5-HTP – the direct precursor of serotonin and melatonin
Melatonin balances mind and body: The natural hormone can help to reorient our biological clock in case of shift work or jet lag sleep disorder and to get back to a normal circadian rhythm. There are several positive effects attributed to the so called ‘sleep hormone’ such as synchronization of a circadian rhythm, sleep promoting effects and strengthening of the immune system. At least, some of these promising hypotheses are scientifically well supported by recent findings.
Melatonin is a metabolite of the tryptophan metabolism, its biosynthesis from serotonin in the pineal gland is inhibited by light while darkness stops this inhibition, and the melatonin synthesis increases accordingly. Very low melatonin levels can be the cause of sleep disorder. With age, the melatonin production increases while the mean sleep duration decreases and sleep problems frequently occur. Although in the USA melatonin is regarded as a ‘miracle drug’ – especially against jet lag – as an over-the-counter medicine, its administration is still debated among experts. In Germany and in the Switzerland melatonin still is available only on prescription and used only in case of short-term treatment of insomnia, but not as a food supplement.
The amino acid 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptamine) is a direct precursor of serotonin and is then converted to melatonin by means of a biosynthesis of the pineal gland (epiphysis). In order to be able to produce serotonin the body needs the essential amino acid L-tryptophan. Essential amino acids, such as L-tryptophan, are essential because the body is incapable of producing them. This means the body has to get them through food in order to cover its daily needs.
Serotonin is produced by the body in two steps. The process is called a biosynthesis and involves the enzymes tryptophan hydroxylase (THP), and Aromatic-L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC), also called DOPA decarboxylase (DDC). If the body has an insufficient amount of this enzyme the body consequently lacks the corresponding neurotransmitters and catecholamine. During the first stage, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP) is synthesized in the tryptophan-hydroxylase from L-tryptophan. During the second stage, the final product, serotonin, is produced with the Aromatic-L-amino acid decarboxylase.
Serotonin plays an important role in neurotransmission and thus affects our moods: Reduced levels of serotonin can manifest itself in a depression. Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP), plays a prominent role in signal transmission in the brain: The main cause of depression was previously thought to be reduced signal transmission at the contact points between neurons due to neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline. Also in the cardiovascular system or the neuro-gastrointestinal system serotonin is of fundamental importance. Its less renowned but synonym name ‘enteramine’ is attributed to the Italian pharmacologist and ‘explorer’ Vittorio Erspamer. The ‘happy hormone’ is active in the central nervous system as well as in the human vegetative protein metabolism. Thus, it is involved in a wide range of body functions affecting the brain, the memory, our hormones, inner organs and muscle function.
5-HTP to decarboxylase into serotonin, B-vitamins and oestrogens act as positive co-factors supporting the regulation of energy balance. The hydroxylation of L-tryptophan into 5-HTP might be evolutionary conserved as it affects all aspects from energy supply (search for food, cognition, locomotion, behavior, saturation, balance of diverse neurotransmitter systems) to food metabolism (digestion, motility of the intestine, regeneration and function of involved organ systems) and thus influences essential life functions.
Serotonin is widespread in nature – already single cell organisms like amoebae as well as plants and higher fungi can synthesize the neurotransmitter. In the nettle’s stinging hairs serotonin is jointly responsible for its well-known effect. The most vitamin-rich foods are walnuts as well as bananas (plantains), pineapple, kiwis, plums, tomatoes, cacao and derivative products like chocolate contain serotonin or stimulate its biosynthesis. The tryptophan uptake can be guaranteed by food containing a lot of proteins, such as milk and soya products, pulse, walnuts, hazelnuts, oil seeds, fish and meat. At the same time “healthy” carbohydrates from wholegrain food products, pulse, (dried) fruit, vegetables, and milk products should be consumed to avoid an excessive protein intake. Regular exercise can also help to increase the serotonin level, because physical exertion increases the availability of the direct precursor L-tryptophan in our brain.
An insufficient amount of serotonin can cause mental and somatic disorders. Dysfunction in the regulation of serotonin levels plays an important role in the pathogenesis of neurophysiological disorders like migraine and depression, pain, aggression, increased appetite. Also the sleep-wake-rhythm, temperature regulation, sexual behaviors are regulated by serotonin and – often as a result of a depression – becomes unbalanced.
Tryptophan and serotonin are not able to penetrate the blood-brain-barrier without a supporting transport protein, thus, it’s useless or even harmful to take them as nutritional supplements. 5-HTP which is synthesized intestinal by tryptophan however, can pass the blood-brain-barrier without any problems and therefore is used as supplement and for treatment of certain diseases. Tryptophan-hydroxylase synthesized in the neurons by tryptophan 5-HTP can be inhibited by various factors, for example, stress, insulin resistance, vitamin B-6- or magnesium-deficiency. At the same time, these factors can stimulate and increase the transformation of L-tryptophan into kynurenine, and therefore reduce the availability of L-tryptophan. This enzyme-catalyzed reaction is the rate-limiting step of the serotonin synthesis. Therapeutically administration of 5-HTP avoids this part of the biosynthesize. Taken orally, absorption is 70 % and is not influenced by other amino acids from our food. In blood, 5-HTP, however, works as an antioxidant, while L-tryptophan even can increase oxidative damages.
The commercially available 5-HTP preparations are extracted from the African Black Bean (Griffonia simplicifolia). 5-HTP is used medicinally in over 30 years to increase the serotonin production. The effects of 5-HTP are based on the increasing serotonin level and its related neurotransmitters (neurohormones) like melatonin and dopamine.
Adults daily 1-3 VegeCaps with ore before meals with some liquid.
5-HTP, cellulose, silicon dioxide, cellulose (VegeCaps).
|Name||5-HTP Amino Acids 100mg, 60 VegeCaps|