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5-HTP

 

  • Significant Improvements in Mood
  • Helps to Maintain a Healthy Metabolism
  • Promotes Healthy Sleep


5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally-occurring amino acid found in all animal life. The African shrub, Griffonia Simplicifolia contains high concentrations of this compound. When taken as a dietary supplement, it is converted into Serotonin (5-HT) in your brain. Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter and hormone with important functions in your body. These include maintaining and supporting mood, emotional state, sleep, appetite, memory, learning capacity, sex drive, circulatory system, immune system, endocrine system, and muscle tone.

5-HTP is extracted from the Central African shrubbery called Griffonia Simplicifolia. The seeds of this plant have been shown to contain high concentrations of up to 20%.[1] This high natural concentration makes Griffonia Simplicifolia the preferred source of 5-HTP for almost all forms of supplements. Benefits of this supplement, sometimes also called HTP-5, include: mood-lift, improved stress levels, promotion of healthy sleep patterns, appetite suppression, and supporting a healthy metabolism. Serving size is recommended at around 100-600mg daily in two to three separate servings.   Side effects are limited but may include slight gastrointestinal effects. Do not take with SSRIs.

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5 HTP reviews

 I take two scoops of this product in the morning and two late afternoon. It helps me sleep well at night, but it is not like a sleeping pill. it really helps regulate my sleep cycle, as opposed to not taking it and not being able to sleep until after midnight. I also take melatonin. However, the melatonin did not work until I started taking this product!” – Adekemi, LiftMode review

“What better way to promote the healthy levels of tryptamine activity in the brain than with the direct precursor to 5-HO-tryptamine (serotonin); also with the ability to cross the brain blood barrier it's bioavailability is quite sound for someone looking to function in everyday life via a stable mood and keen instinctual connection to the body's homeostasis.” – Thomas, LiftMode review

 

 

    • This supplement is a naturally occurring amino-acid involved in the conversion of tryptophan to Serotonin and Melatonin

    • Benefits of 5-HTP use include mood-lift, promotion of healthy sleep patterns and appetite suppression, among others

    • Serving size is recommended at around 300-900mg daily in two to three split servings

    • Side effects are limited but may include slight gastrointestinal effects

 

Background: Sources and Importance of 5-HTP

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino-acid that is involved in the formation of both serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan (one of the 22 major amino acids). It is sold over the counter and online as a stress-reducing, mood-lifting, and sleep-promoting supplement. It is also considered to be one of the most potent natural appetite suppressors available.

This supplement is involved in the biosynthesis of both Serotonin and Melatonin and its effects include mood-lift, appetite suppression and promotion of healthy sleep patterns. Serotonin is responsible for the mood-lift and appetite suppression, while Melatonin functions naturally to promote healthy sleep. The great thing about this facscinating compound is its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which makes it more effective than taking pure Serotonin or Melatonin supplements.[1]

In the human brain, it is synthesized from Tryptophan (via the tryptophan hydroxylase enzyme) and is then further converted into Serotonin (via the L-amino acid decarboxylase enzyme).[2] Later, degradation of Serotonin occurs through the monoamine oxidase enzyme.

When talking about this supplement, most people refer to an extract of the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant, which is a shrub which grows indigenously in West and Central Africa. Griffonia Simplicifolia has a high concentration and the compound is easily extracted making it a preferable natural source of 5-HTP – even more so than a compound that was synthesized in a laboratory.

Sketch of Griffonia Simplicifolia


5-HTP Benefits & Effects

1.     Helps to Maintain a Healthy Metabolism and Appetite

One of the key benefits of this supplement is its ability to induce a mild to moderate effect of appetite suppression. It is, therefore, often preferred for athletes involved in weight-loss or cutting programmes. The additional boost of Serotonin not only increases mood but also suppresses appetite. In a recent study examining the effects of this supplement on weight and metabolism, researchers reached the following conclusion:

In a six-week clinical study with obese patients, those who supplemented with 5-HTP were able to reduce carbohydrate intake, which contributed to significant weight loss” (Gant, n.d.)[3]

It is important to note that 5-HTP, being a naturally-occurring compound, cannot be patented as a pharmaceutical and large research companies tend not to have significant financial incentive for providing funding into further research. Therefore, there is still a need for more extensive research into the effects of this important neurotransmitter on metabolism and weight-loss.

