Tryptophan-enriched cereal intake improves nocturnal sleep, melatonin, serotonin, and total antioxidant capacity levels and mood in elderly humans

Abstract

Melatonin and serotonin rhythms, which exhibit a close association with the endogenous circadian component of sleep, are attenuated with increasing age. This decrease seems to be linked to sleep alterations in the elderly. Chrononutrition is a field of chronobiology that establishes the principle of consuming foodstuffs at times of the day when they are more useful for health, improving, therefore, biorhythms and physical performance. Our aim was to analyze whether the consumption of cereals enriched with tryptophan, the precursor of both serotonin and melatonin, may help in the reconsolidation of the sleep/wake cycle and counteract depression and anxiety in 35 middle-aged/elderly (aged 55–75 year) volunteers in a simple blind assay. Data were collected for 3 weeks according to the following schedule: The control week participants consumed standard cereals (22.5 mg tryptophan in 30 g cereals per dose) at breakfast and dinner; for the treatment week, cereals enriched with a higher dose of tryptophan (60 mg tryptophan in 30 g cereals per dose) were eaten at both breakfast and dinner; the posttreatment week volunteers consumed their usual diet. Each participant wore a wrist actimeter that logged activity during the whole experiment. Urine was collected to analyze melatonin and serotonin urinary metabolites and to measure total antioxidant capacity. The consumption of cereals containing the higher dose in tryptophan increased sleep efficiency, actual sleep time, immobile time, and decreased total nocturnal activity, sleep fragmentation index, and sleep latency. Urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid levels, and urinary total antioxidant capacity also increased respectively after tryptophan-enriched cereal ingestion as well as improving anxiety and depression symptoms. Cereals enriched with tryptophan may be useful as a chrononutrition tool for alterations in the sleep/wake cycle due to age.

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Acknowledgments

This work has been supported by ORDESA S.L. Laboratories. S.D. Paredes was a beneficiary of a grant by Junta de Extremadura—Fondo Social Europeo (REI09009).

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Correspondence to R. Bravo.

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Bravo, R., Matito, S., Cubero, J. et al. Tryptophan-enriched cereal intake improves nocturnal sleep, melatonin, serotonin, and total antioxidant capacity levels and mood in elderly humans. AGE 35, 1277–1285 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-012-9419-5

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Keywords

  • Chrononutrition
  • Actigraphy
  • Elderly
  • Tryptophan
  • Serotonin
  • Melatonin