This news item was created by students Shena Latcham, Jessica Benes, Matt Meyers, Mya Cross and Nicole Dyle as part of their Chemistry 210 Semester Project in WS99 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 24. Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article

The Associated Press and St. Louis Dispatch, February 15, 1999.

Editorial Comments

One of the major health issues facing American people today are eating disorders such as bulimia. In the past it has o ften been thought that eating disorders are socially influenced through supposed norms of what the "ideal person" is. Recently though, research has introduced an alternative theory that although peer pressure could lead to such disorders the chances of d eveloping such a disease is more likely caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

According to a study published by the American Medical Association's Archives of General Psychiatry, the chemical imbalance leading to bulimia is biologically rooted. One of these chemicals, tryptophan, an amino acids, affects the levels of serotonin. In return, serotonin and its certain levels, which are found in the brain, are found to affect mood s and appetite.

The research of serotonin, tryptophan, and their affects on bulimi a is rather new. Much is still not known about the affects of these chemicals on the body, but with more research more evidence is bound to be revealed leading to a final answer of the probability of bulimia being biologically linked.

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 24. Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins


Question 1: How does the amino acid affect the serotonin levels in the brain?

A. Tryptophan is used by the body to make and regulate serotonin

Question 2: How do serotonin level in the brain affect moods and appetite?

A. Serotonin acts as a depressant, if the levels of serotonin fluctuate too high or low the mood will fluctuate.

Question 3: Look up the structures of tryptophan and serotonin on ChemFinder. What are the similarities and differences in the formulas and structures?

A. Tryptophan (C11H12N2O2) and Serotonin (C10H12N2O)

Question 4: Because of the small number of subjects in the study, do you think there should be more research done, or do you feel this coincidental evidence and people will try to use this information as a scapegoat.

A. Answer is based on opinion and group discussion.

Question 5: According to the study, could it really be chemical or is it just that the recovered bulimics have not fully recovered yet? Do you think they will ever return to "normal" women?

A. Answer is based on opinion and group discussion.