Carbohydrates, Tryptophan, and Behavior: A Methodological Review

Bonnie Spring*, June Chiodo, Deborah J. Bowen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


In this methodological review, we examine the behavioral effects of carbohydrates and tryptophan and conclude that high-carbohydrate foods do not provoke hyperactivity, contrary to popular beliefs. Unbalanced carbohydrate meals, however, often induce fatigue and can impair performance among both children and adults. Although tryptophan hastens sleep onset, dulls pain sensitivity, and may reduce aggressiveness, it is unclear whether similar effects can be obtained through carbohydrate ingestion. We provide support for the hypothesis that carbohydrates and tryptophan function similarly and like drugs that modify brain biochemistry and accompanying mood and behavior. We also examine implications for clinical populations who selectively crave carbohydrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-256
Number of pages23
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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