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Plasma total tryptophan (TRP) concentration was significantly lower in 31 patients with major depression compared to a healthy control group. The ratio of plasma TRP concentration to that of other branch chain amino acids (the TRP:BCAA ratio) was also decreased. Further analysis revealed that the decrease in plasma TRP and TRP:BCAA ratio was most apparent in patients with major depression and melancholia. Overall, women but not men had significantly decreased plasma tryptophan concentrations, perhaps because of a contributory effect of weight loss; this latter effect, however, could not be distinguished clearly from a diagnosis of melancholia. Our data suggest that in some depressed patients, reductions in plasma tryptophan availability may contribute to abnormalities in brain 5-hydroxytryptamine function.


Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





185 - 191


Adult, Amino Acids, Branched-Chain, Depressive Disorder, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Tryptophan, Weight Loss