What is it?
5-hydroxytryptophan (5HTP) is a precursor to the neuro-transmitter serotonin. 5HTP can be produced synthetically, but many supplements contain 5HTP derived from the Griffonia simplicifolia seed.
What is it supposed to do?
As mentioned above, 5HTP converts into the neuro-transmitter serotonin in both the brain and the peripheral tissues. As most people know, serotonin is a very hot topic and area of research right now due to serotonin’s effects on mood, depression, etc. Serotonin is probably the most studied neurotransmitter since it has been found to be involved in a wide range of psychological and biological functions. Serotonin ( also called 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is involved with mood, anxiety, and appetite. Elevated levels of serotonin can cause relaxation and reduced anxiety. Low serotonin levels are associated with low mood, increased anxiety (hence the current popularity of the SSRI drugs such as Prozac and others), and poor appetite control. Needless to say, Increased brain serotonin levels are associated with an improved ability of people to cope with stress, whereas a decline in serotonin activity is associated with depression and anxiety. Elevated levels of serotonin in the body often result in the relief of depression, as well as substantial reduction in pain sensitivity, anxiety and stress. It has also been theorized that a diet-induced increase in tryptophan will increase brain serotonin levels, while a diet designed for weight loss (e.g., a diet that reduces calories) may lead to a reduction of brain serotonin levels due to reduced substrate for production and a reduction in carbohydrates. Many people on a reduced calorie intake in an attempt to lose weight find they are often ill tempered and more anxious. Reductions in serotonin may be partially to blame here. The basic theory is 5HTP increases brain serotonin levels which should lead to improved mood states and a reduction in food intakes.
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Middle-aged women who swallow multivitamin supplements are not doing their health any favours – and are just creating expensive urine, according to the world’s largest study into the subject.
Researchers who examined the pill-popping habits of nearly 162,000 American women aged 50 to 79 found that although they swallowed dietary supplements by the bucketload, there was no sign that they reduced common cancers, heart disease or deaths.
People who eat a healthy diet get all the vitamins they need from their food. Any excess of vitamins (the water soluble C, B1, B2 and B6), whether in the food or in dietary supplements, is excreted. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) are stored in the liver and an excess can result in side effects.
“Based on our results, if you fall into the category of the women described here and you do in fact have an adequate diet, there really is no reason to take a multivitamin,” said Dr Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, professor of epidemiology at Albert Einstein College, Yeshiva University.
Around half of Americans use vitamin supplements, spending $20bn (£13.4bn) a year on the pills which are believed to improve health and longevity. In Britain, a Food Standards Agency survey last year found 31 per cent of adults claimed to be taking the supplements, which typically cost £7 for a month’s supply. The market in the UK is estimated to be worth over £330m a year.
The researchers recorded around 10,000 cases of cancer, 9,000 heart attacks and 10,000 deaths, and compared the incidence among the women who took supplements with those who did not. Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, who led the study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, said: “To our surprise we found that multivitamins did not lower the risk of the most common cancers and also had no impact on heart disease.”
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