Friday, February 10, 2017

Health Benefits of L-Tryptophan vs. 5-HTP: A Clarification Study ...

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Health Benefits of L-Tryptophan vs. 5-HTP: A Clarification Study  


L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, used by the pineal gland within the brain to produce serotonin, which is a necessary neurotransmitter that transfers nerve impulses from cell to cell. Tryptophan helps combat depression and insomnia, and it promotes mood stabilization. Studies have shown that Tryptophan supplementation can help neuropsychiatric disorders, while Tryptophan depletion reduces serotonin levels in autistic adults, making their symptoms worse. Tryptophan also helps to control hyperactivity in children, alleviates stress, benefits the heart, aids in weight control (as an appetite suppressant), and enhances the release of growth hormone. Adequate B-6 (P5P form in the Doctor's Choice formula) is necessary within the body for the formation of serotonin. A lack of tryptophan and magnesium may contribute to coronary artery spasms or irregular heartbeats; supplementation can conceivably reduce heart attacks. Tryptophan does not work by drugging or depressing the central nervous system, but by simply returning normal function by being available for the body to use as needed. Foods that contain Tryptophan include brown rice, turkey, peanuts, and soy protein. However, the best way to ensure adequate Tryptophan in the body is supplementation, since this is the only way to cross the blood-brain barrier for absorption in any noticeably higher amount.

You may be wondering, "If Tryptophan is good for such a wide range of issues, why is it not more popular?" The answer is that Tryptophan has been out of circulation until recently.

In 1989, there was a fatal outbreak of eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS). EMS is a rare autoimmune disease that causes fever, numbness, and rashes; it also affects the muscles, arms and legs. In severe cases, EMS can cause death. This outbreak of EMS was traced back to contamination from a new tryptophan processing method that one Japanese manufacturer had implemented. (Doctor's Choice was and is not associated with this manufacturer.) In years prior, tryptophan users never reported any EMS-related symptoms; only those who were unfortunate enough to receive the “bad batch” from 1989 reported health issues. Several of those who developed EMS from the contaminated tryptophan sued the Japanese manufacturer; in fact, some even attempted to further their cause by claiming that their illness and pain continued on after the symptoms were gone. This uproar resulted in a FDA mandate banning the sale of tryptophan in the US. The media, of course, published the “health risks” of tryptophan, as well, which only fueled the fires of panic.

As Dr. Eric Braverman points out in his book, The Healing Nutrients Within, many of those who complained of persisting EMS issues were not screened for muscle-aching disorders, and may have had pre-existing health conditions that affected how their bodies metabolized tryptophan in the first place. Research in recent years has revealed several disorders related to “defective tryptophan metabolism and elevated tryptophan blood levels.” (Braverman, p. 54) Yet, no patients with these conditions were diagnosed with EMS, which means that tryptophan alone could not have caused it. In addition, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition studied amino acid supplementation and concluded that it is safe.

Yet, due in large part to the controversy, prior to December 2011, the sale of L-Tryptophan was reduced to prescription status only.

It was believed that another precursor for serotonin would be a viable substitute. The health professional community and nutrient distributors who supplied it turned to 5-Hydroxy-L-Tryptophan (5-HTP) as the alternative supplement. In fact, 5-HTP has been effective therapy for some, but it has been somewhat troubling as a therapeutic agent. Because it bypasses the body and brain’s regulatory control mechanisms, 5-HTP may put patients at risk for the same heart-valve problems caused by the pharmaceutical diet drug Fen-Phen’. Both promote uncontrolled creation of serotonin. L-Tryptophan can be readily converted to 5-HTP as needed, but 5-HTP is no substitute for L-Tryptophan.

Since research has shown that 5-HTP is poorly absorbed across the blood-brain barrier in patients who have ever had major depression (See Diagram 1 above), these individuals would more likely respond to treatment with L-Tryptophan than to 5-HTP treatment. Even when Tryptophan levels are normal, a deficiency of Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P), (a bioavailable form of B-6) will lower Serotonin levels, and in the presence of P5P, brain serotonin levels are increased.

Doctor's Choice L-Tryptophan is the best choice for two reasons: first, raw material sourcing produced by natural fermentation from cane sugar, meaning it is vegan, and certified as being Kosher and Halal. Second, the addition of P5P (Vit. B6). Raw materials matter. Companies are prone to brag on their testing methods, and while testing is great, what is being tested? Where did the product the consumer will be ingesting come from? This topic is not as popular, and for good reason. The easiest way to show how stark the contrast can be is to share the notice below from our amino acid manufacturer (click to enlarge if needed):
While it is shocking to consider the full ramifications of this notice due to having unknown trace residuals from either animal or human, and dependent on the origin of the sewage sludge, it is an important reminder that to truly know the quality of a product, customers may have to do some digging, for all the testing in the world won’t change the product's origin.

Aside from high quality raw materials, the addition of P5P is also important. The brain is protected by the blood-brain barrier, and neurotransmitters are required to shuttle amino acids into the brain. The ratio of amino acids to neurotransmitters is "over
one-to-one thousand in the CNS, with the ultimate effect at the end receptor level . . . The requirement of pyridoxine in the CNS is a 100-fold greater than in the peripheral organs. In humans, an exogenous source of vitamin B6 is required for amino acid
metabolism." In other words, for Tryptophan to get into the brain, it needs P5P to get through the blood-brain barrier.

As we have seen, there is a big difference between 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan, and there is a big difference between generic L-Tryptophan and Doctor's Choice L-Tryptophan. We would encourage you to join others who have followed the science and chosen Doctor's Choice.

With over 10 years of experience, Bond Consulting is a leader in the SR&ED industry. The SR&ED program is designed to support innovative companies with cash reimbursements from the Canadian Government due to their private R&D efforts. (

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