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The enzyme dopamine decarboxylase (aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase) mediates the conversion of 5-HTP into serotonin, and this enzyme is expressed in stomach tissue. Inhibition of this enzyme in the stomach during 5-HTP ingestion is thought to promote the concentration of 5-HTP that reaches neural tissue, which is supported by a study using 100-200mg Carbidopa (pharmaceutical inhibitor) alongside 5-HTP to increase radioactivity of 5-HTP (indicative of neural accumulation) in humans.
The short half-life (<2h) of 5-HTP may inherently limit the therapeutic potential of 5-HTP, as the systemic 5-HTP exposure levels will fluctuate substantially, even with relatively frequent dosing. Such exposure fluctuations are usually associated with increased adverse event burden, resulting from Cmax drug spikes, and decreased clinical efficacy resulting from sub-therapeutic exposure for large parts of the day. It has been proposed that 5-HTP dosage forms achieving prolonged delivery would be more effective, as is generally the situation with short-acting active pharmaceutical ingredients.