5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan

(Known as 5-HTP, Griffonia simplicifolia, 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan)

How does it work?
5-HTP is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan. Your body uses 5-HTP to make serotonin, an important substance for normal nerve and brain function. Serotonin appears to play significant roles in sleep, emotional moods, pain control, inflammation and other body functions. 5-HTP is derived from the seeds of an African plant known Griffonia simplicifolia.

Who is it used for?
5-HTP is extremely useful for anyone who wants to lose weight without the usual cravings for high-carbohydrate foods (such as bread or cookies), mood swings and an increase in appetite.

How does it work?
Many people turn to food for reasons other than physical hunger, using it when they feel stressed, upset, or anxious. They then feel "down" about themselves, and eat even more so they feel better again! This results in weight gain and depression, leading to even more eating.

However, most people don't realize is that these cravings and mood swings are strongly linked to a drop in the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is known as the "feel good" hormone. When serotonin levels are high, you feel calm and relaxed. When serotonin levels drop, you feel depressed and unhappy. In fact, many anti-depressant drugs are known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI's). Rather than increasing the production of serotonin, SSRI's stop serotonin levels from dropping.

Some studies show a direct link between obesity (due to overeating) and decreased brain serotonin levels. Researchers from Boston's Beth Israel Hospital have shown that serotonin levels can drop after just four weeks on a low-calorie diet [1]. The resulting mood swings and carbohydrate cravings are one reason why binge eating interferes with the attempts of many people to stick to their diets.

By raising serotonin levels safely and naturally, 5-HTP makes it possible for you to lose weight without suffering from mood swings or cravings. Researchers from Italy, for example, have shown that 5-HTP appears to "normalize" eating behavior in diabetic patients with reduced availability of brain tryptophan [3].

In a few small studies, 5-HTP has been shown to be as effective as prescription antidepressant medications - and with fewer side effects [2]. In other studies,5-HTP has been shown to reduce pain (migraines and fibromyalgia), reduce appetite and improve sleep patterns.

How do I use it?
Should you decide to use 5-HTP, approximately 100 milligrams daily is enough to take the edge off your appetite, reduce your hunger and improve mood.

What results can I expect?
You'll notice an immediate reduction in cravings for sweet foods. If you are an "emotional eater", and snack on junk food whenever you feel stressed or bored, 5-HTP will give you a calm sense of well-being and relaxation. Used in combination with a healthy diet, an effective exercise programme, and one or more of the supplements listed below, you can expect to lose up to 3 pounds of fat each week until you reach your target weight.

What can it be combined with?
5-HTP can be used in combination with other fat burning nutrients, including green tea, guarana, and bitter orange peel. These thermogenic nutrients enhance and extend the effectiveness of 5-HTP, making weight loss faster and easier. When using 5-HTP, it's important to make sure that your diet contains enough vitamin B-6, found in foods such as bread, meat, fish, eggs, baked beans, bananas, nuts and sunflower seeds. This is because vitamin B-6 plays an important role in converting 5-HTP in serotonin.

1. Wolfe, B.E., Metzger, E.D., & Stollar, C. (1997). The effects of dieting on plasma tryptophan concentration and food intake in healthy women. Physiology and Behaviour, 61, 537-541
2. Birdsall, T.C. (1998). 5-Hydroxytryptophan: A Clinically-Effective Serotonin Precursor. Alternative Medicine Review, 3, 271-280
3. Cangiano, C., Laviano, A., Del Ben, M., Preziosa, I., Angelico, F., Cascino, A., & Rossi-Fanelli, F. (1998). Effects of oral 5-hydroxy-tryptophan on energy intake and macronutrient selection in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 22, 648-654

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