Are Amino Acids really the Building Blocks of life? Can too many hurt me?

My wife and I are kicking off our new year with a great resolution. We are losing weight and trying to live a happier healthier life. I am reading the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. One of the main premises in the book is that of a balanced diet and it’s affect on the human body. my wife and I are experimenting with several amino acid supplements noted in the book as being beneficial to our health. Does anyone have any anecdotes or info on the actual efficacy of these Amino acids on the body and any harmful effects they may have? Here is some info on them, but what I am searching for is people who have actually used them and their personal experiences.



Every November, we are told by nutritionists that turkey contains plenty of tryptophan (They Might Be Giants even have a song about it.) They tell us that it messes with our serotonin, which is one reason we’re sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner.

Aside from that, I have no useful info for you.

When amino acids are strung together into chains, they become proteins. Some proteins are good and some proteins are bad–the human race learned which substances contain which a long time ago.

An amino acid by itself can do a lot of different things, also. They can act as neurotransmitters or as tastants, for instance.

Your body is used to digesting proteins, which contain lots of different amino acids. It is not used to being fed a large amount of one amino acid at a time.

I suggest that you take it slowly, adding one supplement at a time so that you can see if each one has any particular effect on you–be scientific about it, basically. My boss began taking arginine supplements, and at the recommended dose, they made him feel nauseous. At a lower dose, he feels fine.

Amino acids are only useful if they can be put back together again to form proteins. You do need to consume enough of the “essential” amino acids - those that can’t be made by the body. Beyond that it’s hard to see what good any individual amino acid will do. Sure, the people that sell them make all sorts of claims but they don’t appear to backed up by any substantial science.

You’re far better off to eat complete proteins (either meats or combinations of plant proteins that contain all the amino acids) as part of a balanced diet. It’s cheaper and healthier than quack pills.

Please avoid any and all anecdotal claims about nutrients. That’s a sure way to get your body into trouble.

Some amino acids (20 of them) are the building blocks of life. “Amino acid” just means a chemical with a amino group on one end and a carboxyl group on the other.

Of these 20 amino acids, some of them are “essential” for humans – we cannot synthesize them from scratch or other amino acids.

Taking megadoses of amino acids has generally not been shown to have beneficial advantages. These are chemicals and they can have harmful effects in overdose. The ones that comes to mind is kidney stones and gout which can result from too much nitrogen intake.

Proper nutritional intake is of course a necessary part of life, but malnutrition is pretty rare in the developed world. PubMed searches on the effects of supplemental tryptophan show some possible effect (less excitability, some better behavior) in animal models (horses, broiler chicks, rats) but this hasn’t to my knowledge panned out in humans. I can’t find much on 5-hydroxytryptophan at all.

I’m really glad I saw this thread. I used to take L-Tryptophan, and it helped me get to sleep easily. I loved it. For me, there were no undesirable side effects. Then it got taken off the market because of some contamination incident. I didn’t know it was legal again. Yippee!

I don’t know if it’s the same system, but at the time I was trying something called precursor therapy. The basic idea was to be sure you have enough of the serotonin building blocks. It included B vitamins, and… and… I forget the other amino acid.

This is anecdotal and should not be construed as professional medical advice, obviously. The previous advice to be cautious is certainly in order, and of course be sure to tell your doctor in case there are interactions or other counterindications for you personally.

L-Tyrosine. That was the other one.