5-HTP is a metabolite of L-tryptophan, an intermediate in the process of serotonin production (between L-tryptophan and serotonin). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can be converted into melatonin, which is important for the sleep cycle.
L-Tryptophan can be used by the body for metabolic processes other than serotonin production, such as protein synthesis and niacin production. Stress, high cortisol, and B6 deficiency can also divert L-tryptophan away from being used for serotonin production. Other amino acids may compete with L-tryptophan in transport and absorption. In contrast, 5-HTP absorption is not affected by the presence of other amino acids, and it is not diverted to other bodily processes like protein synthesis or niacin production. These differences support the thought that 5-HTP may be more efficiently utilized in serotonin and melatonin production than L-tryptophan even though the two compounds are both considered "building blocks" for these neurotransmitters.*
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