Does 5-HTP work for sleep, anxiety and weight loss?

What does the science say about 5-HTP and its supposed ability to help with things such as sleep, anxiety and weight loss?

5-HTP for sleep, anxiety and weight loss
5-HTP could help to promote better sleep Photo: Adobe Stock

If you’ve landed on this article, they you’ve probably been hearing about the supposed benefits of 5-HTP as a supplement. It has been claimed to help things such as Sleep, Anxiety and Weight Loss amongst others.

Many fat loss supplements use 5-HTP for its supposed appetite suppressing proprieties, and it’s also available on its own as a standalone product.

But does it really work and what does the actual science say about 5-HTP supplementation?

The purpose of this article is for us to take a detailed look through the actual benefits of supplementing with 5-HTP to see if it is all it’s cracked up to be.

We’re going to break this article on 5-HTP into the following sections:

• What is 5-HTP?
• 5-HTP for Sleep
• 5-HTP for Anxiety
• 5-HTP for Weight Loss
• Other 5-HTP Benefits
• What’s the Best Dose of 5-HTP?
• Anything Else To Consider?
• Conclusion

So, now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, it’s time to start taking a closer look at 5-HTP and what the science really says about this particular supplement.

What is 5-HTP?

5-HTP is the abbreviation for 5-Hydroxytryptophan.

In short, it is what’s known as a ‘precursor’ to the neurotransmitter called Serotonin. A precursor is a compound that gets converted into something else in the body. In 5-HTP’s case, it is converted into Serotonin.

It is generally considered to be more effective than the amino acid L-Tryptophan at raising Serotonin in humans. This is because L-Tryptophan can be converted into other things such as Niacin. Meanwhile, 5-HTP can only be converted into Serotonin.

In case you didn’t know, Serotonin plays an important role in regulating things such as sleep, depression, anxiety, aggression, appetite, temperature, sexual behaviour, and pain sensation.

Many supplements on sale today use the plant extract Griffonia Simplicifolia (an African shrub) as a source of 5-HTP.

So, we’ve clearly seen that 5-HTP appears to be a reliable way to raise Serotonin levels. But what about the specific benefits of supplementing with 5-HTP? Let’s take a look at some of the main ones now.

5-HTP for Sleep

You may have already heard about 5-HTP as a supplement to help with sleep.

As we mentioned above, Serotonin plays an important role in regulating sleep, so it would make sense that supplementing with 5-HTP could help. But what does the science actually say?

One study from 2010 found that a combination of GABA and 5-HTP, as well as some other ingredients, seemed to reduce the time required to fall asleep. This is promising.

There was also another study from 2004 that noted supplementing with 5-HTP was associated with significantly less sleep terrors in children during the trial and for up to six months afterwards.

In this study, children were given 2mg of 5-HTP per kg of their body weight at bedtime for a period of 20 consecutive days, and after one month, 93.5 per cent of patients showed a positive response.

So, it is clear that there is at least some scientific evidence to suggest that supplementing with 5-HTP could help with sleep. We would like to see more research into this specific area.

5-HTP for Anxiety

Another touted benefit of 5-HTP is its supposed ability to reduce anxiety and / or panic attacks.

As we mentioned above, supplementing with 5-HTP is considered to be a proven way to raise Serotonin levels.

One study from 2000 noted that increases in Serotonin levels may be able to directly reduce panic anxiety in patients with panic disorder.

Another study from 2000 found that supplementing with Tryptophan could potentially protect against anxiety in panic disorder patients.

Simply put, there is some evidence to suggest that increasing Serotonin levels (which 5-HTP is believed to do), could help to protect against anxiety. Again, we would like to see some more specific research into this area.

5-HTP for Weight Loss

Now, you may have come across 5-HTP as an ingredient in supplements to help with weight loss. But is there any actual scientific evidence to suggest that 5-HTP will help in this regard?

There is significant evidence to suggest that supplementing with 5-HTP could help to reduce appetite, which in turn could help with weight loss.

One study from 1998 suggested that supplementing with 5-HTP was associated with less food intake.

And another one from 1989 found that 5-HTP was associated with a reduction of calories consumed.

It is suggested that 5-HTP could help to reduce appetite when consumed with a meal, because it could help to increase the sensation of fullness after having eaten.

Supplements

Photo: Adobe Stock

So, there is at least some evidence to suggest that supplementing with 5-HTP could help with weight loss by helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer after you’ve eaten, when 5-HTP is consumed with a meal.

Other 5-HTP Benefits

One study from 2010 investigated romantic stress.

In the study, 5-HTP was given to young people with high levels of romantic stress. The subjects were given 12.8mg of 5-HTP twice a day for six weeks. The study noted reductions in perceived romantic stress after three weeks.

There are plenty of other supposed benefits of 5-HTP, but not many more have actual scientific evidence to back them up.

What’s the Best Dose of 5-HTP?

There is no ‘best’ dose of 5-HTP.

However, a typical dose is around 300mg to 500mg, according to Examine.com.

It is also suggested that if you are looking to reduce food intake by supplementing with 5-HTP, then it should be consumed with a meal.

Anything Else To Consider?

As we always like to remind our readers, make sure you do some of your own research and consult your doctor before thinking about supplementing with any new substances.

We also always advise that you make sure that you’re training hard and eating right before thinking about adding any kind of supplements to your daily regimen.

There is no magic supplement to solve all of your problems. Getting the basics right by sticking to a healthy and balanced lifestyle should always be your priority.

Conclusion

That brings us to the end of our detailed look at 5-HTP and its supposed benefits for sleep, anxiety and weight loss.

We’ve walked you through the basics about 5-HTP, and what it’s used for.

The bottom line is that there is at least some scientific evidence to back up the claims that it could help with all three of these things.

That being said, there is still room for more research in these areas, even if the initial human studies into 5-HTP’s effects look promising.

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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard

BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge

↺ Article History
This article was last updated on November 29, 2018.
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