Amino acids help control your brain’s chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are vital for the wide range of actions, drives, and emotions that make us human. They affect hunger, thirst, sex drive, aggression, depression, sleep, anger, energy, thought, even sociability and loneliness. Neurotransmitter imbalances may create mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and several forms of depression. They also affect our higher mental processes: learning, memory, overall alertness and mental acuity. They are the chemical roots of the entire spectrum of our thoughts, actions, and feelings.
What does this have to do with what you eat? Each neurotransmitter is made up of a particular balance of amino acids. The right amino acid balance can help you avoid the depression and anxiety that often cause people to overeat and thus, indirectly, control your weight.
While I was at Harvard, much work was being done on the relationship of brain chemicals to what we eat. A Harvard research team, headed by Dr. Alan Gelenberg, found that the balance of brain chemicals depends directly on the amount and type of amino acids in our diet. In fact, they found measurable changes in brain chemistry linked to what had been eaten at the most recent meal! From this study and others, it appears that amino acids can have a profound effect on depression, anxiety, and a host of other emotions.
Because different foods contain different quantities of amino acids, it follows that what you eat exerts a strong effect on your mental state. This is what I call the “food-mood” connection.

Amino acids can also help reduce the negative emotions that are at the root of food abuse. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know what a key role mood and emotions play in destructive eating patterns. When we feel lonely, apprehensive, glum, bored, anxious, out of control, or low on self-esteem, we often look for relief at the end of a fork. This can lead to binge eating or other self-destructive, food-centered behavior—true “food abuse.”
Amino acids can help! They are more gentle and much safer than powerful mind-altering drugs (the mood elevators and antidepressants) that many psychiatrists use. Those medications only mask the problem, and introduce potent chemicals into an already imbalanced brain.
By far the best and safest way to improve your mood is to do what Nature does: use amino acids to reduce negative brain chemicals and increase positive ones. Amino acids are an elegant and natural way to piggyback on Nature’s flawless pharmacology, and break the food abuse cycle.
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