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What is phenylalanine? Why do we need it?

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid. Along with two other amino acids, tyrosine and methionine, phenylalanine helps the body produce adrenaline. It is also a precursor for other proteins and enzymes, including norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine.

Phenylalanine acts as an analgesic and antidepressant. It also acts as an appetite suppressant by administrating the release of an intestinal hormone that signals the brain to feel satiated after eating. As an analgesic, it has been shown to decrease back pain, toothaches, and pain associated with migraine headaches. It has also been used to treat attention deficit disorder, fatigue, Parkinson’s disease and premenstrual syndrome.

How much phenylalanine should I take?

The amount of phenylalanine to be taken depends on the condition being treated. For depression, some practitioners recommend 1-4 grams daily; for attention deficit disorder, 0.5 grams; and for Parkinson’s disease, 0.5-2.0 grams.

What are some good sources of phenylalanine? What forms are available?

Phenylalanine is found in a variety of sources, including almonds, avocados, bananas, brown rice, cheese, corn, eggs, fish, lima beans, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and soy products. It is also sold as a supplement in tablet or capsule form.

What can happen if I don't get enough phenylalanine? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?

Phenylalanine deficiency can lead to a number of symptoms, including slowed growth, apathy, muscle loss, apathy and weakness. There are no known signs of toxicity from phenylalanine; however, excessive amounts can cause hypertension and/or migraine headaches. Patients already taking antidepressants should not supplement with phenylalanine. It should also be avoided by women who are pregnant or lactating.

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  • Coupland N, Zedkova L, Sanghera G, et al. Response to pentagastrin after acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion in healthy men: a pilot study. J Psychiatry Neurosci 2001 May;26(3):247-51.
  • Fox C, Marquis J, Kipp DE. Nutritional factors affecting serum phenylalanine concentration during pregnancy for identical twin mothers with phenylketonuria. Acta Paediatr 2000 Aug;89(8):947-50.
  • Ganther HE. Selenotyrosine and related phenylalanine derivatives. Bioorg Med Chem 2001 Jun;9(6):1459-1466.
  • Lee Y, Silverman RB. Rapid, high-yield, solid-phase synthesis of the antitumor antibiotic sansalvamide A using a side-chain-tethered phenylalanine building block. Org Lett 2000 Nov 16;2(23):3743-6.
  • Smith ML, Saltzman J, Klim P, et al. Neuropsychological function in mild hyperphenylalaninemia. Am J Ment Retard 2000 Mar;105(2):69-80.

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