Effect of sub chronic tryptophan supplementation on stress-induced cortisol and appetite in subjects differing in 5-HTTLPR genotype and trait neuroticism

A.E.M. Capello*, C.R. Markus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Stress or negative effect often increases preference for, and intake of, palatable snack foods and this may be influenced by cognitive and genetic factors related to stress and 5-HT vulnerability. The short (S) compared to the long (L) allele of the 5-HT transporter linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) has been associated (i) with decreased 5-HT transporter function and availability and hence, with 5-HT vulnerability, and (ii) with greater stress-responsiveness. Stress-proneness is furthermore promoted by cognitive stress-vulnerability, a key feature of trait neuroticism. Brain 5-HT function can be manipulated by dietary administration of its amino acid precursor tryptophan (Trp), and the beneficial effects of dietary Trp on stress experience and emotional eating may be greatest following repeated administration in both stress- and 5-HT-vulnerable subjects. The aim was to examine the influence of repeated Trp administration on stress responsiveness and emotional eating in homozygous 5-HTTLPR S-allele (N=60) and L-allele (N=58) carriers with high and low neuroticism. Following seven days of Trp or PLC intake, mood, cortisol and appetite were assessed before and after exposure to acute stress and snack intake and preference were measured post-stress. It was hypothesized that Trp would reduce stress experience and emotional eating particularly in S-allele carriers with high neuroticism. Results revealed Trp treatment caused a clear reduction in stress-induced cortisol levels in S/S-allele carriers exclusively, and prevented a stress-induced increase in appetite only in S/S-allele carriers with high trait neuroticism. The findings reveal an advantageous effect of sub chronic Trp treatment on stress experience and appetite depending on stress and (genetic) serotonergic vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-107
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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