If you are interested in sleep and any issues on brain and mental health then pay particular attention to a compound which is found naturally but is often available as a supplement in its purified form. This compound is called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). It is usually produced in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. The other key feature is that it is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin.
5-HTP is extracted and purified from the seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia.
Possible Health Benefits Of Supplementation With 5-HTP
- Weight Loss
- Hot flushes and the menopause
So far the scientific support for any claims that 5-HTP can treat any health issue or condition safely and effectively is still lacking. However, the the body of research examining each condition has gathered pace in many years. Now we examine some of the pertinent studies available to support various claims made for the efficacy of 5-HTP.
5-HTP And Serotonin.
Serotonin is a hormone that is needed by the body for regulating mood, sleep, general well-being and otehr aspects of good mental health. The production of serotonin depends on the availability of 5-HTP which is turn depends on available levels of the amino acid tryptophan.
The other key element is the activity of various enzymes involved in manufacture of each component. These enzymes are tryptophan hydroxylase, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, and tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO). Their synthesis is also regulated at the gene level and this is managed tightly because of the consequences to the body of any imbalances.
The amount of 5-HTP reaching the central nervous system (CNS) is affected by the extent to which this compound (5-HTP) is converted to serotonin. This conversion is controlled by the enzyme amino acid decarboxylase, which, in the periphery, can be blocked by peripheral decarboxylase inhibitors (PDIs) such as carbidopa.
5-HTP And Weight Loss Supplements
5-HTP may generate feelings of satiety which is a feeling in the stomach of being full fullness. This effect could mean we eat less and lose weight in the process. The compound makes for the ideal weightloss pill. Weight loss may increase the production of particular hormones that make you feel hungry. These feelings of constant hunger can make losing weight unsustainable in the long term.
5-HTP may counteract these hunger-inducing hormones, working to suppress appetite and help you lose weight.
In one study, 20 people with diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either 5-HTP or a placebo for two weeks. The results showed that those who received 5-HTP consumed approximately 435 fewer calories per day, compared to the placebo group.
There is a related effect of potential benefit in diabetes management. One study showed that 5-HTP also inhibited the intake of calories from carbohydrates, which was associated with improved blood sugar control.
Many other studies have also found that 5-HTP increased feelings of fullness and helped with weight loss in overweight or obese people.
There are some animal studies which show that 5-HTP may reduce excessive food intake due to stress or depression.
5-HTP And The Reduction in Stress And Depression by Raising Serotonin Levels In The Brain
There are a number of studies now that show the symptoms of depression could be reduced if 5-HTP levels were higher. This is linked to raising serotonin levels in the brain. 5-HTP supplements are thought to treat depression by increasing serotonin levels. The phenomenon however is still under considerable investigation but the research shows considerable promise.
While the exact cause of depression is largely a mystery it is becoming a target for a great deal of research in the light of studies on dementia and other brain or mental health issues. It is thought that a serotonin imbalance may influence your mood in a way that produces depression (Albert & Benkelfat, 2013; Cowan & Browning, 2015).
5-HTP And Fibromyalgia
Migraine And 5-HTP
5-HTP And Insomnia
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain which is produced from serotonin. Melatonin helps the brain’s bio-clock stay remain in synchronicity and regulates sleep-wake cycles on a daily basis. A strong and well-maintained bio clock with regular sleeping and waking routines are the cornerstone of healthy, restful, rejuvenating sleep.
Low levels of melatonin production produce sleep disorders and defaults in the sleep-wake cycle and invariably insomnia. Research suggests that 5-HTP supplementation may help by raising serotonin levels so that melatonin can be produced. This in turn is thought to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and improved the amount of sleep. It is also believed that 5-HTP can be productive in improving mood, and easing symptoms of stress and anxiousness, which can in turn interfere with sleep.
Research also indicates that 5-HTP may be effective in helping to reduce nightmares in children.
There are safety issues of supplementation linked to eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS) and serotonin syndrome.
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Cowen, P. J., & Browning, M. (2015). What has serotonin to do with depression?. World Psychiatry, 14(2), pp. 158. (Article)
Juhl, J. H. (1998). Fibromyalgia and the serotonin pathway. Alternative Medicine Review, 3, pp. 367-375 (Article)
Kious, B. M., Sabic, H., Sung, Y. H., Kondo, D. G., & Renshaw, P. (2017). An open-label pilot study of combined augmentation with creatine monohydrate and 5-hydroxytryptophan for SSRI-or SNRI-resistant depression in adult women. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 37(5), pp. 578 (Article)
Nihalani, N. D., Schwartz, T., & Chlebowski, S. (2006). Fibromyalgia—: A Review for the Psychiatrist. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 3(4), pp. 44 (Article)
Van Hiele, L. J. (1980). L-5-hydroxytryptophan in depression: the first substitution therapy in psychiatry?. Neuropsychobiology, 6(4), pp. 230-240 (Article).