There have been numerous scientific studies involving 5-HTP but what exactly is it? 5-HTP stands for 5-Hydroxytryptophan which is an amino acid that is naturally produced by your body. 5-HTP is used by the body to produce serotonin, the chemical that delivers messages between your nerve cells. You may have heard of serotonin in relation to anxiety and depression through prescribed SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) for good reason. This medication is issued by GP’s as studies have shown that low levels of serotonin are linked to insomnia (1), depression, anxiety and even weight gain (2).
It is considered that increasing serotonin levels in the body could help with anxiety, depression, panic disorder, sleep, stress, and carbohydrate cravings. 5-HTP supplements may help with these these problems by directly stimulating serotonin production in the brain. As far as natural supplements go 5-HTP is relatively well studied and shows positive results in 5 key areas of health and wellness.
5-HTP helps with weight loss and weight management.
Studies have found that 5-HTP supports weight loss in overweight individuals by promoting feelings of fullness. If you are trying to enter a healthy weight band 5-HTP can help you eat less. Much of the study has been particularly helpful in reducing weight in clinically obese people (3) (4) (5) (6).
A further study found that 5-HTP could counteract the hormones that bring on feelings of hunger. When we attempt to lose weight and eat less these hunger hormones increase in our body potentially sabotaging our weight loss efforts. 5-HTP can interrupt this hunger pang problem by maintaining feelings of fullness. (7)
Can 5-HTP actually help in reducing your carbohydrate and fat intake? A study found this to be true in 20 diabetics. Given either a placebo or 5-HTP for a two-week period showed that the 5HTP group ate 400 calories less reducing both carbohydrate and fat (8).
Help with depression and anxiety.
This goes back to its serotonin increasing properties. 5-HTP and depression has been well studied and many researchers believe that an imbalance of serotonin could be responsible for depression (9) (10).
Smaller studies have found that 5-HTP reduced symptoms of depression (11) (12) (13) (14) that said more clinical studies are needed.
Helping symptoms of fibromyalgia
Living with the pain and weakness of fibromyalgia can be debilitating. Although there is no known cause it is thought that low serotonin levels could be a contributory factor (15).
With this in mind studies have been carried out with 5-HTP as a serotonin stimulator that have indicated improved sleep, anxiety, muscle pain and fatigue in sufferers (16) (17) (18).
As with all natural supplementation more research is needed but 5-HTP shows great promise in reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Reducing migraine frequency.
Sufferers know all too well the immense pain, nausea, vision disturbances of a migraine. Again, the cause is unknown but many researchers believe serotonin levels to play their part.
There have been two significant studies that suggest 5-HTP can help in reducing migraine frequency. One involved 124 sufferers who directly compared the effectiveness of the migraine medication methysergide and 5-HTP. The results showed that taking 5-HTP daily for 6 months significantly decreased the occurrence of migraines in 71% of the people that took part (19)
Another study showed a 70% decrease in migraines as compared to a placebo group (20).
Serotonin can be converted into melatonin in the body. This hormone is responsible for your sleep patterns. How easy it is for you to fall asleep and wake in the morning. One study found that combining 5-HTP and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) significantly decreased the time taken to drop off, improved sleep quality and duration (21). Theanine increases GABA production in the body and green tea is a great source. Combining 5-HTP with green tea daily might solve your sleep problems.