5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that occurs naturally and functions as a metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters. Its presence in food is insignificant but it can metabolize tryptophan, an amino acid found in milk. It can be extracted from the seeds of an African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia commercially. The neurotransmitter, serotonin is accredited with some positive effects on the human brain. There are reports of 5-HTP playing a powerful role in suppressing hunger and controlling weight.
Researchers believe that instead of consuming a serotonin supplement, people must take 5-HTP supplement as the latter can gain entry into the brain from the bloodstream, whereas serotonin just cannot. A compound like 5-HTP can enhance the serotonin level in the brain and bring a variety of health benefits such as curing anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia and obesity. There is some insufficient evidence but it is speculated widely that it may help in curing migraine, sleep disorders, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Now, let us take a gander at the health benefits provided by the magnificent 5-HTP:
A few studies have found that 5-HTP is as good as an anti-depressant drug and works equally well in combating mild to moderate depression in humans. They increase serotonin levels in the brain akin to an anti-depressant drug. A dose of 50-300 mg for 2-4 weeks can improve depression signs.
Studies indicate towards improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms after 5-HTP use. These symptoms which get better are anxiety, morning stiffness, pain and fatigue. According to these studies, people with fibromyalgia have low level of serotonin levels, and because 5-HTP boosts serotonin levels, it proves beneficial. A few people have experienced the results therefore, more research is needed in this.
A fair group of studies promise help for obese people. In these studies, it was found that people suffering from obesity after intaking 5-HTP showed changes in their eating patterns. They felt a marked reduction in their appetite so they ate less per meal. This implies that calorie consumption per day was less and this helped them shed some pounds. The scientists concluded that since 5-HTP resulted in having a feeling of fullness, therefore, people consumed less than they used to prior to taking 5-HTP. Since the dosage was kept high, some people felt nauseatic after taking it. A point worth mentioning here is that if an obese person wishes to lose weight, he should prepare himself for a regular exercise regime in addition to change in diet. These are preliminary results, more research needs to be done.
A study suggested towards the use of about 300 mg of HTP daily in combination with carbidopa. This seems to minimize anxiety sign in people with anxiety disorders. But 60 mg 5-HTP showed no improvement in people suffering from panic disorders.
5-HTP is thought to be safe when ingested through mouth and it is unsafe for pregnant and lactating mothers. Down syndrome patients and the ones who are to undergo any kind of surgery must talk to their respective doctors before taking 5-HTP.