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Impaired regulation of brain serotonin function during dieting in women recovered from depression

  • K. A. Smith (a1), C. Williams (a1) and P. J. Cowen (a1)
Extract
Background

Amino acid mixtures that lower brain availability of the serotonin (5-HT) precursor tryptophan produce acute depressive relapse in women with a history of major depression. Dieting also lowers brain tryptophan availability, but its effects on brain 5-HT function in recovered depressed women have not been studied.

Aim

To test the hypothesis that women with a history of major depression would show impaired regulation of brain 5-HT function during a period of dieting-induced tryptophan depletion.

Method

Women with and without a history of major depression were placed on a daily 1000 kcal (approximately 4200 kJ) diet for three weeks. Before the diet and in the final week we measured fasting plasma tryptophan levels and the prolactin response to an intravenous tryptophan challenge.

Results

Dieting lowered plasma tryptophan levels equivalently in women with and without a history of depression. In women without a history of depression, dieting also increased the prolactin response to tryptophan. This increase did not occur in women with a history of depression.

Conclusions

Women with a history of depression showed impaired regulation of brain 5-HT function in response to dieting.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor P.J. Cowen, University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX
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Declaration of interest

Funding from the Medical Research Council.

Footnotes
References
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Anderson, I. M., Parry-Billings, M., Newsholme, E. A., et al (1990) Dieting reduces plasma tryptophan and alters brain 5-HT function in women. Psychological Medicine, 20, 785791.
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Cowen, P. J., Clifford, E. M., Walsh, A. E. S., et al (1996) Moderate dieting causes 5-HT2C receptor supersensitivity. Psychological Medicine, 26, 11551159.
First, M. B., Spitzer, R. L., Gibbon, M., et al (1997) Structured Clinical Interview for DSM–IV, Axis I Disorder – Clinical Version. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Franklin, M., Craven, R. D., Dowling, B., et al (1999) Effect of a long-term tryptophan diet on the prolactin responses to the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2C agonists, 8-OH-DPAT and mCPP, in the male rat. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 13, 5863.
Gil-Ad, I. F., Zambotti, F., Carruba, M. O., et al (1976) Stimulatory role for serotonergic system on prolactin secretion. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, 151, 512518.
Power, A. C. & Cowen, P. J. (1992) Neuroendocrine challenge tests: assessment of 5-HT function in anxiety and depression. Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 13, 205213.
Smith, C. E., Ware, C. J. & Cowen, P. J. (1991) Pindolol decreases prolactin and growth hormone responses to intravenous L-tryptophan. Psychopharmacology, 103, 140142.
Smith, K. A., Fairburn, C. G. & Cowen, P. J. (1997a) Relapse of depression after rapid depletion of tryptophan. Lancet, 349, 915919.
Smith, K. A., Clifford, E. M., Hockney, R. A., et al (1997b) Effect of tryptophan depletion on mood in male and female volunteers: a pilot study. Human Psychopharmacology, 12, 111117.
Upadhyaya, A. J., Pennell, I., Cowen, P. J., et al (1991) Blunted growth hormone and prolactin responses to L-tryptophan in depression: a state-dependent abnormality. Journal of Affective Disorders, 21, 213218.
Walsh, A. E. S., Oldman, A. D., Franklin, M., et al (1995) Dieting decreases plasma tryptophan and increases the prolactin response to d-fenfluramine in women but not men. Journal of Affective Disorders, 33, 8997.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Impaired regulation of brain serotonin function during dieting in women recovered from depression

  • K. A. Smith (a1), C. Williams (a1) and P. J. Cowen (a1)
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