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  • Jakob De Coninck

Article Review: Effect of BCAA's on mental state

Article: Gijsman, H., Scarnà, A., Harmer, C., McTavish, S., Odontiadis, J., Cowen, P. and Goodwin, G. (2002). A dose-finding study on the effects of branch chain amino acids on surrogate markers of brain dopamine function. Psychopharmacology, 160(2), pp.192-197.


Design: 12 Subjects (7M, 5F) underwent a double blind study of either 10g, 30g or 60g of BCAA and then underwent a range of tests at the 0min mark and 300min mark post ingestion. These tests included a blood sample, 4 neuropsychological tests and 2 questionnaires.


Findings: The biggest finding to come out of the study was the large increase in Prolactin with the higher dosage of BCAAs. As dopamine is an inhibitor of prolactin production it suggests that a high dosage of BCAAs can dramatically decrease your dopamine production. They didn't however find much change in the neuropsychological and mood questionaries, finding only a slight decrease in reaction time with BCAA supplementation, but I think this could be partly due to lack of long term supplementation.

Limitations: This was not a long term study but rather a single bout test. It would be rather interesting to look at the effects of long term BCAA supplementation.


My Thoughts: This study was interesting as it showed a large increase of prolactin creating the reasoning that dopamine production was inhibited. As dopamine is a largely important neuro-receptor in the brain, BCAAs could pose a large psychological issue over the long term with decrease of dopamine. As the findings a quite opposing on the effects of BCAAs, in the interest of mental health I would suggest supplementing with whey or whole protein therefore reducing the neurological detriment associate but still getting the adequate levels of protein needed for muscle synthesis.

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