Science Questions

Why do certain foods trigger panic attacks?

Sat, 7th Jul 2007

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Question

Chris asked:

Why do certain foods trigger panic attacks, and sometimes depression?

 

Answer

(We put this question to Professor Nick Craddock, a Neuroscientist from Cardiff University)

Well the answer to this question is that we’re not sure. Certainly, things that influence neurotransmitter systems that can alter mood or create anxiety feelings. The amino acid tryptophan gets turned into 5-hydroxy-tryptomine, which is also known as serotonin, the brain’s feel good chemical. If your diet is deficient in tryptophan this can lead to depression. One of the reasons people like to binge on chocolate is that chocolate can raise serotonin levels. Undoubtedly, food can have an effect on mood, but we’re not sure to what extent.

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