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Posts Tagged ‘Serotonin’

What is 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)?

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

What is 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)?

Over the last few months I have been looking into the use of 5-HTP or to give it, its full name 5-hydroxytryptophan.  This is a chemical made within the body from the essential amino acid tryptophan, and ultimately become serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to relay signals within the brain, and is closely linked to regulation of mood and reduction of anxiety.  There is also some discussion that 5-HTP may also act as a sleep aid, these properties have made it an increasingly popular supplement in the modern stress filled environment.

Over the years there has been some controversy over the use of 5-HTP supplementation, in the late 1980’s a contaminant was found in tryptophan supplements that lead to a number of health issues.  This at the time lead to the removal of tryptophan supplements from the market.  However research suggests that 5-HTP is a safer alternative over direct tryptophan supplementation as the contaminant, known as PeakX is not found in sufficiently large quantities within 5-HTP blends.  Some more modern blends are also marketed as PeakX free, massively reducing the risk.

One of the key reasons that supplementation of 5-HTP is increasingly popular is that it is not found directly in the foods that we eat, and has to be produced from the amino acid tryptophan.  However research suggests that eating foods containing tryptophan may not have a massive effect on increasing levels of 5-HTP readily available within the body.  This has led to many people using a supplement to gain the benefits of 5-HTP.

As stated above we can not gain 5-HTP directly rom the foods we eat, but the precursor tryptophan can be found in the following food stuffs:-

  • turkey
  • chicken
  • milk
  • pumpkin
  • sunflower seeds
  • seaweed

 What can 5-HTP help with?

Over the years 5-HTP has been used to help/treat people suffering with a range of illnesses, mostly conditions linked with low serotonin levels.  Some of these are discussed below:-

Depression – there has been a limited amount of research into the use of 5-HTP as an antidepressant, used on people with low to moderate depression.  5-HTP works in a similar way to  selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors which are more commonly known as  SSRIs.  Some studies (based on very small populations) suggest that 5-HTP has a similar effect to prescription medications but with fewer of the side effects.

Insomnia – some studies suggest that taking 5-HTP prior to sleeping help people sleep more deeply when taking the supplement.  However it was noted that a period of about 6-12 weeks of taking the supplement may be needed in order for it to be effective.

Weight Management – there has been some limited research to suggest that people who take 5-HTP tend to eat fewer calories, rresearchers believed that the supplement led people to feel more full after eating. 

How do I use 5-HTP?

It is recommended that 50mg of 5-HTP is taken 1-3 times per day.  However it is important that you do not exceed this dosage as in high levels this supplement can become toxic.  If you are taking antidepressants you should avoid this supplement.