Depression? Anxiety? Phenylalanine May be the Answer.

Depression? Anxiety? Phenylalanine May be the Answer.

Better mood balance may be as easy as eating the right food.

One of the most unique amino acids and key to central nervous system function is phenylalanine (PA). The body needs PA to make dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, neurochemical transmitters which are essential to governing our perceptions of the world around us. Low levels of PA are associated with attention issues, lethargy, mood issues, anxiety, and even depression. Because PA is only found exogenously, it must be derived from food sources. This means that knowing what to eat to supply PS may be very important for your healthy state of mind.

Phenylalanine is found in three forms: L-phenylalanine (levo or left), D-phenylalanine (dextro or right), and DL-phenylalanine (both combined). As a general rule, DPA is used for controlling pain, LPA for regulating mood, appetite, memory, and alertness; and DLPA, as a combination of the two forms has some of both effects. PA's efficacy stems from its ability to easily cross the blood brain barrier, and also from its role in production of monoamine neurotransmitters in the brain, making it highly effective for issues related to mood, focus and pain.

Due to its impact on mood, PA has been most widely studied for benefits to people suffering from anxiety or depression. Research has supported initial expectations that it may be a useful anti-depressant. A German study on a group of patients who had failed to respond to popular antidepressants such as MAOIs, found that 100mg daily of PA improved mood (either euthymic or non-depressed) within 13 days of treatment in 75% of recipients. Another similar study on 20 patients found that 200mg daily of PA resulted in significant mood improvements in 62% of recipients. Many of the studies done over the last 50 years show consistent positive results providing strong evidence for the effectiveness of phenylalanine as a powerful mood enhancer.

Further studies have been done on the combination of PA with antidepressant drugs. In 1991, research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggested that the combination of selegiline and PA had greater positive mood effects than the MAOi drug alone. Another study published in the Archives of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences compared DL-phenylalanine and imipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant use for major depression, and found that DLPA was equally as effective as the drug in elevating mood in the 40 participants (according to the Hamilton Depression Scale.)

Scores of trials show that PA, DLPA in particular, is highly effective for treating depression with between 100 and 200 mg per day in supplement form. LPA, the natural form found in foods, seems most effective at around 1000mg. If you are looking to derive your PA from foods, look for anything high in protein. Meat is rich in PA, around 1gm per 3 ounces, so choose beef, fish, pig, chicken, turkey and gelatin. Dairy products are also high in PA, particularly cheese, eggs, and milk. A single egg contains 500mg of PA. Finally, legumes are an excellent choice for PA and health, again high in protein. Nuts like walnuts and almonds are highest in PA, and beans like lentils and chickpeas are highest.

Despite PA's benefits, there are some caveats. PA supplements should not be combined with meals high in protein because competing amino acids will reduce absorption. Some people are naturally sensitive to PA, so it is best to always check with your doctor before beginning supplementation. And even though PA has synergy with some mood drugs, it can also lead to neurotransmitter over-production, so again you should consult your doctor first. If you regularly use aspartame in sweeteners, gum, diet drinks, etc, be careful because PA levels are already high in these products. Finally, if you are depressed and suffer from tardive dyskinesia, you should never use PA.

If you are looking for a natural approach to improving mood, enhancing energy levels, and reducing anxiety, supplements with DLPA are particularly effective, especially when combined with another key amino acid pre-cursor to the pleasure neurochemicals, tyrosine. Our own studies with these two amino acids has shown they are very useful in our mood enhancing supplements like JUMPSTART EX, MOOD IMPROVE, and even our APPETITE AWAY hunger suppressant, which all take advantage of high-grade DLPA and L-tyrosine to great effect.

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Mood supplement


Biochemistry; Pamela C. Champe et al.; 2005
Nature Magazine

The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.


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