Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid. In the body, phenylalanine is converted into tyrosine, a different amino acid. Tyrosine is then used to produce dopamine and norepinephrine, both neurotransmitters. All these elements are important because of their relationship to the central nervous system.
Phenylalanine may be used to treat depression (to elevate mood), rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (decrease pain/inflammation), menstrual cramps, Parkinson's disease (to improve speech and rigidity), vitiligo (skin pigment disorder), and cancer (melanoma, tumor growth).
Some people are born with phenylketonuria (PKU); a serious disorder affecting some infants that requires treatment prior to the third month. If undetected, or untreated, severe mental retardation results. In the United States, newborns are tested within 48 hours following their birth. People with this disorder must eat a phenylalanine-restricted diet supplemented with tyrosine. However, some PKU experts do not agree if this restricted diet is a life-long requirement for optimal health.
In children and adults, a phenylalanine deficiency may present any of the following symptoms:
- Memory problems
- Inability to be alert
- Bloodshot eyes
- Increased appetite
- Decreased sexual interest
- Loss of skin pigmentation
Sources of Phenylalanine
Phenylalanine can be found in the following foods: soybean protein, frozen tofu, dried and salted cod, shellfish, lean meat, organ meat, skin-free chicken, cheese, milk, eggs, many seeds (watermelon, fenugreek, roasted soybean nuts), and chocolate.
As a supplement, phenylalanine is available in three forms:
- L-phenylalanine (most common)
- D-phenylalanine (painkilling properties)
- DL-phenylalanine (combination)
Guidelines and Cautions
Phenylalanine supplements can be taken 30 minutes before a meal.
The recommended dietary allowances include:
For individual dosing guidelines, consult with a medical professional, especially if medication is taken on a regular basis.
Phenylalanine supplements should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women, diabetics, or persons with high blood pressure, PKU (phenylketonuria), pigmented melanoma (a skin cancer), or those who suffer from anxiety attacks.
Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of SpineUniverse.com, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.