Pumpkinseeds are widely viewed as healthy and nutritious. They are packed with protein and vitamins, healthy oil and nutrients. They have a reputation of helping with urinary problems, especially among middle-aged men. Recently, as a result of research done by Biosential, they are also now associated with helping alleviate sleep and anxiety issues.

This is only half the story, though. Pumpkinseeds eaten alone will actually reduce the effect that leads to serotonin and melatonin production.

Wait, what? How can they be good and bad for you?

Eating more pumpkinseeds will not increase your brain tryptophan levels. Here is the essence of what is called the ‘Tryptophan Paradox’: eating protein foods rich in tryptophan will decrease rather than increase your brain tryptophan levels.

To understand the chemistry of this you need to see the brain as somewhat separate from the rest of the body. The reason behind the Tryptophan Paradox is something called the Blood-Brain-Barrier [BBB], a shield that protects the sensitive brain from noxious substances that are in the blood. At the same time, nutrients in the blood must be allowed in the brain. In the case of tryptophan, access to the brain happens across a transporter that recognizes the tryptophan molecule and then facilitates its absorption into the brain.

The problem with tryptophan in protein is that it shares this transport site with other amino acids which are far more abundant and better able to “stick” to the transporter and effectively out-compete tryptophan for access to the brain. Consequently, when you eat protein foods your blood tryptophan levels go up but your brain levels go down as tryptophan routinely gets sent back to the body.

For years, the Tryptophan Paradox eliminated the use of protein source tryptophan as a way of building brain tryptophan levels. That is, until the researchers at Zenbev combed the medical literature to unlock how this process could be circumvented. It turns out that simple carbohydrate and Vitamin B3 is the answer. In the presence of these ingredients all the other amino acids in a protein get shunted away from the brain except tryptophan allowing it private access across the blood brain barrier.

Once there, it freely metabolizes to serotonin in high light conditions and melatonin in low light conditions. Mystery solved: Zenbev born.