In animal studies, data indicate that rats who are administered this supplement eat less and more slowly after receiving a moderate-sized serving.[4] In another recent human study, researchers found that obese patients who were given this supplement (Griffonia Simplicifolia extract) had decreased appetite and increased feelings of satiety (feeling ‘full’) – associated with a decrease in BMI. [5]

An important factor in the use of this supplement for weight-loss is its apparent ability to suppress cravings for carbohydrates, specifically. This may be linked to the so-called ‘sugar-haze’ – a release of Serotonin from eating carbohydrates. Since 5-HTP naturally increases Serotonin, the theory is that there is no longer a craving for the carbohydrate-induced Serotonin ‘boost’. [6]

Many people wonder about 5-HTP for weight loss. The research we’ve referenced above points to this supplent’s ability to support a healthy waistline and a healthy metabolism. While it may be useful for people who are engaged in a weight-loss program, we do not tout any supplement as a ‘magic bullet’ for weight-loss. This kind of transformation requires far more than a dietary supplement – lifestyle and dietary changes are the key to natural weight loss!

2.     Reduces Feelings of Stress


One of the major claimed benefits of this supplement is a powerful ability to reduce feelings of stress. Compared to many traditional anti-stress compounds, it is much safer, does not have a history of severe side effects, and can be bought over the counter.  It is often used as a safe and natural alternative to the pharmaceuticals that are currently available for reducing stress.

An example of a human-participant study looking into the effects of this supplement on stress includes a study published in 2010, which used a Griffonia Simplicifolia extract to reduce feelings of romantic stress in otherwise healthy participants. In the study, 15 healthy young adults who had recently experienced a break-up were given a serving of 60 mg daily, for 6 weeks. After 3 weeks of treatment, the researchers had already found data indicating significant improvements in feelings of stress. [7]

In a more thorough study, researchers compared the effects of this supplement to clomipramine on 45 people suffering from a variety of stress-related disorders. The data indicated that this supplement produced a moderate reduction in symptoms of stress, across the board. This is very important because, unlike in the study above (which was conducted on otherwise healthy people), the participants in this study were all patients with clinically-diagnosed disorders.[8]

3.     5-HTP Produces a Powerful Mood-Boosting Effect


Studies have shown that after using this supplement, serum Serotonin levels are considerably higher.[9] This neurotransmitter's major role as a precursor to Serotonin and its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier are reasons suggested for the increase in serum Serotonin levels. Serotonin is a major chemical found in the gastrointestinal tract, red blood platelets and the central nervous systems of all animals and humans. It is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being, among others.[10]

There are many supplements that can alter the levels of Serotonin in the brain – either by causing a release of more Serotonin or by inhibiting the brain from ‘recycling’ all the Serotonin that is released. Some compounds that prevent the brain from breaking down Serotonin are used to cause an intense feeling of euphoria, whereas others (like 5-HTP) are used for a more subtle mood-lift effect.

When comparing 5-HTP to L-Tryptophan, it is thought to be considerably more effective in producing an increase in mood. This is due to the fact that the sole fate of 5-HTP supplements (usually taken as a Griffonia Simplicifolia extract) is to be converted to Serotonin, whereas Tryptophan has the potential to be diverted to niacin production or protein construction. [11]

In terms of studies into the effects of this supplement on mood, a number of these have been conducted – some using animal models, and others with the involvement of human participants. One example is a meta-review (where researchers examine all the previous studies on the topic) into the effects of Tryptophan and this supplement on mood in depressed subjects. The results of the studies varied slightly, often due to their small scale and the lack of funding. However, the overall consensus was that 5-HTP produced a considerable improvement in mood, and a very significant improvement when compared to the effects of a placebo. [12] 

Another example of research into the benefits of this supplement on mood is a study on night tremors in children. In the 2004 study, researchers tested the hypothesis this supplement could provide beneficial effects on night tremors (associated with fear and a low mood). After 1 month of supplementation with 5-HTP, 93.5% of the participants showed a significant positive improvement.[13]

