November 27, 2010

Cautions about 5-HTP contamination and EMS are ill-founded

 Anyone doing internet research on the safety of  5-HTP will quickly find cautions like this one from WebMD, which is normally one of the best sites for checking out drugs and supplements:

"Don’t use 5-HTP until more is known. 5-HTP might be UNSAFE. Some people who have taken it have come down with eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a serious condition involving extreme muscle tenderness (myalgia) and blood abnormalities (eosinophilia). Some people think the EMS might be caused by an accidental ingredient (contaminant) in some 5-HTP products. But there is not enough scientific evidence to know if EMS is caused by 5-HTP, a contaminant, or some other factor. Until more is known, avoid taking 5-HTP."

The precursor of  5-HTP was L-tryptophan which was used as a dietary supplement until it was banned in 1989 due to an outbreak of EMS that was traced to a contaminated lot of 5-HTP from one manufacturer. Because of its chemical and biochemical relationship to L-tryptophan, concerns have been raised about 5-HTP and there were reports of a possible EMS-like contamination with 5-HTP in 1994.  But a 2004 study reviewed all of the earlier studies and reports on 5-HTP and came to this conclusion:

 "no definitive cases of toxicity have emerged despite the worldwide usage of 5-HTP for last 20 years, with the possible exception of one unresolved case of a Canadian woman. Extensive analyses of several sources of 5-HTP have shown no toxic contaminants similar to those associated with L-Trp, nor the presence of any other significant impurities. A minor chromatographic peak (peak X) reported in some 5-HTP samples lacks credibility due to chromatographic artifacts and infinitesimal concentrations, and has raised undue speculations concerning its chemistry and toxicity."

A 2006 study at Georgetown University's Medical Center on whether 5-HTP causes EMS experimented with a group of rats and concluded that "no significant evidence of EMS was seen in rats receiving high-dose 5-HTP for 1 year."

Once again, as with the concerns about 5-HTP and carbidopa (see posting below), a single ambiguous finding has led to repeated website warnings despite the fact that 5-HTP has been very widely used  for years without any verifiable reports of EMS contamination.


John Martindale said...

Good post! Thanks. very helpful

Roy said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have depression and I'm considering taking 5HTP if any other treatment doesnt work for me. I'll consider this information when making my final decision.

John said...

Roy -- If you put "5-HTP" in the blog's search box, you'll find other posts I did on this. I apparently was overdosing on 5-HTP and it caused spikes in my blood pressure. So I'm now taking a very minimal dose but it still works and I monitor my blood pressure and all looks fine.

Tim said...

Thank you John, I think you have put a lot of people's minds at ease with this very well-thought explanation. It's MUCH appreciated.

ACHI said...

at some point i was so scared about 5 HTP warnings so i decided to stop it .i tried SAMe instead but it proved not as effective as 5HTP . i guess i have wait for some further research findings . pitty cause it was FANTASTIC !!