Two handfuls of Cashews is the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac in treating Depression.
Hoax or Fact:
The natural health claim doing rounds online since few years says that two handfuls of Cashew nuts is the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac in treating Depression. No, as detailed below, the claim as such is not a fact.
Origin of Story
A 1999 year, old article on Doctor Yourself website doctoryourself.com, authored by a Dr. Andrew Saul, discusses 'An Alternative to "Prozac"?'. Prozac is a popular antidepressant prescription drug, whose action mechanism is not entirely clear, but believed to be related to increasing Serotonin activity in the brain. Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter, popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. In his article, Andrew Saul mentions that the essential amino acid in human body L-tryptophan is broken down into anxiety-reducing, snooze-inducing Niacin, and that Tryptophan is also made into Serotonin, one of the most important neurotransmitters. Discussing the alternative to Prozac, he mentions the below statement:
"...one big handful of cashews provides one to two thousand milligrams of tryptophan, which will work as well as prescription antidepressants... but don't tell the drug companies".
Since at least March 2014 certain websites like Why Don't You Try This? (whydontyoutrythis.com) have come up with the claims that two handfuls of cashews is the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac. In an article titled 'The Case for Cashews' on Men's Journal website mensjournal.com Dr. Andrew Saul is quoted saying, "Several handfuls of cashews provide 1,000-2,000 milligrams of tryptophan, which will work as well as prescription antidepressants". The claim in question thus became popular and has also been shared on social media sites since then.
The Dr. Andrew Saul that related Prozac and Cashews for tryptophan content is a Nutritionist, who is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine and of Orthomolecular Magazine (Netherlands). An article on Medical Daily website medicaldaily.com with title 'Diet For Depression And Anxiety: 5 Natural Mood-Enhancer Foods To Lift Your Mind' describes thus:
Cashews are also a good option since they contain iron, magnesium, Vitamin B6, protein, and important amino acids and even omega 3 fats. Cashews contain tryptophan, which is critical for improving the uptake of serotonin in the brain, reducing feelings of depression.
Although Cashews can help in natural mood lifting to reduce the feeling of depression in humans, the claim that two handfuls of Cashews can become therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac in treating Depression is questionable. There is no evidence, authentic sources or studies to support the claim. If it were only for the tryptophan content in Cashews, Soybeans contain larger amount of L-tryptophan. Moreover, going off antidepressants is associated with a number of withdrawal symptoms, often called antidepressant or SRI discontinuation syndrome. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, sleep changes, abnormal sensations, or sometimes even suicidal tendencies.
Therefore the claim that two handfuls of Cashews is the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac in treating Depression is a hoax.