration of a tryptophan-deficient amino acid mixture. In the placebo condition, all subjects received a nutritionally balanced amino acid mixture that contained tryptophan. To further standardize baseline amino acids, each subject was provided with a low-protein diet the day before amino acid challenges. Subjects were euthymic, healthy men aged 18 to 30 years with either a multigenerational family history of affective illness or no family history of psychiatric illness in the present or in the two previous generations. Each subject was screened with a structured clinical interview to rule out a personal history of psychiatric illness.

RESULTS:

Plasma tryptophan was reduced by 89% 5 hours after the administration of the tryptophan-deficient amino acid mixture. Six of 20 subjects with a family history of affective illness and none of 19 subjects without a family history of psychiatric illness showed a lowering of mood of 10 or more points on the Profile of Mood States depression scale (P = .012, Fisher's Exact Test) 5 hours after tryptophan depletion. No significant mood changes were observed following the control treatment (balanced amino acid mixture) in either group.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our data support the hypothesis that subjects with no prior depressive episodes but with a multigenerational family history of major affective disorder show a greater reduction in mood after tryptophan depletion. They are also consistent with theories that implicate deficient serotonergic function as one possible etiological factor in major depressive disorders.

PMID:
8080345
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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