Role of 5-htp; is it Safe as Supplement?

Role of 5-htp; is it Safe as Supplement?

One of the raw materials that your body needs to make serotonin is a chemical called 5-HTP, which is short for 5-hydroxytryptophan. 5-HTP is a naturally-occurring amino acid, a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and an intermediate in tryptophan metabolism. It is marketed in the United States and other countries as a dietary supplement for use as an antidepressant, appetite suppressant, and sleep aid. The body also produces its own supply of 5-HTP from tryptophan, an amino acid found in high-protein foods such as chicken, fish, beef, and dairy products.


A PET scan imaging test that uses low levels of radioactivity to look for tumors. PET scanning for neuroendocrine tumors/cancers uses a radioactive form of 5-hydroxytryptophan, a chemical that is taken up and used by carcinoid cells. A special camera can detect the radioactivity. Some doctors have found PET scans to be more accurate than CT scans for detecting spread of disease.

Tryptophan, which our bodies can't make but we do get from many foods, quickly turns to 5-HTP in the brain. 5-HTP, in turn, rapidly becomes serotonin, a compound that plays a large role in controlling mood, appetite, and sleep cycles. The Food and Drug Administration banned tryptophan supplements in 1990, a move that led to a wave of supplements containing 5-HTP. Today 5-HTP supplements are sold everywhere in countless health food stores and on the Web and promoted with the same promises that were once made about tryptophan.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that carries vital signals from one cell to the next. Without adequate levels of serotonin, those signals cannot move at the proper speed or intensity. It plays an important role in the regulation of anger, aggression, mood, sleep, sexuality, and appetite. Low levels of serotonin may be associated with several disorders, namely increase in aggressive and angry behaviors, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, tinnitus, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

The body makes 5-HTP from tryptophan (an essential amino acid) and converts it to an important brain chemical known as serotonin. Tryptophan and 5-HTP dietary supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain, which may have a positive effect on sleep, mood, anxiety, aggression, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. In theory, if you boost your body's level of 5-HTP, you should also elevate your levels of serotonin. But there's not enough evidence to determine if 5-HTP is effective and safe.

Migraine sufferers experience periods of abnormally high activity of MAO (Monoamine oxidase) as indicated by latest medical research. MAO is the enzyme which is found to be the cause of serotonin split up.5-Htp is not only found to be beneficial in relieving migraine pain but the frequency and severity of migraine headaches is also reduced.

Scientific researches have linked low levels of Serotonin in the brain to abnormal behaviors, such as impulsive aggression, sexual deviance, addiction and explosive rage. Too little Serotonin is also associated with depression and some anxiety disorders, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder. As chronic migraine headaches are linked to low levels of serotonin, taking 5-HTP can reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of migraine headaches. A number of European studies suggest that people with depression who had little relief from conventional anti-depressant drugs were successfully treated with 5-HTP.

Numerous clinical trials have studied the efficacy of 5-HTP for treating depression. One compared 5-HTP to the antidepressant drug fluvoxamine and found 5-HTP to be equally effective.1 Researchers used the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and a self-assessment scale to gauge the effectiveness of the two medications. Both scales revealed a gradual reduction in depressive symptoms through time with both medications.

It is found in some over-the-counter weight loss formulas, this extract from a West African plant seed contains a contaminant linked to a rare and potentially deadly blood disorder. It has not been proven to effectively promote weight loss. There is circumstantial evidence that some humans are genetically predisposed to obesity. It is believed that the mechanism observed in the rats is the same in humans. In other words, some people are overweight because they have a lower conversion rate of tryptophan to 5-HTP, which results in decreased levels of serotonin. 5-HTP can help curb appetite and lead to weight loss. Not everyone notices a decrease in appetite from using 5-HTP.

Some studies have shown that doses of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a building block of serotonin, leads to improvement in patients with some types of action myoclonus and Progressive myoclonus epilepsy (PME). However, other studies indicate that 5-HTP therapy is not effective in all people with myoclonus, and, in fact, may worsen the condition in some patients. These differences in the effect of 5-HTP on patients with myoclonus have not yet been explained, but they may offer important clues to underlying abnormalities in serotonin receptors.

Improves Well-Being in Depressed Persons Serotonin in the central nervous system is recognized as a causative factor in some depressed persons.6,7 A comprehensive review of seven open and seven controlled clinical studies found that oral consumption of 5-HTP improved mental and emotional status in 60 to 70 percent of depressed people. The accumulated evidence is inconclusive as to whether 5-HTP is more effective combined with decarboxylase inhibitors than when taken alone.

“Results of this meta-analysis are inconclusive due to the small number of sufficiently rigorous studies available on which to base conclusions. It is therefore difficult to recommend or discourage the use of 5-HTP and tryptophan in treatment of unipolar depression. More evidence is clearly needed to assess efficacy. Although the order of magnitude of effectiveness of 5-HTP and tryptophan was found in this study to be similar to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs), the body of evidence evaluating the efficacy and safety of SSRIs and TCAs is more rigorous and comprehensive (Trindade 1997). Also, the relative potency of SSRIs and TCAs is possibly much greater, even though order of effectiveness is comparable. In settings where depression is mild, and the use of traditional antidepressants is unacceptable to the patient, tryptophan and 5-HTP may be considered as treatment alternatives.

