Eating to dare - Nutrition impacts human risky decision and related brain function

Neuroimage. 2021 Jun:233:117951. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.117951. Epub 2021 Mar 12.


Macronutrient composition modulates plasma amino acids that are precursors of neurotransmitters and can impact brain function and decisions. Neurotransmitter serotonin has been shown to regulate not only food intake, but also economic decisions. We investigated whether an acute nutrition-manipulation inducing plasma tryptophan fluctuation affects brain function, thereby affecting risky decisions. Breakfasts differing in carbohydrate/protein ratios were offered to test changes in risky decision-making while metabolic and neural dynamics were tracked. We identified that a high-carbohydrate/protein breakfast increased plasma tryptophan/LNAA (large neutral amino acids) ratio which mapped to individual risk propensity changes. The nutrition-manipulation and tryptophan/LNAA fluctuation effects on risk propensity changes were further modulated by individual differences in body fat mass. Using fMRI, we further identified activation in the parietal lobule during risk-processing, of which activities 1) were sensitive to the tryptophan/LNAA fluctuation, 2) were modulated by individual's body fat mass, and 3) predicted the risk propensity changes in decision-making. Our results provide evidence for a personalized nutrition-driven modulation on human risky decision and its metabolic and neural mechanisms.

Keywords: Fat mass; Macronutrient; Parietal lobule; Risky decision-making; Serotonin; Tryptophan.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Eating / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Nutrients / administration & dosage*
  • Nutritional Status / physiology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Carbohydrates