Diet Versus Exercise in Weight Loss and Maintenance: Focus on Tryptophan

Int J Tryptophan Res. 2016 May 10;9:9-16. doi: 10.4137/IJTR.S33385. eCollection 2016.


An association between mood disturbance, the inability to lose or to stop gaining weight, and a craving for carbohydrates is manifested by many people who are overweight or are becoming so. In a recent study, we observed that low-calorie weight loss diet lowered not only levels of leptin but also levels of essential amino acid tryptophan (TRP) significantly. The disturbed metabolism of TRP might affect biosynthesis of serotonin and could thereby increase the susceptibility for mood disturbances and carbohydrate craving, increasing the cessation probability of weight reduction programs. Alternatively, moderate physical exercise - a potent stimulus to modulate (reduce/normalize) proinflammatory cytokines, which may affect TRP levels - could be helpful in improving mood status and preventing uncontrolled weight gain. In contrast, excessive physical exercise may induce breakdown of TRP when proinflammatory cascades together with TRP-degrading enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-1 are stimulated, which may lead to neuropsychiatric symptoms such as fatigue and low mood.

Keywords: diet; exercise; mood; tryptophan; weight loss maintenance.

Publication types

  • Review