Put down the juice fast and pick up the chicken because you’re about to go on the 5-HTP diet. By boosting your serotonin level and regulating your appetite, 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) may help you lose those extra pounds before the holiday season. However, a lot depends on your current health and if you’re looking for significant weight loss, this is not the diet for you.

5-HTP ad


Food such as chicken, turkey, milk, potatoes, pumpkins, turnips, and sunflower seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan, but gorging yourself on these foods won’t exactly have the diet benefits you’re looking for. Most who decide this is the diet for them buy the supplements and take about 50 mg about 1-3 times daily. Beware though, high doses of 5-HTP are toxic.

Although 5-HTP naturally-occurs in our bodies through the breakdown of tryptophan, the pills you pop are created from the African Griffonia simplicifolia plant. When your body breaks down tryptophan, it creates the chemical 5-HTP, which is then converted to serotonin. Because of the increase in serotonin in your brain, you feel less hungry and may experience a boost in better mood and sleep. Yet, some caution here, this doesn’t always work for everyone. 

5-HTP chemical make-up


The higher serotonin levels help you feel full faster and may cause you to naturally avoid overeating. This alteration in appetite can cause you to lose a few pounds if you’re looking to slim down just slightly before a big event. Using 5-HTP is only recommended for up to 12 weeks, however, and is not a long-term solution for weight loss. 

Several studies over the past 30 years revealed under 10 pounds of weight loss over the 12 weeks and groups who took placebos lost about 4 pounds. Almost all of the studies claim very little weight loss and because it’s only recommended for short-term use, you’re most likely much better off choosing a diet with better results.

Even though the 5-HTP diet has been studied for decades, little is known about all of the various side effects, which include heartburn, nausea, and gas. Some dieters unfortunately came down with EMS (eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome), which includes muscle tenderness, abnormal blood, and can be fatal. EMS may have been caused by impurities in the supplements but taking a risk that could be deadly isn’t worth popping a pill instead of going for a run.

5-HTP supplement ingredients


Other conditions including sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, migraines, PMS, fibromyalgia, ADHD, and Parkinson’s have been treated with 5-HTP supplements but mixing meds could result in extreme circumstances. Mostly, 5-HTP supplements are used to treat a ton of other issues besides obesity or to help with dieting.

A small caveat is in extreme cases of binge eating this supplement has been suggested. If you are wolfing down an entire package of Oreos in the middle of the night, it’s better to speak to a doctor or nutritionist than try to solve the problem in 12 weeks with 5-HTP.

Another important piece to remember if you’re thinking of going on a diet is that a lot of supplements have fillers, additives, and other extras that may cause you harm. Some supplements are mostly filled with junk, which may make you gain weight instead of helping you shed the last few. Each bottle of 5-HTP goes for $10-$25 and for under 10 pounds of weight, the money is better spent elsewhere.

Those with depression, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have liver disease or diabetes, or suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder should not use the 5-HTP diet. If you are already on an MAOI or SSRI, the 5-HTP supplement could cause serotonin syndrome, which causes mental changes and in extreme cases, coma. Some who suffer from depression and took 5-HTP instead of a typical medication did see improvement but the two should not be taken together. Those who have frequent stomach or intestinal issues may also experience an increase in discomfort and should not take the supplement.

5-HTP bottles


If you’re looking for a lifestyle changer or something to boost you into significant weight loss, this diet isn’t well suited for you. The 5-HTP diet is really more for those trying, in the short-term, to curb massive eating habits, possibly shed a little weight, perk you up, or help you sleep better. It’s a great relief for those who suffer from insomnia, fibromyalgia, or headaches, or wish to take a different approach to treating their depression. 

As with any supplement, medication, or lifestyle change, you should consult your doctor and/or dietician to talk about all the side effects and how the substance will react with your body. There are a lot of important chemical changes that occur when you switch medications or lifestyles; knowing the drawbacks and benefits before you begin something new is essential.

So what we’ve learned is the 5-HTP diet doesn’t work for everyone and isn’t just for every dieter. It’s not for those who want to drop dress sizes, slim their thighs, or fit into their jeans from high school. It’s most definitely not for those suffering from certain medical conditions and could be fatal if you happen to purchase a tainted batch of 5-HTP African plant extract. 5-HTP may be for those looking for slight slimming or looking to alleviate sleep deprivation, depression, or binge eating; it is a short-term solution. However, there are a lot better diets out there that promote overall general health and wellness and minimize pill popping.

5-HTP mood health bottle


Whenever you’re considering an extreme lifestyle change, trust someone with an education and background to give you all the pieces to the puzzle. Some of the supplements say they’re safe, but even 5-HTP hasn’t been studied enough to know all of the effects. Check up on your health regularly to make sure everything is going as planned and stay in it for the long haul, not just string bikini cruise time. When choosing a diet, pick one that fits your lifestyle and body type. Feel comfortable taking the supplements or exercising at the right gym or eating all the dark, leafy greens. 5-HTP, probably not the choice for most, but the choice for a select few.

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I am in deep-fried love with food and travel. With Italian roots, I have a weakness for bread, marinara, and mozzarella. I’ll try anything once and am constantly searching for intriguing places to visit. When I'm not savoring the last bite or organizing my next trip, I'm indulging my inner bookworm and writing about my adventures. If you turn on college football and give me a local craft beer, you’ll see the happiest Hokie on the West coast.

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