Finally, a recent study indicated that use of this supplement could have the potential to improve mood, with emphasis on people who suffer from panic attacks. Participants in the study who were given 5-HTP were seen to react positively (measured by the relief of negative feelings), while the control found no change. [14]

5-HTP is a powerful mood enhancer supplement


4.     5-HTP Helps to Promote Healthy Sleep

One of the top benefits of this supplement is the ability to promote healthy sleep patterns. 5-HTP is known to many as one of the top natural sleep aid supplements. Its ability to promote healthy sleep works through a two-step process. First, enzymes in the brain convert it to Serotonin, which brings about a noticeable improvement in mood. Second, different enzymes convert Serotonin to Melatonin – the body’s natural sleep promoter.[15]

When the human body detects darkness (known as the dark-phase), Serotonin is converted into Melatonin in the pineal gland. Melatonin acts as a signaling hormone to ‘trigger’ other parts of the brain and body to get ready for sleep. Aging and Serotonin disorders can result in reduced Melatonin production and difficulty falling asleep.

In a recent study into the effects of this supplement on humans, researchers monitored serum Melatonin levels after an using 5-HTP. Melatonin levels were found to increase significantly in blood tests on participants who had taken the supplement. Melatonin is an important and naturally-occurring chemical that is found in all animals and is used for the regulation of healthy sleep patterns. [16]

Today, many people suffer from irregular sleeping patterns, often a result of the stressful lives that we’re used to living. It has been demonstrated that Melatonin supplements can be used to promote healthy sleep.[17] As we know, this supplement is a precursor to Serotonin, which is converted into Melatonin in the pineal gland. 5-HTP can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, making it possibly more effective than Serotonin supplements in the promotion of healthy sleep patterns.[18]

In a recent study using animal models, researchers made the following findings. This supplement appears to alter sleep-wake behavior and body temperature. In the dark-period (night time), increases in Non-REM sleep are apparent. The regulation of sleep-wake behavior appears to be regulated to some extent by this supplement, and more studies are warranted to examine the degree to which this neurotransmitter and amino acid affect the conserved biological systems governing sleep. [19]


5-HTP is a Natural Serotonin Supplement

 

One of the key features of 5-HTP supplements is their ability to increase serum Serotonin in the human brain. This is where all the benefits of this great supplement stem from. Natural Serotonin supplements may include any type of compound derived from natural sources that works to increase Serotonin levels. The reason why this supplement is so effective is that it is the primary precursor compound to Serotonin. These means that it is converted directly and effectively into Serotonin, while many other compounds may be destined for other biosynthesis pathways.

It is this supplement's efficacy as a natural Serotonin supplement that gives it the well-known attribute of being such an effective natural mood enhancer. As we’ve seen in the top 5-HTP benefits above, a natural mood enhancement often accompanies the other benefits of this great natural supplement!


5-HTP Recommended Usage

The typical recommended 5-HTP dosage (serving size) is around 300-900 mg daily, separated into two to three servings of between 100 – 300 mg, each.2  It is not recommended to exceed the daily recommended serving size for 5-HTP as this may result in unwanted adverse effects and has not been shown to increase the beneficial effects.


5-HTP Side Effects and Warnings

5-HTP is considered a highly safe supplement for daily use. It is found naturally in the body as a metabolic precursor and an important amino acid. According to the often conservative medical reference website, WebMD, large serving are known to cause gastrointestinal side effects including nausea and stomach cramps.[20]

In animals models, extremely high doses of around 100-200 mg/kg bodyweight have been associated with Serotonin Syndrome.3 However, no adverse effects have been reported in dosages of up to 50 mg/kg, which is well over the recommended serving size.

If you have any existing gastrointestinal problems, speak to your physician before taking this supplement. If you are taking any anti-depressants, including SSRIs or MAOIs, it is advisable to consult with your physician before using this supplement. In fact, if you are taking any medication at all, or have any medical conditions, it is important to talk to your doctor before using a any dietary supplement.

