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Natural Remedies and General Health

5-HTP A Natural Remedy for Depression and Weight Loss

griffonia-simplicifoliaIn a previous post we discussed the link between depression and weight loss and also touched upon the fact that some of the treatments are common too, increased exercise for example.

5HTP is another product which many claim can aid both cases of mild depression and weight problems.

There are a number of claims made about 5HTP’s benefits in a range of different areas which include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Looking at the above list it may seem improbable that one product can be used in so many different contexts. In fact, the list we posted above has been cut down to focus on the four main uses, the actual list of 5HTP applications is actually much larger.

How is this Possible, How Does 5HTP Work?

serotonin-mood5HTP does not have any direct (known) effect on the bodies functions, instead it has been found to increase levels of serotonin which is a widely studied neurotransmitter. It is serotonin which actually “does the work” and has been found to be beneficial in aiding weight loss and other conditions, and in fact 5HTP is not the only natural remedy which can be used as other products like Saffron Extract have also been found to increase serotonin levels and thus deliver similar benefits, all be it the stimulus for serotonin production differs between the two products.

There have been a number of studies which suggest a link between serotonin and mood,emotions, sleep patterns and body weight:

a regulator of emotions, mood and sleep – in affecting the brain’s melanocortin system, a key molecular pathway that controls body weight (Science Daily)

Serotonin is nature’s own appetite suppressant. This powerful brain chemical curbs cravings and shuts off appetite  (Psychology Today)

the study provided details which showed a loss of fourteen pound in twelve weeks (vanderbilt.edu)

Higher levels of serotonin have been found to reduce your hunger and make you feel fuller more often and has been found to help reduce snacking between meals as well as reducing overall appetite. Another study found that it reduced carbohydrate intake in some women, this was a subconscious effect, those women simply ate less carbohydrates without intentionally trying to do so.

Will It Work for Me?

research5-HTP has been directly studied for more than 30 years, on top of which serotonin has been found by more than one study to reduce the number of of calories eaten and thus aid weight loss.

One of the more convincing studies relating to weight loss took 19 female subjects and gave HTP to some and a placebo to others and subsequently reported:

The administration of 5-hydroxytryptophan decreased food intake and weight loss during the period of observation (pubmed)

The women given the supplement reported feeling less hungry and were found to have consumed 1,084 fewer calories per day. In a separate study where women given 5-HTP lost an average of 10 pounds over a 12 week period.

However, results do vary between people. Your are likely to see most benefit from taking 5-HTP if you are the type of person who:

  • feels hungry between meals
  • snacks between meals
  • suffers from food cravings

Side Effects and Safety

As with many natural remedies they are not regulated in the same way pharmaceutical have to be and consequently clinical research and trials are rarely as extensive. As such there remains some contention over the benefits of 5HTP as well as some safety concerns such as this warning posted on webmd:

Don’t use 5-HTP until more is known. 5-HTP might be UNSAFE (webmd)

However if you read feedback from users on the same site many report positive results and much of the press coverage on this product is also positive. So, clinically speaking the Jury is still out but many people who try 5HTP claim to derive benefit from using it and continue to do so.

Most doctors agree that 5HTP should be safe if taken moderately over a limited time period of not more than 12 months. There are some exceptions to this and you should not use 5HTP If you:

  • take antidepressants 
  • suffer with with liver disease
  • suffer with high blood pressure or diabetes
  • have gastrointestinal problems
  • are pregnant or are breastfeeding
  • 5-HTP should not be given to children

You can find more information on this here but if you you are taking other forms of medication or have any other concerns consult your doctor before using 5-HTP.


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