5-HTP for Weight Loss

Cheryl Zielke
bottle of supplements

If you are wondering if there is truth to 5-HTP for weight loss, you have come to the right place. At LoveToKnow Diet, our goal is to give you the factual information and the latest news about 5-HTP and its role in shedding extra unwanted pounds.

What Is 5-HTP?

In the myriad of complex operations occurring in the human brain on a daily basis, several chemicals are responsible for this phenomenal, highly functioning organ. One such chemical, also known as a neurotransmitter, is called serotonin. In order to produce serotonin, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is necessary. One step further down the process identifies the need for tryptophan, an essential amino acid, for the manufacture of 5-HTP.

  • Serotonin
    • 5-hydroxytryptophan
      • Tryptophan
        • Protein

Sufficient protein is typically all it takes to ensure adequate levels of 5-HTP. However, if levels have been identified as insufficient, supplements are available. 5-HTP supplements are made from either the seeds of the African tree called Griffonia, or synthetically produced in chemical laboratories.

5-HTP Functions

While it is not so much the direct effect of 5-HTP as much as it is the effect of serotonin, the intricate mechanisms of sleep, mood, and hunger are controlled by the interactions that take place within the process. More specifically, solid evidence proves that low levels of either compound can cause the following conditions:

Supplementation for Weight Loss

If serotonin levels are low, chances are that 5-HTP is not adequately present for its manufacture in the intestines. For this reason, over-the-counter supplements of 5-HTP have been available since 1994 by several companies. The principle of 5-HTP and weight loss is most likely due to the synergistic actions taking place. For example, insomnia and obesity have been extensively studied with the resulting conclusion that there is an association between the two. Hence, if 5-HTP helps individuals alleviate insomnia, then weight loss may result as well. Similarly, since depression is one of the main purposes for its use, emotional eating due to depressed moods, such as sadness, loneliness, and self-loathing, may subside.

Most importantly, 5-HTP has been applied to human studies in the treatment of obesity. Clinical trials have supported the positive outcome of weight loss and satiety when 5-HTP supplementation was administered. One study concluded that 5-HTP reduced the total number of daily calories without the conscience effort to lose weight by any of the female participants. Average weight loss in this particular study was three pounds over the course of five weeks. A second study involved a six week period without dietary restriction and the second six weeks with the addition of a 1200 calorie diet. There was a marked increase in weight loss of participants taking the supplement versus those given a placebo. The average weight loss was 10.34 pounds for the former group and 2.28 pounds for the latter group. The conclusion of this study was that 5-HTP's action on the satiety center of the brain caused users to take in fewer calories at meals, hence weight loss occurred.

Dosage and Cost

Dosage information is not set in stone, whether the chemicals are being used for depression or weight loss. Most capsules are available in 50 milligram (mg) amounts. As an alternative medicine, practitioners have universally stated that 100 mg should be the uppermost limit taken in a 24 hour period. The reason for supplementation will determine the best time of day to take it. For weight loss, 5-HTP is best taken one to two hours before a meal on an empty stomach. For sleep therapy, the supplement can be taken close to bedtime.

The cost of 5-HTP supplements ranges from approximately $14.00 for 90 capsules at 33 milligrams to $25 for 60 capsules at 100 mg each. Your local pharmacy or health food market will likely carry the supplement. The internet is, of course, a ripe shopping mecca for comparison pricing and ordering. Be sure to check the validity of the manufacturers to ensure you are getting quality product.

Health Warnings

Long term clinical trials have not been conducted. For this reason, it is highly suggested that prolonged use of this supplement be avoided. In addition, individuals with the following conditions should not take the supplement without first discussing with a medical specialist:

  • Cardiovascular disease, such as history of heart attack or stroke, and high blood pressure
  • Parkinson's
  • Cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lung disease
  • Anorexia
  • Allergies
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Edema
  • Pregnancy (trying to conceive)
  • Breast feeding

Drug interactions with the 5-HTP do exist. For this reason, if you taking prescribed anti-depressant medication such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI's) or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI's) for similar conditions, it is imperative that you seek the advice of a medical professional before taking any supplement. 5-HTP is not recommended for children due to lack of long term studies.

Side Effects

Life threatening side effects have not been reported with taking 5-HTP for weight loss or any of the other objectives known to be activated by its use. However, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, decreased libido, and nightmares have been reported. It is highly recommended that the supplement be taken for short periods of time. A good indication of the proper time to temporarily discontinue use is when side effects escalate. Examples include an increase in the incidences of nightmares or a feeling of increased sleepiness throughout the day.

Diet and 5-HTP

There is no replacement for healthy, balanced meals and snacks to nourish your body with the amount of energy and calories it needs, whether for body weight maintenance, loss, or gain. For this reason, the theory that one diet pill or supplement will result in the weight loss you have always dreamed of is idealistic at best. While 5-HTP may enable your body to function better on a chemical level, diet and exercise are still the best habits to adopt for a lifetime of wellness and disease prevention.

5-HTP for Weight Loss