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Study: 5-HTP can boost serotonin levels and promote healthy eating habits
By zoeysky // 2022-10-25
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that at least 73 percent of American adults are currently either overweight or obese, which may be linked to the increasing rates of Type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the country. Health experts also warn that the incidence of major depression, which includes symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and fatigue, is on the rise in the United States. Researchers think that low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential for "normal appetite, restful sleep and stable mood," may have something to do with this issue. Fortunately, several studies have highlighted the potential of 5-HTP, a natural compound, to enhance serotonin levels and promote overall health. According to a 2020 trial, 5-HTP could help ease symptoms of depression. Other studies have also found that the compound may help encourage healthy eating habits.

What is 5-HTP?

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is made in the human body from tryptophan, an amino acid found in foods like bananas, milk and poultry. But unlike tryptophan, 5-HTP does not exist naturally in food. 5-HTP supplements are made from an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia.

5-HTP helps improve eating habits

Previously, animal studies have revealed that 5-HTP can reduce depression-induced excessive food intake. Scientists used this information to study the compound's effect on humans. In a 2017 study published in the journal Brain and Behavior, researchers gave volunteers either 5-HTP or vitamin C before undergoing MRI scans. The findings revealed that a "brain response for protein-rich foods" was more likely to occur in those who took 5-HTP. This means the compound helped stimulate an inclination for healthier foods. This is important because high-protein foods are more likely to help you maintain a healthy weight than other foods, like sugar- and fat-laden processed snacks. Data from another controlled study revealed that using a 5-HTP oral spray for four weeks led to greater feelings of fullness for overweight female participants. This helped the women decrease food intake and exhibit small but statistically significant reductions in body mass. In a separate study, scientists randomly assigned 20 volunteers with diabetes to receive either 5-HTP or a placebo for two weeks. The study findings revealed that the volunteers who received 5-HTP consumed approximately 435 fewer calories per day, compared to the placebo group. While 5-HTP is no silver bullet against obesity, the compound may help suppress appetite and reduce cravings for unhealthy foods, which can help support healthy weight loss management.

5-HTP helps improve your mood

Low levels of serotonin, the "feel-good" chemical, have been linked to depression and anxiety, and some experts believe that serotonin-producing 5-HTP can help address these problems. In a controlled trial published in the European Journal of Neurology, scientists reported that taking at least 50 mg of 5-HTP daily for a month caused significant improvements in depressive symptoms when compared to a placebo. (Related: A closer look at 5-HTP and its brain-boosting benefits.) Some scientists also think that 5-HTP may work as well as prescription medications for patients with mild-to-moderate depression. Experts also believe that 5-HTP is particularly useful for those who are resistant to pharmaceutical drugs or who have problems tolerating the side effects of medication. Additionally, this calming compound can help affect serotonin levels swiftly – unlike prescription antidepressants, which may take as long as several weeks to reach full effectiveness.

5-HTP helps boost levels of the "sleep hormone"

Serotonin can be converted in your body into melatonin, a hormone that is crucial for regulating sleep. As 5-HTP triggers serotonin production, experts suggest it can also enhance melatonin levels. While more research is needed, a 2018 study examined the effects of the combination of 5-HTP and gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, a neurotransmitter with calming effects. The researchers reported that the combination helped to "induce sleep, enhance sleep quality and support longer sleep duration," which is promising for people who struggle with insomnia and sleep disturbances like interrupted sleep, night terrors and sleepwalking. Supplementing with 5-HTP may also help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches and relieve the muscle pain, sleep problems and fatigue that can accompany fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a health problem characterized by muscle and bone pain along with general weakness. While there is currently no known cause of fibromyalgia, experts think low serotonin levels are linked to the condition.

Tips for supplementing with 5-HTP

If you want to supplement with 5-HTP, only buy a high-quality formulation from a reputable vendor. Check the label, which should clearly display a USP or NSF seal. NSF or USP seals indicate high quality. These are third-party companies that ensure supplements contain what they claim on the label, without any impurities. If it's your first time taking 5-HTP supplements, note that you may experience side effects like diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain and vomiting. These side effects are dose-dependent, meaning they get worse if you increase your dose. Minimize these side effects by starting with a dose of 50 to 100 mg two times per day. Gradually increase to the appropriate dose over a two-week period. Natural healers often recommend 5-HTP amounts ranging from 50 mg to 400 mg a day, but you can also talk to your integrative physician before supplementing. Don't try to treat depression or any other condition with 5-HTP unless you are under the guidance of a qualified physician. The supplement may interact negatively with certain antidepressants and sedative medications, increasing the amounts of serotonin in your body to excessive levels. Try supplementing with 5-HTP to promote better sleep quality, improve your eating habits, relieve anxiety and promote a calm, stable mood. Go to to learn more about other supplements that can help boost your brain health. Watch the video below for five reasons to try 5-HTP powder. This video is from the Health Ranger Store channel on

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