Brain chemical 5-HTP may promote fat loss by reducing appetite.
The chemical precursor to serotonin, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) may facilitate fat loss by:
- Reducing appetite. 5-HTP may indirectly support weight loss by reducing appetite and subsequent food intake.
5 Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a vital compound naturally produced in the body from the essential amino acid tryptophan as well as present in the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simiplicifolia. It is best recognized as the precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood and social behavior.1
Whereas dietary sources of tryptophan increase 5-HTP levels by a minuscule amount, 5-HTP supplements have been shown to be far more effective. The current rise in popularity of 5-HTP supplementation in conjunction with scientific research has led to the discovery of multiple potential health benefits:
- Mood improvement. 5-HTP seems to impart nootropic-like effects, including boosting positive vibes and reducing depression and migraines.
- Stress reduction. 5-HTP may help alleviate anxiety, tension, and insomnia.
- Growth hormone enhancement. 5-HTP appears to elevate growth hormone levels.
Although not as well-known as some other fat-burners, 5-HTP has also been proposed to support weight loss by reducing caloric intake.
How 5-HTP Might Help With Fat Loss
Regulate caloric intake
5-HTP does not directly trigger fat burning, but it is a natural serotonin precursor that inherently elevates serotonin levels, and serotonin has long been associated with reduced appetite and increased satiety, especially in obese or overweight persons.3 In addition, low serotonin levels are known to induce carbohydrate cravings.4
5-HTP Benefits & Uses for Fat Loss
While not a fat burner per se, 5-HTP is a popular option for reducing appetite, which in turn reduces food intake and leads to weight loss. More specifically, 5-HTP may be used to lower overall appetite before meals, limit additional consumption for people on fixed-calorie diets, as well as maintain diet restrictions in cases of obesity or type-II diabetes.5 Current research evidence seems to support 5-HTP’s ability to curb food cravings and lead to notable weight loss.
Animal studies of 5-HTP have discovered that it may:
- Reduce food intake and bodyweight gain in rodents.6
For the most part, clinical research confirms that 5-HTP can suppress appetite and lead to weight loss.
In this double-blind study, 20 obese adults were given either a placebo or 900 mg of 5-HTP daily for two consecutive 6 week periods. The 5-HTP group had significant weight loss, which was associated with decreased carbohydrate intake and feeling full more quickly.
- The study concluded that “these findings together with the good tolerance observed suggest that 5-HTP may be safely used to treat obesity.”7
In this randomized, double-blind study, 25 overweight type II diabetics took either a placebo or 750 mg of 5-HTP every day for 2 weeks. 5-HTP was found to reduce carbohydrate and fat intake and subsequently cause weight loss.
- The study concluded that “patients receiving 5-HTP significantly decreased their daily energy intake, by reducing carbohydrate and fat intake, and reduced their body weight.”8
In this double-blind, crossover study, 19 obese women were given either a placebo or 5-HTP at 8 mg/kg body weight every day for 5 weeks. At the end of the investigation, 5-HTP was reported to decrease food intake and lead to weight loss.
- The study concluded that “the administration of 5-hydroxytryptophan resulted in no changes in mood state but promoted typical anorexia-related symptoms, decreased food intake and weight loss.”9
In this study, 14 obese women took either a placebo or 300 mg of 5-HTP before each meal daily for 6 weeks with no diet and 6 more weeks with a low-calorie diet. The 5-HTP group experienced an increase in satiety and subsequent weight loss (99.7 kg to 98 kg in first 6 weeks; 98 kg to 94.7 kg in second 6 weeks) of 5% of total body weight.
- The study concluded that “the prevalence of anorexia was higher in the group of patients receiving 5-HTP than in the placebo group.”10
In this randomized, double-blind study, 27 women were given either a placebo or 5-HTP in the form of a spray under the tongue (5HTP-Nat Exts®) 5 times a day for 2 months. The 5-HTP group experienced a significantly greater increase in satiety and fasting time.
- The study concluded that “5HTP-Nat Exts may be safely used to treat the problem of appetite control in overweight women during a weight loss program.”11
Dosage for Fat Loss
- Research studies use from 300 – 900 mg of 5-HTP
- Typical 5-HTP supplement capsules range from 50 – 100 mg
- Sublingual 5-HTP spray seems to be a viable alternative
Supplements in Review Says
- 5-HTP 50 – 100 mg for fat loss.
5-HTP may promote fat loss by reducing caloric intake. 5-HTP seems to be well-suited for increasing satiety in overweight and obese individuals, which can in turn lead to eating less and losing weight. Combined with potential mood and overall brain health benefits, 5-HTP is definitely worth a try as a weight loss supplement.
Start with daily doses of 50 – 100 mg. We suggest starting off at a low daily dose of 50 – 100 mg which can be increased over time.
- Frazer A, Hensler JG. Serotonin involvement in physiological function and behavior. In: Siegel GJ, ed. Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular and Medical Aspects. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven;1999 ↩
- Birdsall TC. 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor. Altern Med Rev. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80. ↩
- Wurtmann JJ. The involvement of brain serotonin in excessive carbohydrate snacking by obese carbohydrate cravers. J Am Diet Assoc. 1984 Sep;84(9):1004-7. ↩
- Wurtman RJ and Wurtman JJ. Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity and depression. Obes Res. 1995 Nov;3 Suppl 4:477S-480S. ↩
- Halford JC, Harrold JA, et al. Serotonin (5-HT) drugs: effects on appetite expression and use for the treatment of obesity. Curr Drug Targets. 2005 Mar;6(2):201-13. ↩
- Halford JC, Harrold JA, et al. Serotonergic drugs : effects on appetite expression and use for the treatment of obesity. Drugs. 2007;67(1):27-55. ↩
- Cangiano C, Ceci F, et al. Eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects treated with 5-hydroxytryptophan. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;56:863-7. ↩
- Cangiano C, Laviano A, et al. Effects of oral 5-hydroxy-tryptophan on energy intake and macronutrient selection in non-insulin dependent diabetic patients. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1998;22:648-54. ↩
- Ceci F, Cangiano C, et al. The effects of oral 5-hydroxytryptophan administration on feeding behavior in obese adult female subjects. J Neural Transm 1989;76:109-17. ↩
- Cangiano C, Ceci F, et al. Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects. Adv Exp Med Biol 1991;294:591-3. ↩
- Rondanelli M, Klersy C, et al. Satiety and amino-acid profile in overweight women after a new treatment using a natural plant extract sublingual spray formulation. Int J Obes (Lond) 2009;33:1174-1182. ↩