Animal study: supplementation with 5-HTP can combat rheumatism
For people in the early stages of rheumatism, supplementation with 5-HTP may help delay the disease and reduce the severity of symptoms. Researchers at National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan think this might be possible after doing tests on mice.
The full name of 5-HTP is 5-hydroxy-tryptophan. It's a metabolite of the amino acid L-tryptophan. Before tryptophan eventually becomes serotonin or melatonin, enzymes first have to convert it into 5-HTP. Small quantities of 5-HTP are found in fruits such as bananas, cherries and kiwi fruits.
In people who have rheumatism – full medical name rheumatoid arthritis – their immune cells mistakenly attack the cartilage cells in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is to a certain extent genetically determined, and is activated by lifestyle factors such as smoking, overweight, lack of sleep, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
The researchers induced rheumatoid arthritis in mice by giving them injections of alien cartilage [CII]. The injections ensured that the mice's immune system would identify cartilage – including the mice's own cartilage – as a disease pathogen.
Before and after the injections the researchers gave the mice 5-HTP, mixed in their drinking water. The figure below shows the administration schedules the researchers used.
The figure above shows that administration of 5-HTP reduced the damage to the joints [Arthritis score]. The human equivalent of the oral doses administered would be about 400 and 2000 mg 5-HTP per day.
5-HTP inhibited the synthesis of inflammatory proteins such as TNF-alpha, interferon-gamma and interleukin-6 in the mice's joints. Inflammatory proteins activate immune cells so that they attack cartilage.
Since the 1990s rheumatologists have been using not only classical medication such as methotrexate and prednisone to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but also newer, vastly expensive, biologicals: proteins that deactivate inflammatory factors such as TNF-alpha, interferon-gamma or interleukin-6 in the body. The Taiwanese animal study would seem to suggest that the dirt cheap 5-HTP imitates the effects of the expensive biologicals.
Arthritis Res Ther. 2015 Dec 15;17:364.
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