Phenylalanine is Uncontrolled in the United States.
Addictive Potential: None
Emergency Room Visits Yearly: No recorded hospital visits
Mandatory Minimum Sentence: None
Mechanism of Action: Increases dopamine
L-phenylalanine can be converted into L-tyrosine, another one of the DNA-encoded amino acids. L-tyrosine in turn is converted into L-DOPA, which is further converted into dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and epinephrine (adrenaline). The latter three are known as the catecholamines.
Phenylalanine uses the same active transport channel as tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, and, in large quantities, interferes with the production of serotonin.
Side Effects and Adverse Reactions:
The genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) is the inability to metabolize phenylalanine. Individuals with this disorder are known as “phenylketonurics” and must abstain from consumption of too much phenylalanine. This dietary restriction also applies to pregnant women with hyperphenylalanine (high levels of phenylalanine in blood) because they do not metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine properly. Persons suffering from PKU must monitor their intake of protein to control the buildup of phenylalanine as their bodies convert protein into its component amino acids.
A non-food source of phenylalanine is the artificial sweetener aspartame. This compound, sold under the trade names “Equal” and “NutraSweet”, is metabolized by the body into several chemical byproducts including phenylalanine. The breakdown problems phenylketonurics have with protein and the attendant build up of phenylalanine in the body also occurs with the ingestion of aspartame, although to a lesser degree. Accordingly, all products in Australia, the U.S. and Canada that contain aspartame must be labeled: “Phenylketonurics: Contains phenylalanine.” In the UK, foods containing aspartame must carry ingredient panels that refer to the presence of “aspartame or E951” and they must be labeled with a warning “Contains a source of phenylalanine.” These warnings are specifically placed to aid individuals who suffer from PKU so that they can avoid such foods.
Geneticists have recently sequenced the genome of macaques. Their investigations have found “some instances where the normal form of the macaque protein looks like the diseased human protein” including markers for PKU.