Does tryptophan affect your heart? (3 risks)

In this article, we will discuss whether tryptophan affects your heart or not. Furthermore, we will discuss the potential link between tryptophan and the cardiovascular system, what research suggests on this, the possible risks and benefits of taking tryptophan and recommendations to safely use tryptophan supplements. 

Does tryptophan affect your heart? 

Yes, tryptophan may impact your heart health in various ways. However, tryptophan itself is not directly linked to heart health-related concerns but it is involved in the production of an important neurotransmitter called serotonin, which might significantly influence the cardiovascular system. (1)

Tryptophan is considered an essential amino acid that your body can not synthesize on its own, rather it should be consumed with diet. It is a precursor in the making of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, which help in mood regulation and the sleep-wake cycle. Some dietary sources of tryptophan may include, poultry, dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) and nuts or seeds. (1)

However, the changes in tryptophan levels (both increased and decreased), might have various implications for a person’s health because of simultaneous fluctuations in serotonin and melatonin levels and consequently heart health is compromised. (2)

If you have concerns about the intake of nutritional supplements like tryptophan on your heart health, it’s recommended to consult with your doctor or dietitian. 

What is the potential link between tryptophan and heart health?

The relationship between tryptophan and heart health is complicated and not fully understood. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which exerts its effects on various physiological processes. 

It is believed that tryptophan being the precursor of serotonin may influence the constriction and dilation of blood vessels, leading to changes in blood pressure. This happens due to the changes in serotonin levels which can occur with alterations in tryptophan availability. (1,3)

Serotonin is also found to be involved in the aggregation of platelets which is an important process for blood clotting. Thus alterations in serotonin levels due to altered tryptophan availability might influence platelet function and increase the chances of clotting which could cause hindrance in the flow of blood in arteries and veins of the heart. (1,2)

Tryptophan also plays a crucial role in immune system responses and inflammation, due to its involvement in the synthesis of kynurenine pathway metabolites. Therefore, alterations in tryptophan levels may lead to chronic inflammation which is associated with cardiovascular diseases. So in this way, there may be indirect links between tryptophan metabolism and heart health through inflammatory pathways. (4)

Changes in serotonin levels due to altered tryptophan availability can also affect the heart rate variability of a person by influencing the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity of the autonomic nervous system. Some antidepressants that increase serotonin levels may also affect HRV, such as Citalopram, Lexapro etc. (1)

What does research suggest?

According to a research study, researchers gave different amounts of tryptophan (both high and low doses), to 19 patients who had previously suffered depression but were currently not depressed. (2)

They found out that in the participants who received higher doses of tryptophan, depressive symptoms were increased as compared to lower doses. They also indicated that people with a history of suicidal thoughts from depression suffered more negative effects from higher doses of tryptophan such as a decrease in heart rate variability and an increase in impulsive behaviour and anxiety. (2)

This study suggests that individuals with a history of depression who suffer from controlling their impulsive behaviour may be at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) problems due to altered tryptophan availability. 

What are the benefits of tryptophan on the cardiovascular system?

There are several important benefits of tryptophan on heart health. Some of them include: (4)

  • Serotonin production: Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin synthesis, a chemical that plays a crucial role in the regulation of blood vessel tone. Serotonin can also influence blood pressure and blood flow, potentially contributing to cardiovascular health. 


  • Mood regulation: Serotonin, derived from tryptophan, is associated with mood regulation. Positive mood and reduced stress can indirectly benefit the cardiovascular system by promoting a person’s overall well-being. 


  • Melatonin synthesis: Tryptophan is also a precursor to melatonin, a hormone which is involved in sleep-wake cycles. Adequate sleep is linked to cardiovascular health and melatonin may have protective effects on the cardiovascular system. 

What are the potential risks of tryptophan on the heart?

There are various potential risks and considerations related cardiovascular system due to altered levels of tryptophan, including: (3)

Serotonin syndrome: 

Intake of tryptophan supplements in excessive quantities or medications that increase serotonin levels may lead to a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. While rare, this condition can cause various cardiovascular effects, such as changes in blood pressure or heart rate.

Interactions with medications: 

Tryptophan supplements can interact with certain medications, including antidepressants and medications for cardiovascular conditions. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting tryptophan supplements. 

Individual responses: 

The impact of tryptophan on heart health may vary among individuals. Various factors like genetic makeup, a person’s overall health and some pre-existing medical conditions may influence how a body responds to alterations in tryptophan levels.

It’s important to keep in mind that while tryptophan is an essential amino acid, necessary for various bodily functions, obtaining it through a balanced diet in appropriate quantity is vital as an increase or decrease in quantity might lead to disruptions in normal body functions. 

What are the recommendations for safely taking tryptophan? 

If you’re considering taking tryptophan supplements, it’s important to do so safely and under the guidance of your doctor. Here are some recommendations: (4)

Consult with a healthcare professional: Before starting any new supplement, including tryptophan, consult with your healthcare provider. They can assess your specific health condition, medications you’re taking and any potential interactions to ensure is it safe for you. 

Dosage guidance: Always stick to your doctor’s recommended dose. taking too much tryptophan may lead to adverse effects, including serotonin syndrome. 

Quality of supplements: Choose high-quality supplements from well-recognized brands. Look for products that have been tested for purity and quality and do not contain impurities. 

Avoid self-diagnosis and treatment: Do not use tryptophan supplements as a self-treatment for mental health conditions or other health-related concerns. 

Monitor for side effects: Be vigilant and keep an eye on how your body is responding to the supplement. If you experience any bothersome side effects, report it to your prescribed doctor. Common side effects of taking tryptophan may include nausea, dizziness and GIT issues (diarrhoea or constipation). 

Temporary use: Tryptophan supplements are commonly prescribed for short-term use. Prolong use must be discussed with your healthcare provider. Do not choose the duration of the course on your own. 

Consider dietary sources: Whenever possible, try to obtain the nutrients including tryptophan from your dietary sources like milk and nuts before switching to and solely relying on supplements. 

As a pharmacist, I would suggest you, attend regular follow-up appointments with your doctor and monitor your tryptophan levels and other related health conditions. Always seek professional help to ensure that the use of tryptophan supplements aligns with your specific health condition or not. 

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!