Does 5-HTP Work?
There is some evidence that 5-HTP may work for treating depression and fibromyalgia. However, more research is necessary to determine whether 5-HTP is effective for weight loss, eating disorders, compulsive disorders, and other uses. It seems reasonable to assume that 5-HTP could be effective for these uses, as it works in a similar way as most antidepressants (by increasing the levels of serotonin in the body).
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid that is often used in weight loss supplements. It is also claimed to help with the following conditions:
- Eating disorders
- Compulsive disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Premenstrual disorder (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
There is a little evidence that 5-HTP may be effective for treating depression and fibromyalgia, but there is insufficient evidence for any other 5-HTP uses.
The body converts 5-HTP into serotonin, a very important brain chemical. As a result, taking 5-HTP can increase serotonin levels, which theoretically may help with a variety of conditions, especially mood disorders (such as depression). In addition to affecting mood, serotonin has several other actions in the body, which may be how 5-HTP works for other conditions. There is some speculation that increased levels of serotonin in the brain may decrease food cravings, which may be why people use 5-HTP for weight loss.
Many prescription antidepressants work by increasing the level of serotonin in the body, so it seems reasonable to predict that 5-HTP may have actions similar to antidepressants. Prescription antidepressants are often effective for any of the conditions listed above, which is probably why people try 5-HTP for these conditions.
Early studies seem to show promise for using 5-HTP to treat depression or fibromyalgia. It seems reasonable to assume that 5-HTP would also be effective for anything that prescription antidepressants work to treat, because 5-HTP works in a similar way as most antidepressants. However, more research is necessary before 5-HTP can be recommended for such uses. Evidence is also lacking for using 5-HTP for weight loss.