Is the Newest Dr. Oz Recommended Weight Loss Supplement 5-HTP Really Safe?

Dr. Oz on 5-HTP Weight loss Supplement
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Today on the Dr. Oz Show, the topic is about natural appetite suppressants. Also, posted today on the Oz Blog, (presumably as a precursor to the mystery natural weight loss supplement televised later today) is a description of 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) that is recommended as a possible appetite suppressing, weight loss supplement that may work for you toward losing weight. But is it really safe? Some health resources warn that the weight loss benefits of 5-HTP may not outweigh what could be potential health risks to users.

5-HTP is a biochemical byproduct of L-tryptophan―one of the essential amino acids the body cannot make but must get through food sources or a supplement. One source of L-tryptophan most commonly referred to is that of turkey and its popular news content about its sleep-inducing/Turkey-coma causing abilities during the Thanksgiving season.

The medically interesting thing about 5-HTP is that after it is converted from L-tryptophan, it is then further converted into serotonin—an important brain hormone that is known for its mood regulating properties including sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior and weight control.

As reported in the Oz Blog, scientists are interested in 5-HTP because unlike serotonin which cannot be given by an injection or some other route due to it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier to get to the brain, 5-HTP from food or supplements can. This in turn allows researchers to see what therapeutic effects giving 5-HTP to patients can have on treating a wide range of conditions such as headaches, depression and insomnia.

Out of such studies, there have been a few reports that show that 5-HTP results in weight loss. In one study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 25 obese, non-insulin dependent diabetic outpatients were placed in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to receive either 5-HTP or a placebo for two weeks. The result of the study was that patients receiving the 5-HTP significantly reduced carbohydrate and fat intake, and lost weight.

In another study, this time published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, similar results were observed with not only weight loss, but also reports of the patients on 5-HTP feeling satiated during the study. The conclusion reached by the authors was that 5-HTP may be safely used to treat obesity.

However, in other studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers found that some patients receiving 5-HTP along with carbidopa ( a chemical used in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease-related depression) caused a scleroderma-like condition where the skin reportedly becomes hard and tight.

Furthermore, there were reported cases of people coming down with eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS) a fatal flu-like neurological condition that was believed to have resulted from contaminants in some L-tryptophan or 5-HTP supplements as was reported in the OZ Blog.

However, an internet search failed to show any research that definitively supports the contaminant theory and is a matter of contention—especially for business that sell 5-HTP supplements and some herbalists that are for 5-HTP because it is naturally produced in the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, a West African shrub believed to have medicinal properties.

In an overview of 5-HTP made by the University of Maryland Medical Center, the potential contaminant was reported to be identified by the rather mysterious label “Peak X” and although not proven to be the true cause of EMS, one possibility is that there may be a dosage issue if a person were to take too much 5-HTP. How much 5-HTP is too much is unclear. The Oz Blog recommends what appears to be a low dose in comparison to what was used in the aforementioned human studies with the recommendation to see your physician before trying higher doses.

Other health sources such as WebMD take a cautious view of 5-HTP and thus categorize 5-HTP as “possibly unsafe” and do not recommend taking it for weight loss.

So, the unanswered question remains unanswered about whether a 5-HTP supplement is really safe.

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The Oz Blog recommends that a person should make sure that supplement lists the presence of pure 5-HTP or griffonia simplicifolia extract on the bottle; to avoid sources that have additives, fillers, or binders; to ask a naturopathic physician, integrative physician or health food specialist for trusted brands of 5-HTP; and before taking, to check with your physician to ensure it doesn’t negatively interact with your other meds or cause health problems relative to your serotonin levels.

All that’s missing is a signed and notarized statement absolving responsibility if things don’t go well for you if you take this supplement.

Be that as it may, however, until there is definitive published research that clarifies the morass of information regarding 5-HTP for weight loss; and, it can he shown that 5-HTP can provide more weight loss than a few pounds over a 12-week period as in one study reports, then the currently available information currently available does not support 5-HTP as really being a safe weight loss supplement.

For more information about unsafe supplements for weight loss, follow this link to two articles titled, “Side Effect Belly Fat Supplement Warning for 7-Keto, Forskolin, Relora & Caraway” and “Ayurveda Medicine and Supplement Hidden Dangers: Arsenic, Lead and Mercury.”

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

References:

The Oz Blog: "5-HTP: Is This Right for You?"

The Dr. Oz Show: "All-Natural Appetite Suppressants"

“Eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects treated with 5-hydroxytryptophan” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (November 1992) vol. 56 no. 5 863-867; Cangiano, C et al.

“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, (1998 July); 22(7):648-54; Cangiano, C et al.

“Development of a scleroderma-like illness during therapy with L-5-hydroxytryptophan and carbidopa” New England Journal of Medicine (1980 Oct 2) 303(14):782-7; Sternberg EM et al.

“Presence of peak X and related compounds: the reported contaminant in case related 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan associated with eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome” The Journal of Rheumatology (1999 Dec); 26(12):2714-7; Johnson, KL et al.

WebMD: 5-HTP

University of Maryland Medical Center: 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

Steward Health Care System: 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)

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