5-HTP and NADH


Two natural compounds which help to restore brain chemistry.

Two natural compounds found in the human brain are gaining a great deal of attention: 5-HTP and NADH. Supplementing with these powerful compounds has been demonstrating effectiveness in restoring proper brain chemistry. These supplements accomplish this goal by increasing the level of activity of key neurotransmitter chemicals that send a signal from one nerve cell to another.
5-HTP: helping you make the connection

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): a compound made by the body from the amino acid tryptophan, and is used to synthesize 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 conditions have been helped by raising brain serotonin levels with 5-HTP. Commercially available 5-HTP is isolated from a natural source: a seed from an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia).

Although 5-HTP may be relatively new to the United States health-food industry, it has been available over-the-counter since 1994 and has been intensely researched for the past three decades. It has been available in several European countries as a medicine since the 1980s. Detailed clinical studies have shown 5-HTP is equal to, or better than, standard drug approaches to conditions linked to low serotonin levels including depression, obesity, insomnia, migraine headaches, and fibromyalgia. The real advantage is that 5-HTP is safer and has fewer side effects.

Fibromyalgia. One of the more common conditions linked to low serotonin levels is fibromyalgia -- a recently recognized disorder regarded as a common cause of chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect about 4 percent of the general population. After over 25 years of research, Dr. Federigo Sicuteri, and colleagues, of the University of Florence have stated that "In our experience, as well as in that of other pain specialists, 5-HTP can largely improve the painful picture of primary fibromyalgia," as discussed in a recent article in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Double-blind studies, as presented in a Journal of International Medical Research article, support this contention.

Appetite control and weight loss. In regards to promoting weight loss, early animal studies that used 5-HTP as a weight loss aid were followed by a series of three human clinical studies of overweight women, conducted at the University of Rome. These studies indicated that 5-HTP promoted weight loss by promoting satiety, the feeling of satisfaction.

Dosages. For depression, weight loss, headaches, and fibromyalgia 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 in about 10 percent of users. 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.

For insomnia, I recommend 25 to 100 mg, 30 to 45 minutes before retiring. Start with the lower dose for at least three days before increasing dosage.
NADH: another brain energy aid

NADH is short for niacinamide adenine dinucleotide -- the activated form of vitamin B3 (niacin). Like 5-HTP, this new supplement in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention lately. For good reason, preliminary research indicates NADH may enhance brain chemistry in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other causes of dementia.

NADH is required by the brain to create various neurotransmitters and chemical energy. Typically, as one ages, the level of NADH declines. This reduced level of this compound leads to reduced energy production and decreased levels of important brain chemicals. By correcting this state of low NADH, significant improvements can be seen in terms of mental function.

Parkinson's disease. NADH is especially effective in raising the level of dopamine (a reduction of which is associated with Parkinson's disease) within the brain. This action is extremely beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson's disease -- a disease caused by nerve damage to areas of the brain that control muscle tension and movement. It usually begins as a slight tremor of one hand, arm, or leg. In the early stages of the disease, the tremors are much worse at rest. In other words, the symptoms are most visible when a person is just sitting or standing and less visible when the hand or limb is used. One of the usual early symptoms of Parkinson's disease is called pill-rolling. The person moves their fingers as if they were rolling a pill. The next time you happen to be around a group of seniors, take a look around and see if you can spot someone with the early or later stages of Parkinson's disease. It shouldn't be too difficult to spot, as over 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

As Parkinson's disease progresses, symptoms get much worse. It is heartbreaking to watch sufferers as they are unable to control their movements. Fortunately, most people are helped by specific drugs, which work by increasing brain dopamine levels. NADH has been shown to significantly increase brain dopamine levels in Parkinson's disease patients to produce significant benefits in reducing symptoms as well as improving brain function. It is a promising new therapy for Parkinson's disease as well as Alzheimer's disease, according to results seen in research done by Georg Birkmayer, and associates.

Dosage. The typical dosage for NADH is 5 to 20 mg daily depending upon the severity of the symptoms, i.e., for mild cases the lower dosage will do and for more severe cases the higher dosages are necessary.

Birkmayer, J.G.D. "Coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. New therapeutic approach to improving dementia of the Alzheimers type," Annals Clin Lab Sci 26:1-9. 1996.

Birkmayer, J.G.D., et al. "Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH). A new therapeutic approach to Parkinsons disease," Acta Neurol Scand 87(Suppl. 146):32-5, 1993.

Cangiano, C., et al. "Eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects treated with 5-hydroxytryptophan," Am J Clin Nutr 56:863-7, 1992.

Cangiano, C, et al. "Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects," Adv Exp Med Biol 294:591-3, 1991.

Caruso, I., et al. "Double-blind study of 5-hydroxytryptophan versus placebo in the treatment of primary fibromyalgia syndrome," J Int Med Res 18:201-9, 1990.

Maissen, C.P., and Ludin, H.P. "Comparison of the effect of 5-hydroxytryptophan and propranolol in the interval treatment of migraine," Med Wochenschr 121:1585-90, 1991.

Nicolodi, M., and Sicuteri, F. "Fibromyalgia and migraine, two faces of the same mechanism. Serotonin as the common clue for pathogenesis and therapy," Adv Exp Med Biol 398:373-9, 1996.

Poldinger, W., Calanchini, B., and Schwarz, W. "A functional-dimensional approach to depression: Serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in a comparison of 5-hydroxytryptophan and fluvoxamine," Psychopathology 24:53-81, 1991.

On June 17, 1998, Michael T. Murray, N.D., appeared on ABC-TV's "PrimeTime Live" segment on 5-HTP. For more information on 5-HTP, check out Dr. Murray's book, 5-HTP Boost Serotonin Levels the Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity, and Insomnia (Bantam, 1998). It is available in book stores and health-food stores nationwide.


By Michael T. Murray

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