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Does Dr. Oz's Dopamine Diet Work?


One thing I really love about my job is that it keeps me on my toes. The world of nutrition never gets boring, especially because it seems every other day there is a new diet being talked about. Just this week, featured on The Dr. Oz Show, was the dopamine diet.

Created by Bryce Wylde, a graduate from the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine with a diploma in homeopathic medicine and health sciences (DHMHS), this diet claims that chronic overeating causes low levels of dopamine—a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers and regulates movement and emotional responses—that ultimately leads to a cycle of cravings and more overeating. To restore dopamine receptors and prevent this cycle from continuing, Wylde recommends eating tyrosine-rich foods and supplementing with L-tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid that serves as precursor for dopamine.

Foods recommended in the dopamine diet include fava beans, duck, chicken, ricotta cheese, oatmeal, mustard greens, edamame, dark chocolate, seaweed, and wheat germ. Wylde also suggests foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically seafood. He claims DHA, a type of omega 3, also has an effect on dopamine levels.

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Wylde points us to a 2008 study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism that suggested the brain uses dopamine to tell the body when to stop eating. However, besides this study I was unable to find further research with the same results. What I did find was research to suggest that a deficiency in dopamine may result in Parkinson's disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. There also seems to be a genetic component to low dopamine levels.

I found all the research confusing and am not sure of its validity in regards to weight management. However, I can almost always understand a meal plan and whether or not I would support it as part of a healthy diet. I could get on board with all the food choices, except maybe the duck since it is high in saturated fat. And with the dark chocolate I would definitely emphasize portion control, since the “more is better” attitude will surely backfire.

But where Wylde definitely loses me are with his supplement suggestions. He suggests 1 to 2 teaspoons squid oil daily (this doesn’t sound appetizing) and 500 to 1,000 milligrams L-tyrosine, once when you wake up on an empty stomach and again between lunch and dinner. Tyrosine seems to be safe when used in doses up to 150 mg per kilogram of bodyweight per day for up to three months, but some people may experience side effects such as nausea, headache, fatigue, heartburn, and joint pain.

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Bottom line: The dopamine diet may or may not help you to lose weight; I think it depends on your dopamine levels to begin with. But for me regardless of that, any diet that recommends supplements with potential “side effects” is a plan I try to stay clear of.


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