This supplement can be bought over the counter and, even with its large history of use, there have been no serious side effects reported as yet.[21]

5-HTP is used to promote healthy sleep

References


[1]
“5-HTP”, Examine.com [Accessed 10 December, 2014]

[2] Turner EH, Loftis JM, Blackwell AD. Serotonin a la carte: supplementation with the serotonin precursor 5-hydroxytryptophan. Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Mar;109(3):325-38. Epub 2005 Jul 14.

[3] “The Role of 5HTP as a Precursor for Serotonin and Melatonin in the Treatment of Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Sleep Disorder, Weight Management, Fibromyalgia, Migraine and Withdrawal from Antidepressant Medication” by Charles Gant, MD, PhD, NMD

[4] Blundell JE, Leshem MB. The effect of 5-hydroxytryptophan on food intake and on the anorexic action of amphetamine and fenfluramine. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1975 Jan;27(1):31-7.

[5] Rondanelli M, Opizzi A, Faliva M, Bucci M, Perna S. Relationship between the absorption of 5-hydroxytryptophan from an integrated diet, by means of Griffonia simplicifolia extract, and the effect on satiety in overweight females after oral spray administration. Eat Weight Disorders. 2012 Mar;17(1):e22-8.

[6] Ioannou S, Williams AL. Preliminary fMRI findings concerning the influence of 5-HTP on food selection. Brain Behav. 2016 Oct 28;7(1):e00594.

[7] Emanuele E, Bertona M, Minoretti P, Geroldi D. An open-label trial of L-5-hydroxytryptophan in subjects with romantic stress. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2010;31(5):663-6.

[8] Kahn RS, Westenberg HG, Verhoeven WM, Gispen-de Wied CC, Kamerbeek WD. Effect of a serotonin precursor and uptake inhibitor in anxiety disorders; a double-blind comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan, clomipramine and placebo. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987 Jan;2(1):33-45.

[9] “5-Hydroxytryptophan plus SSRIs for interferon-induced depression: Synergistic mechanisms for normalizing synaptic serotonin” Erick H. Turnerl, Aaron D. Blackwell, Medical Hypotheses, 2005 Volume 65, Issue 1, Pages 138–144

[10] Young SN, Leyton M. The role of serotonin in human mood and social interaction. Insight from altered tryptophan levels. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Apr;71(4):857-65.

[11] Birdsall TC. 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor. Altern Med Rev. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80.

[12] Shaw K, Turner J, Del Mar C. Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD003198.

[13] Bruni O, Ferri R, Miano S, Verrillo E. L-5-Hydroxytryptophan treatment of sleep terrors in children. Eur J Pediatr. 2004 Jul;163(7):402-7. Epub 2004 May 14

[14]  “Behavioral, neuroendocrine, and biochemical effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan administration in panic disorder” Johan A. den Boer, Herman G.M. Westenberg, Psychiatry Research, March 1990 Volume 31, Issue 3, Pages 267–278

[15] C Pagan, et al. The serotonin-N-acetylserotonin–melatonin pathway as a biomarker for autism spectrum disorders. Transl Psychiatry. 2014 Nov; 4(11): e479.

[16] Barrenetxe J, Delagrange P, Martínez JA. Physiological and metabolic functions of melatonin. J Physiol Biochem. 2004 Mar;60(1):61-72.

[17] Ferracioli-Oda E, Qawasmi A, Bloch MH. Meta-analysis: melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. PLoS One. 2013 May 17;8(5):e63773.

[18] “Neuroendocrine response to L-5-hydroxytryptophan challenge in prepubertal major depression. Depressed vs normal children.” Ryan ND, Birmaher B, Perel JM, Dahl RE, Meyer V, al-Shabbout M, Iyengar S, Puig-Antich J, Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1992 Nov;49(11):843-51.

[19] Morrow JD, Vikraman S, Imeri L, Opp MR. Effects of serotonergic activation by 5-hydroxytryptophan on sleep and body temperature of C57BL/6J and interleukin-6-deficient mice are dose and time related. Sleep. 2008 Jan;31(1):21-33.

[20] 5-HTP SIDE EFFECTS & SAFETY, WebMD.com, available online. [Accessed December 12, 2017]

[21] “5-HTP efficacy and contraindications” Marty Hinz, Alvin Stein, and Thomas Uncini, Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2012; 8: 323–328.

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