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Current formulations for acute tryptophan (Trp) or tyrosine (Tyr) plus phenylalanine (Phe) depletion and loading cause undesirable decreases in ratios of Trp or Tyr + Phe to competing amino acids (CAA), thus undermining the specificities of these tests. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) cause these unintended decreases, and lowering their content in a new balanced control formulation in the present study led to normalization of all ratios. Four groups (n = 12 each) of adults each received one of four 50 g control formulations, with 0% (traditional), 20%, 30%, or 40% less of the BCAA. The free and total [Trp]/[CAA] and [Phe + Tyr]/[BCAA + Trp] ratios all decreased significantly during the first 5 h following the traditional formulation, but were fully normalized by the formulation containing 40% less of the BCAA. We recommend the latter as a balanced control formulation and propose adjustments in the depletion and loading formulations to enhance their specificities for 5-HT and the catecholamines.
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