Cerebellar ataxia results from the failure of part of the brain to regulate body posture and limb movements. 5-HTP has been observed to have benefits in some people who have difficulty standing or walking because of cerebellar ataxia. It has been suggested that 5-HTP may reduce psychotic symptoms and mania or aid in panic disorder, but studies in people with schizophrenia have shown different results. Medical research indicates that supplementation with tryptophan before bedtime can induce sleepiness and delay wake times. Studies also suggest that 5-HTP may be useful in treating insomnia associated with depression. Further well-designed research is needed.

A double-blind, placebo controlled study looked at 5-HTP or placebo in 50 people with fibromyalgia. After four weeks, there was improvement in pain, stiffness, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep. Side effects were mild and transient. Some research indicates that 5-HTP may prevent migraines and reduce the frequency and severity of migraines; however large randomized controlled trials are needed.

But a patient expressed his experience: 5-HTP has never done anything for my chronic pain, and I've never gone to a naturopath. I can, however, recommend butterbur extract for migraine. It has made a nearly miraculous difference in my life.

Sleep onset latency is reduced with Tryptophan which is the amino acid needed by the brain for the synthesis of Serotonin. This research finding suggests that Serotonin may play an important role in sleep induction and healthy sleep patterns.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, moods and appetite. In clinical research, 5HTP supplements increased the amount and availability of serotonin produced by the body. It is able to cross the blood brain barrier to increase both serotonin levels and serotonin production in your brain so you can regain a healthy balance when you are sleeping, feeling emotions, or eating.

There is an increasing trend towards the use of alternatives to traditional antidepressants, including substances such as hypericum perforatum L. (St. John's Wort), the amino acid tryptophan and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP; 5-HTP is synthesized from tryptophan).5-HTP may be helpful in treating a wide variety of conditions related to low serotonin levels, including depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, headaches, obesity, attention deficit disorder, and Parkinson's disease etc. Efficacy and safety of tryptophan and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan have to be tested in further studies before a widespread use can be recommended.

In the study 300 mg of 5-HTP was given before each meal and over a six week period an average of six lbs was lost. After another six weeks an additional average of about eight pounds was lost. It was also realized though this study that decrease in appetite was the most likely reason for the weight loss. The side effect to the 300 mg dosage was that seventy percent of the patients felt nausea during the first six weeks. However, by the second six weeks no patient reported feeling nausea.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 20 overweight individuals with adult-onset diabetes found that use of 5-HTP (750 mg per day) without intentional dieting resulted in about a 4-1/2 lb weight loss over a 2-week period.29 Use of 5-HTP reduced carbohydrate intake by 75% and fat intake to a lesser extent.

Study shown that a deficiency of brain serotonin is causally related to intention myoclonus and that the therapeutic effect of L-5HTP and carbidopa may be due to the repletion of serotonin in regions of the brain where serotoninergic neurons have degenerated. Studies published over the past three decades show that 5-HTP can be helpful in conditions that normally require prescription medicines such as Prozac, Xanax, sleeping pills, and diet drugs.

Side effects and Interaction:

Contraindications to 5 HTP use or conditions under which 5 HTP use should only be under the supervision of a physician are conditions in which increased serotonin levels may be harmful:

Cardiovascular diseases (High Blood Pressure, post-Stroke, post-Heart Attack) :5-HTP should be avoided by those with ischemic heart disease, coronary heart spasm, uncontrolled hypertension, and any other significant cardiovascular disease.

Dosages of 5-HTP above 50 may cause side effects such as nausea, stomach cramps, and vivid dreams including nightmares. Moreover it is not ideal for extremely elderly persons. Another study apparently examined the effect of 5HTP on Fibromyalgia sufferers. Many of the patients showed a significant improvement in the number of tender points, anxiety, pain intensity, quality of sleep, and fatigue they experienced. However, a third of the patients did experience 5HTP side effects

Effects on monoamine oxidase (inhibition) by ginkgo are reported in animals but not confirmed in humans. In theory, ginkgo may add to the side effects of herbs or supplements that also inhibit monoamine oxidase, such as 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan).

5HT should not be used alongside the Parkinson’s drug carbidopa as it can cause skin changes similar to those that seen with the disease scleroderma. 5-HTP should not be combined with drugs that raise serotonin levels, for example SSRIs (e.g., Prozac), and other antidepressants. People with kidney disease or liver disease should consult their doctor before taking 5-HTP.

Alcohol and 5 HTP should not be taken together. Allow at least six hours between use of alcohol and 5 HTP.5 HTP can increase the effect of some tranquilizing drugs. Taking 5-HTP or tryptophan with any SSRI (and Prozac is an SSRI). There is a risk of Serotonin Syndrome occurring if you mix the two.

5-HTP should not be used concurrently with serotonin 5-HT receptor agonists, including naratriptan, sumatriptan and zolmitriptan, or by those taking carbidopa (used for Parkinson's disease). Some reports suggest that purity may be a potential problem for 5-HTP as well. No cases of EMS resulting from 5-HTP use have been reported.

Although the manufacturing of 5-HTP is different from that of tryptophan, there is still concern that some 5-HTP supplements may contain similar contaminants. It is important to obtain dietary supplements from manufacturers that adhere to high quality standards. So, still, the consumer should consider 5-HTP for the stated ailments but should be wary to the possibility of adverse reactions.

Very high intakes of 5-HTP have caused muscle jerks in guinea pigs and both muscle jerks and diarrhea in mice. Injected 5-HTP has also caused kidney damage in rats. To date, these problems have not been reported in humans. "Serotonin syndrome," a serious but uncommon condition caused by excessive amounts of serotonin, has not been reported to result from supplementation with 5-HTP; in theory it could be triggered by the supplement. However, the level of intake at which this toxic effect might potentially occur remains unknown.

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