Good mood food? NURA USA targets food & beverage market with serotonin precursor 5-HTP

While 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is not something you’d find in Grandma’s kitchen, it is an established ingredient in the dietary supplements market, where it is claimed to promote calm, sleep, and ‘emotional wellbeing,’ says California-based NURA USA​, which extracts it from organic Griffonia simplicifolia​ seeds sourced from Ghana, and has just completed a GRAS determination, opening the door for food & beverage applications.  

The tasteless, water-soluble branded 5-HTP ingredient (‘CLEANMOOD​’) is heat and pH-stable, and can be used in everything from beverages (including hot fill) to snacks, candies and gummies, says NURA USA, which says a customer will be launching a beverage featuring CLEANMOOD later this year.

Seratonin precursor

So what does 5-HTP do?

Produced by the body from the amino acid L-tryptophan, 5-HTP is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin (which promotes feelings of wellbeing, calmness, focus, and confidence). It is also claimed to impact the production of melatonin (for sleep) and dopamine (reward) and has been shown in a handful of short-term studies to have potential as a weight management ingredient.

While you could argue that our bodies already produce just the right amounts of mood-friendly chemicals without dietary interventions, a range of factors from stress to vitamin B6 deficiency, insulin resistance, and insufficient magnesium can inhibit tryptophan hydroxylase from converting L-tryptophan into 5-HTP, and eventually serotonin, claims NURA USA.

Similarly, the amount of 5-HTP available for serotonin synthesis in the human body also depends on the availability of tryptophan and the activity of various enzymes, which may vary between individuals, according to a study​published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences​ in January 2021.

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