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Appetite Control

Weight Loss Made Simple

Michael T. Murray, N.D. is widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on natural medicine.

5-HTP: The Natural Way to Overcome Obesity

What is 5-HTP?
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that is the intermediate step between tryptophan and the important brain chemical serotonin. There is a massive amount of evidence that suggests that low serotonin levels are a common consequence of modern living. The lifestyle and dietary practices of many people living in this stress-filled era results in lowered levels of serotonin within the brain. As a result, many people are overweight, crave sugar and other carbohydrates, experience bouts of depression, get frequent headaches, and have vague muscle aches and pain. All of these maladies are correctable by raising brain serotonin levels. The primary therapeutic applications for 5-HTP are low serotonin states.

Although 5-HTP may be relatively new to the United States health food industry, it has been available through pharmacies for several years and has been intensely researched for the past three decades. It has been available in several European countries as a medicine since the 1970s.

What effect does 5-HTP have on weight loss?
As far back as 1975, researchers demonstrated that administering 5-HTP to rats that were bred to overeat and be obese resulted in significant reduction in food intake. It turns out that these rats have decreased activity of the enzyme that converts tryptophan to 5-HTP and subsequently to serotonin. In other words, these rats are fat as a result of a genetically determined low level of activity of the enzyme that starts the manufacture of serotonin from tryptophan. As a result, these rats never get the message to stop eating until they have consumed far greater amounts of food than normal rats.

There is much circumstantial evidence that many humans are genetically predisposed to obesity. This predisposition may involve the same mechanism as that observed in rats genetically predisposed to obesity. In other words, many people may be predisposed to being overweight because they have a decreased conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP and, as a result, decreased serotonin levels. By providing preformed 5-HTP, this genetic defect is bypassed and more serotonin is manufactured. 5-HTP literally turns off hunger.
The early animal studies that used 5-HTP as a weight loss aid have been followed by a series of three human clinical studies of overweight women, conducted at the University of Rome. The first study showed that 5-HTP was able to reduce caloric intake and promote weight loss despite the fact that the women made no conscious effort to lose weight .

The second study sought to determine whether 5-HTP helped overweight individuals adhere to dietary recommendations. The twelve-week study was divided into two six-week periods. For the first six weeks, there were no dietary recommendations; for the second six weeks the women were placed on a 1,200-calorie diet. The women who took the placebo lost 2.28 pounds, while the women who took the 5-HTP lost 10.34 pounds. As in the previous study, 5-HTP appeared to promote weight loss by promoting satiety-the feeling of satisfaction-leading to fewer calories being consumed at meals. Every woman who took the 5-HTP reported early satiety.

In the third study involving 5-HTP, for the first six weeks there were no dietary restrictions, and for the second six weeks the women were placed on a 1,200-calorie-per-day diet. The results from this study were even more impressive than the previous studies for several reasons. The group that received the 5-HTP had lost an average of 4.39 pounds at six weeks and an average of 11.63 pounds at 12 weeks. In comparison, the placebo group had lost an average of only 0.62 pounds at six weeks and 1.87 pounds at twelve weeks. The lack of weight loss during the second six-week period in the placebo group obviously reflects the fact that the women had difficulty adhering to the diet.

Early satiety was reported by 100 percent of the subjects during the first six-week period. During the second six-week period, even with severe caloric restriction, ninety percent of the women taking 5-HTP reported early satiety. Many of the women who received the 5-HTP (300 mg three times per day) reported mild nausea during the first six weeks of therapy. However, the symptom was never severe enough for any of the women to drop out of the study. No other side effects were reported.

What is the best way to take 5-HTP?
For weight loss, the dosage should be started at 50 mg three times per day. If the response is inadequate after two weeks, increase the dosage to 100 mg three times per day. This recommendation will greatly reduce the mild symptoms of nausea often experienced during the first few weeks of 5-HTP therapy. Using enteric-coated capsules or tablets (pills prepared in a manner so that they will not dissolve in the stomach) significantly reduces the likelihood of nausea. Because 5-HTP does not rely on the same transport vehicle as L-tryptophan, it can also be taken with food. But, if you are taking 5-HTP for weight loss I recommend taking it 20 minutes before meals.

Please consult a physician before starting any diet program.

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