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A review of 108 studies on 5-HTP revealed there is still no definitive evidence that it helps depression (9). An Ongoing Debate: There’s an ongoing discussion in the natural health community whether it’s better to take tryptophan or 5-HTP to increase serotonin levels.

Tryptophan more readily enters the brain, but 5-HTP requires one less step to convert into serotonin.

It’s believed that low serotonin is the underlying cause of depression.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro are used by millions to relieve symptoms of depression by increasing brain levels of serotonin.

We prefer tryptophan supplements not just because studies have not conclusively found that 5-HTP helps depression, but because 5-HTP is intended for long-term use.

While it’s increasing serotonin, it’s depleting other neurotransmitters like dopamine.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 must be present to facilitate conversion of either 5-HTP or tryptophan into serotonin (17, 18).

Note that it is not considered safe to mix any of these amino acid supplements with antidepressant medications (4).

But since protein blocks serotonin synthesis, eating a meal containing protein will actually cause both tryptophan and serotonin levels drop.

However, tryptophan supplements can increase brain serotonin even though eating foods containing tryptophan does not (5).

Elsewhere in Europe, it’s available as a prescription drug (8).

Unfortunately, this supplement’s usefulness for depression may be more hype than substance.