A Solution To The Weight Loss Puzzle

3045 words - 12 pages

A solution to the weight-loss puzzle


The purpose of taking 5-HTP is to reduce carbohydrate cravings, and thus, diminish food intake, resulting in weight loss. In addition to promoting weight loss, it has also been linked with beneficial effects on behaviors such as sleep disturbances, narcolepsy, depression, migraines, anxiety, bulimia, PMS, compulsive behaviors, substance abuse, childhood hyperactivity, and hypersexuality.


5-HTP is obtained by extracting it from the seeds of a legume called Griffonia simplicifolia, which is found in West Africa. It is recommended to take anywhere from 50mg to 900mg 5-HTP daily, depending on the needs of the individual. It is available in both a capsule or a drink mix. It should be taken between meals (at least 30 minutes before each meal) to prevent its interaction with other amino acids and to ensure its effectiveness.


A deficiency in the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) has been linked with a number of behaviors mentioned above. It has especially been associated with carbohydrate craving because eating carbohydrates is one way to briefly increase the brain’s level of 5-HT. This occurs because carbohydrates induce insulin production, and this insulin promotes 5-HT production. A temporary sense of well-being and satiety occurs. From this, it has been concluded that by increasing the brain’s 5-HT levels by methods other than overeating carbs, these cravings would be avoided, satiety would be reached earlier, overeating would be avoided, and weight would be lost.

So why does 5-HTP have this effect? 5-hydroxy-L-Tryptophan is a precursor to 5-HT, along with the amino acid tryptophan. It is thought that by providing the brain with this precursor in the form of 5-HTP capsules or drink mix, a person’s cells will naturally increase the production of 5-HT. This increase in 5-HT induced by the supplements will stop carbohydrate cravings, increase satiety earlier, and lead to weight loss.

Why 5-HTP instead of the other precursor, tryptophan? In fact, tryptophan was also once used to alleviate effects of 5-HT depletion such as depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. However, in 1988, the FDA began restricting the marketing of tryptophan due to a contaminated batch imported from a Japanese company. This is what led to the recent focus on 5-HTP, the other precursor to 5-HT.


Possible side effects that have been noted to occur during 5-HTP administration include anxiety, digestive upset, headache, lethargy, muscle pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, inability to sleep, and nausea.


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