The Trust Diet, Featuring…Tryptophan

If you find yourself short on trust, there just may be something missing in your diet.

In what may be one of the more curious studies conducted, researchers have discovered that people’s trust in others increases after eating food that contains the amino acid tryptophan, found in fish, soya, eggs, spinach, and of course, the centerpiece of many holiday fares…turkey. The study was published in Psychological Science.

Scientists have known for some time that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays a role in mutual cooperation. But the precondition for mutual cooperation is mutual trust. The central question guiding the tryptophan-trust research was simple: is there a fast and easy way to promote trust?

To determine the effect of tryptophan, the researchers gave one group orange juice with tryptophan, while a second group was given a placebo. Both groups then played a trust game, featuring a task that is often used to measure how much people trust each other. A trustor was given 5 euros and was free to decide how much of that money he or she would give to a trustee in each round of the game. The trustor would then receive extra money, but only if the trustee gave the trustor enough money in return. The money transferred to the trustee by the trustor served as an indicator of mutual trust.

The results were surprising: The tryptophan group gave significantly more money than the placebo group.

The researchers conclude that certain types of food can effectively act as a cognitive enhancer that helps to modulate the way one thinks and perceives the the world around them, as the intake of tryptophan indicates with respect to enhancing trust.

Here’s a quick video that explains further.