Today, we're delving into the world of 5-HTP. Known for its role in the production of serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ hormone, 5-HTP has gained attention as a potential aid in weight loss efforts. This capability is thought to be connected to serotonin’s role in regulating mood, appetite and promoting feelings of well-being. In this article, we'll embark on a journey to uncover the truths surrounding 5-HTP and its impact on weight management.
What is 5-HTP
5-HTP is a naturally occurring compound in the human body and is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. 5-HTP is also found in bananas, avocados, tomatoes, griffonia simplicifolia in addition to dietary supplements. You may have heard of tryptophan in relation to that notorious post-Thanksgiving dinner nap. Well, 5-HTP is like the next step in the process. It's involved in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating mood and appetite (among other things).
Now picture this: you're feeling down, and what's the first thing you reach for? A bag of french fries or other comfort foods, right? Well, that's where 5-HTP comes into the spotlight. It's believed to boost serotonin levels in your brain, potentially improving your mood and reducing cravings for comfort foods. Imagine feeling more content and less likely to drown your sorrows in a sea of cheesy goodness. Sounds great. But can 5-HTP actually do that?
Scientific Research on 5-HTP and Weight Loss
Proponents of 5-HTP suggest that by increasing serotonin levels, it can help control appetite, increase feelings of fullness, reduce cravings, decrease in calorie intake and subsequently have a positive impact on weight loss. Additionally, some of its advocates claim it may influence other hormones involved in appetite control such as leptin and ghrelin. Let's check out what the studies have to say.
Boosting Satiety is Where It’s Mostly At
One of the oldest studies was published in 1989. 19 obese female subjects were randomly assigned to either a placebo or 8 mg 5-HTP per kg daily for five weeks. It found that while subjects in the 5-HTP group did not experience any mood changes, they exhibited anorexia-related symptoms, reduced food intake and significant weight loss.
My first gripe with this study is that anorexia is not exactly a term I would want to run into in the context of healthy weight loss. My second concern is the study’s brevity – just five weeks.
Which is why I took a look at a different and longer study published in 1992. In this case, 20 obese subjects were randomly assigned to either a placebo or 900 mg 5-HTP daily for 12 weeks. The 5-HTP group experienced weight loss and consistently greater satiety. That effectively confirmed the results of the 1989 research but without the anorexia symptoms.
Let’s go one further and examine research on griffonia simplicifolia (GF). GF seed is one of the richest natural sources of 5-HTP. A lot of research around its benefits is actually an evaluation of the impact on 5-HTP. One of these studies was published in 2012 and assessed the effect of GF supplementation on 20 overweight female subjects over a four-week period. It found that the GF group had an increased feeling of satiety as well as reduction in BMI, hip circumference and arm circumference.
Noticed something these three studies have in common? That’s right – increased satiety. It seems to be where 5-HTP’s weight loss impact lies.
Not all studies confirm a connection between 5-HTP and satiety or weight loss.
For example, in 2014, researchers looking at the effect of 5-HTP on satiety published their findings in the Gastroenterology Research and Practice journal. The study involved 24 young and healthy subjects that were administered a placebo or 1,000 mg 5-HTP for 4 days. They concluded that 5-HTP supplementation had no effect on not just mood or hunger but also serotonin levels.
I consider the main drawback of this study as the very short duration. It is not a long enough period to make a reliable verdict. Actually, forget about weight loss for a moment. The very assertion that there is no connection between 5-HTP and serotonin is problematic and goes contrary to the findings of a lot of other research.
Let's talk about safety. In general, 5-HTP is considered safe for short-term use and when taken in appropriate doses. However, it may cause certain side effects such as digestive problems, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness and anxiety. 5-HTP can interact with certain medications, such as MAO inhibitors and SSRIs.
In rare cases, 5-HTP supplements have been linked to serious side effects such as serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur when there's excessive serotonin in the body. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include confusion, dizziness, fever, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, seizures, sweating and tremors.
Before adding 5-HTP to your weight loss regimen, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional, particularly if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking other medications. Safety first, always!
The ideal dosage of 5-HTP where the goal is faster yet safe weight loss is 750 to 900 mg per day. Leading fat burners that contain 5-HTP as an ingredient have it in the 35 to 150 mg range per day. This is probably a reflection of many supplement makers’ view of 5-HTP as a minor, mostly complementary ingredient.
As we wrap up, I will emphasize the need to exercise caution and maintain realistic expectations. While 5-HTP supplementation may offer some benefits in terms of appetite regulation and modest weight loss, it is not a magical solution. Weight loss is a multifaceted process and cannot be attributed solely to serotonin levels.
So if you're looking for a one-stop weight loss supplement, 5-HTP is not the answer. It's more like a helpful companion on your weight loss journey. You still need to put in the work. Focus on a balanced diet, regular exercise and lifestyle changes. Remember, sustainable weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint!