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Phenylanine is an amino acid;  a  “building block” for protein.  There are three forms of phenylalanine:  D-phenylalanine, L-phenylalanine, and a combination made in the laboratory call DL-phenylalanine.  D-phenylalanine is not an essential amino acid-its role in people is not currently understood.  Whereas L-phenylalanine is an essential amino acid and it the only form of phenylalanine found in proteins.  Major dietary sources of L-phenylalanine include meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk.

L-phenylalanine is found in most foods that contain protein such as beef, poultry, pork, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, soy products (including soy protein isolate, soybean flour, and tofu), and certain nuts and seeds.  The artificial sweetener aspartame is also high in phenylalanine.  D-phenylalanine is made in the laboratory but is not found in food.

Phenylalanine is used for depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (AD-HD), Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and a skin disease called vitilligo.  Some people apply it directly to the skin for vitilligo.

One animal study suggests that D-phenylalanine may improve rigidity, walking disabilities, speech difficulties, and depression associated with Parkinson’s disease.  However, there is no evidence yet whether it would have the same effect in humans.   More research is needed.  Some clinical studies suggests that phenylalanine may be helpful as part of a comprehensive therapy for depression.  However, most of the studies were done in the 1970s and 1980s and were not rigorously tested.  People reported that their mood improved when they took phenylalanine.  Researchers think this is because phenylalanine increases production of brain chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine.  More research is required to tell whether phenylalanine has any real effect on depression.


Recommended dosages of phenylalanine vary depending on the health condition being treated.  Take supplements 15-30 minutes before meals.  The daily recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for L-phenylalanine are as follows.  Note this is for getting phenylalanine from food, not supplements.


Infants              0-4  months                125 mg per kg of body weight

Children          5-25 months                69 mg per kg of body weight

Children          3-12 years                    22 mg per kg of body weight

Teenagers and Adults                         14 mg per kg of body weight


The combination of oral and topical phenylalanine (together with ultraviolet light) is used to treat children with vitilligo.  The dose is determined by a doctor.  Some experts suggest that adults may need as much as 39 mg per kilogram of body weight per day for general health.


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