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However, there is little clinical evidence to support these claims, and more research needs to be carried out before it can be recommended. Please bear in mind that you should consult a healthcare professional before taking 5-HTP supplements and to continue to take any prescribed medication.
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The research concludes that those given the supplement experienced greater satiety and lower BMI than the placebo group. This suggests 5-HTP may promote weight loss. However, this was a small study, and more research is necessary to confirm the findings.
Another study suggests 5-HTP may be effective for treating depression. Researchers divided 60 people who met the diagnostic criteria for a depressive episode into two groups. One group received 5-HTP while the other received an antidepressant. After 8 weeks, both groups reported a reduction in depression.
A third study shows that 5-HTP may be effective in improving the quality and duration of sleep. Researchers gave nine people with trouble sleeping an amino acid supplement containing 5-HTP and gamma-aminobutyric acid. Another nine received a placebo.
However, in a 2012 review, researchers looked at positive claims about 5-HTP. They conclude that taking 5-HTP supplements, without balancing them with other amino acids, can decrease their effectiveness in treating depression. It could also result in increased side effects.
Myprotein claim that their MyVitamin supplements are specifically for health and fitness.They state their 5-HTP capsules may help improve sleep and suggest taking it before bed on an empty stomach. As this product contains 50 milligrams of 5-HTP per pill, it might suit a person who prefers a smaller dose.
A person should also speak with a medical professional if they take any other medications, such as antidepressants, as taking supplements may interfere with how they work. Those living with medical conditions should also consult their doctor first to explore any possible risks.
Before starting a supplement, a person should talk to their doctor. Those taking certain prescription medications or living with certain conditions should also consult with a medical professional before taking 5-HTP.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical that the body makes from tryptophan (an essential amino acid that you get from food). After tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP, the chemical is changed into another chemical called serotonin (a neurotransmitter that relays signals between brain cells). 5-HTP dietary supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain. Since serotonin helps regulate mood and behavior, 5-HTP may have a positive effect on sleep, mood, anxiety, appetite, and pain sensation.
5-HTP is not found in the foods we eat, although tryptophan is found in foods. Eating foods with tryptophan does not increase 5-HTP levels very much, however. As a supplement, 5-HTP is made from the seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia.
In 1989, the presence of a contaminant called Peak X was found in tryptophan supplements. Researchers believed that an outbreak of eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (EMS, a potentially fatal disorder that affects the skin, blood, muscles, and organs) could be traced to the contaminated tryptophan, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled all tryptophan supplements off the market. Since then, Peak X was also found in some 5-HTP supplements, and there have been a few reports of EMS associated with taking 5-HTP. However, the level of Peak X in 5-HTP was not high enough to cause any symptoms, unless very high doses of 5-HTP were taken. Because of this concern, however, you should talk to your health care provider before taking 5-HTP, and make sure you get the supplement from a reliable manufacturer. (See "Precautions" section.)
Preliminary studies indicate that 5-HTP may work as well as certain antidepressant drugs to treat people with mild-to-moderate depression. Like the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), 5-HTP increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. One study compared the effects of 5-HTP to fluvoxamine (Luvox) in 63 people and found that those who were given 5-HTP did just as well as those who received Luvox. They also had fewer side effects than the Luvox group. However, these studies were too small to say for sure if 5-HTP works. More research is needed.
Research suggests that 5-HTP can improve symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, anxiety, morning stiffness, and fatigue. Many people with fibromyalgia have low levels of serotonin, and doctors often prescribe antidepressants. Like antidepressants, 5-HTP raises levels of serotonin in the brain. However, it does not work for all people with fibromyalgia. More studies are needed to understand its effect.
In one study, people who took 5-HTP went to sleep quicker and slept more deeply than those who took a placebo. Researchers recommend 200 to 400 mg at night to stimulate serotonin, but it may take 6 to 12 weeks to be fully effective.
Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for migraine headaches. Studies suggest that high doses of 5-HTP may help people with various types of headaches, including migraines. However, the evidence is mixed, with other studies showing no effect.
A few small studies have investigated whether 5-HTP can help people lose weight. In one study, those who took 5-HTP ate fewer calories, although they were not trying to diet, compared to those who took placebo. Researchers believe 5-HTP led people to feel more full (satiated) after eating, so they ate less.
A follow-up study, which compared 5-HTP to placebo during a diet and non-diet period, found that those who took 5-HTP lost about 2% of body weight during the non-diet period and another 3% when they dieted. Those taking placebo did not lose any weight. However, doses used in these studies were high, and many people experienced side effects such as nausea. If you are seriously overweight, see your health care provider before taking any weight-loss aid. Remember that you will need to change your eating and exercise habits to lose more than a few pounds.
You can't get 5-HTP from food. The amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to make 5-HTP, can be found in turkey, chicken, milk, potatoes, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, turnip and collard greens, and seaweed.
5-HTP is made from tryptophan in the body, or can be taken as a supplement. Supplements are made from extracts of the seeds of the African tree Griffonia simplicifolia. 5-HTP can also be found in many multivitamin and herbal preparations.
Tryptophan use has been associated with the development of serious conditions, such as liver and brain toxicity, and with eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (EMS), a potentially fatal disorder that affects the skin, blood, muscles, and organs (see "Overview" section). Such reports prompted the FDA to ban the sale of all tryptophan supplements in 1989. As with tryptophan, EMS has been reported in 10 people taking 5-HTP.
Side effects of 5-HTP are generally mild and may include nausea, heartburn, gas, feelings of fullness, and rumbling sensations in some people. At high doses, serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by too much serotonin in the body, could develop. Talk to your provider before taking higher-than-recommended doses.
People who are taking antidepressant medications should not take 5-HTP without their provider's supervision. These medications could combine with 5-HTP to cause serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition involving mental changes, hot flashes, rapidly fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate, and possibly coma. Some antidepressant medications that can interact with 5-HTP include:
Tramadol, used for pain relief, and sometimes prescribed for people with fibromyalgia, may raise serotonin levels too much if taken with 5-HTP. Serotonin syndrome has been reported in some people taking the two together.
Cangiano C, Laviano A, Del Ben M, et al. Effects of oral 5-hydroxy-tryptophan on energy intake and macronutrient selection in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1998;22(7):648-654. 041b061a72