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The effects of a diet enriched with α-lactalbumin on mood and cortisol response in unmedicated recovered depressed subjects and controls

  • Wendelien Merens (a1), Linda Booij (a1), Rob Markus (a2), Frans G. Zitman (a3), Willem Onkenhout (a4) and A.J. Willem Van der Does (a1) (a3)...

Abstract

α-Lactalbumin is a tryptophan-rich protein fraction. A diet enriched with α-lactalbumin increases the ratio of tryptophan to the other large neutral amino acids, which may in turn increase brain serotonin content. In stress-vulnerable individuals, α-lactalbumin improved mood and attenuated the cortisol response after experimental stress. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of an α-lactalbumin-enriched diet on mood and stress response in recovered depressed subjects and healthy controls. Forty-three subjects (twenty-three recovered depressed and twenty healthy subjects) received α-lactalbumin and casein (placebo) on separate days, in a double-blind randomised crossover design. On both occasions, subjects underwent a stress test (an unsolvable mental arithmetic task with loud noise). The stress test affected mood in both conditions. Although the α-lactalbumin diet led to the expected rises in tryptophan and tryptophan:large neutral amino acids ratio, only minimal effects were found on mood and cortisol response to experimental stress. The results were the same for recovered depressed patients and controls. A 1 d diet enriched with α-lactalbumin is not sufficient to prevent a stress-induced mood deterioration or a cortisol response in unmedicated, recovered depressed subjects. Future studies may investigate the effects of longer-term diets or may investigate different samples (e.g. medicated patients).

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr A. J. W. Van der Does, fax +31 71 527 3619, email vanderdoes@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

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