What is the Connection Between 5-HTP and Serotonin?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2019
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The connection between 5-HTP and serotonin lies within the biochemical behaviors of tryptophan, an amino acid, which helps produce the feel good hormones of serotonin within the brain. 5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5-HTP, is a precursor to the development of typtophan and ultimately seratonin, making it a popular alternative supplement for those seeking a remedy for inadequate serotonin production or those suffering from depression. The fact that 5-HTP and serotonin contains such a strong connection is widely popularized by alternative healers and complementary physicians. The side effects of using 5-HTP to aid in the production of serotonin may include reduced appetite, so it shouldn't be taken by those who already suffer from lack of appetite, such as the elderly or those suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa.

Scientists discovered a connection between 5-HTP and serotonin when they found that 5-HTP is metabolized by an amino acid called tryptophan, an essential amino acid needed for the body's healthy production of serotonin. Pure tryptophan is not available for supplementation, making 5-HTP a safer and legal way of helping the brain produce more serotonin. There is even some evidence showing that supplementing with 5-HTP, the feel good hormones which have been shown to alleviate depression, is more powerful than supplementing with tryptophan, since 5-HTP goes straight into making serotonin without having to be metabolized. Usually 5-HTP and serotonin work synchronistically to provide the brain with the correct balance of hormones for optimum function.


Evidence that 5-HTP and serotonin are related should not be a surprise to those who understand the basic relationship of tryptophan and serotonin production. Tryptophan produces 5-HTP, which now becomes a precursor to normal serotonin development in the brain. Alternative health physicians and even conventional doctors might suggest patients suffering from mood or depressive disorders to supplement with 5-HTP to help produce a sense of calm and balance which serotonin ultimately brings to the body. Even though most people can use 5-HTP as a supplement without any adverse effects, there are certain conditions that need to be taken into consideration before starting a 5-HTP supplementation regimen.

Supplementing with 5-HTP is not only seen as an alternative depression alleviator, but may also be important for the area of weight loss. Seratonin helps the body feel better and more at ease, which also corresponds to a reduction in appetite in most individuals. This makes 5-HTP an unsuitable alternative supplement for those who cannot afford to lose weight, like the elderly or small children. Those suffering with anorexia nervosa should not take 5-HTP, as descending nutritional input into the body due to lack of appetite can seriously damage any progress for the regaining of health associated with recovery.


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