Trust food

There is no doubt that food can impact your state of mind. Compare how you feel after a tucking into a hamburger to your thinking after a haloumi, pumpkin, quinoa and rocket salad. A quick comparative survey of your diet matched with your moods will leave you in no doubt that your thinking is heavily shaped by what you have eaten. If you require further convincing though, consider a new study from the Universities of Leiden and Munster, which has shown that some foods can boost levels of trust.

Serotonin is also called 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptophan) and is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood, appetite and sleep. It is called a “feel-good” neurotransmitter but it is also has subtle effects. Many animal and studies have shown that serotonin promotes co-operation and inhibits aggression.

In humans, serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan which occurs in foods like fish, crab, soy, turkey, chicken, eggs, sesame seeds and spinach. Human studies have previously shown that supplements of tryptophan can enhance co-operation in problem-solving groups and diminish aggression while lack of tryptophan reduces co-operation and provokes aggression. So these researchers wanted to see whether tryptophan might actually promote trust.

To test this, they gave one group of subjects orange juice fortified with tryptophan while another group was given a placebo. Both groups then performed a task designed to measure trust.

The task involved the subject being given some money and then asked to share that money with another person in each round of the game. The subject would then receive extra money but only if the other participant gave them extra money in return. So the amount of money that the subject gave to the other player is an indicator of how much trust they feel.

The results showed that people gave significantly more money after they had been given tryptophan. This indicates that tryptophan, and therefore the serotonin that it produces, promotes feelings of trust.

So for that first date, or for a meal over which you hope to seal a new contract, perhaps to promote trust in your co-diner you might try a soy-glazed fish with stir-fried tofu, sesame and spinach, or perhaps even just go for sushi.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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