Phenylalanine side effects are reported with high dosage intake, and in patients who have some underlying medical conditions. The side effects include nausea, headache, irritability, high blood pressure, sleep problem and brain damage at very high concentrations.
Phenylalanine is a type of amino acid, which plays a crucial role in the normal production of melanin skin pigment, some hormones and several other amino acids. Naturally found in protein-rich foods and breast milk, phenylalanine is commercially used in food processing industries and nutritional supplements. While mild dose of this essential amino acid is safe for many, side effects in children and adults do exist, which should not be neglected at any cost.
Being an essential amino acid for health nutrition, deficiency of phenylalanine leads to several medical problems, including lack of memory, decreased appetite, low stamina level and lack of alertness. Considering these aspects, its supplements are recommended therapeutically to combat deficiency symptoms. Also, the popularly used calorie-free, artificial sweetening agent, called aspartame contains phenylalanine. Very often, you might have come across this amino acid in the product label of packaged foods, energy drinks, diet soda and calorie-free foods.
Side Effects of Phenylalanine
There are three forms of phenylalanine, L- phenylalanine (natural form), D-phenylalanine (artificial version) and DLPA (a combination of both L and D types). The first is present in brain, while the latter two cannot be synthesized by the body. Hence, they need to be supplemented externally via our diet. Nutritional supplements containing this amino acid are advocated in case of deficiency symptoms. Nevertheless, the safety of the supplements should be analyzed thoroughly before ingesting them, for health purposes.
The following info explains about the probable side effects of this amino acid.
- Its side effects are pronounced in people who have a medical history of phenylketonuria (PKU), a metabolic disorder characterized by lack of the enzyme for processing phenylalanine. Thus, it is accumulated in the body.
- In children affected with PKU and ADHD, providing a low dose of external phenylalanine or foods containing aspartame is linked with life-threatening medical complications. Whereas, adult patients may experience mild to severe effects, based on the intake dose.
- In patients with high blood pressure, phenylalanine exacerbates the existing condition by further elevating blood pressure. Thus, hypertension patients should avoid taking this amino acid supplement.
- Coming to its dose, 500 mg of L-phenylalanine per day is safe, while the daily dose of DLPA ranges from 75-1,500 mg. Taking excess dose increases the risks for manifesting side effects.
- Phenylalanine directly affects the neural tissues and is strictly not recommended for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Also, patients with underlying medical problems should refrain from taking this amino acid supplement.
- Increased concentration of DLPA or prolonged intake of the same is associated with headache, nauseated feeling and heartburn. The higher the concentration, the more severe will be the side effects. It can even lead to cellular death.
- It is shown to have drug interaction effects. Thus, those who are currently on hypertension drugs and antidepressants (especially those containing monoamine oxidase inhibitors) should not take phenylalanine. Also, it should not be taken in conjunction with high protein diet.
- Patients with schizophrenia, hyperthyroidism and cancer should take doctor’s approval before taking phenylalanine supplement. Failure to do so may result in unusual side effects.
- Intake of high dosage increases the risks for behavioral and mental problems. Regarding overdose of this neurotoxin, there are a few incidences of irreversible damage in the brain tissues and ultimately, death of patients.
- Overdose of phenylalanine results in toxicity symptoms, and may result in nervous breakdown. The lethal dose differs according to the supplement type.
For addressing phenylalanine deficiency cases, they should be taken under strict medical supervision to avoid its negative effects. In a nutshell, consuming foods rich in this essential amino acid is not associated with adverse reactions. Hence, it is always better to rely on food sources, rather than ingesting supplements formulated with phenylalanine.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.