Posts tagged: depression

Health Benefits Of Phenylalanine

Health Benefits Of Phenylalanine
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Phenylalanine is a hydrophobic essential amino acid with a benzyl side chain; as its name suggests, it is a derivative of alanine, another amino acid. Being an essential amino acid entails that phenylalanine cannot be biosynthesized by our bodies and must be obtained through consumption of food sources rich in it, for example, eggs (especially egg whites), seaweeds, fish, soy flour and soy protein concentrates, tofu, mollusks, milk, and Parmesan, Fontina, Swiss, Romano, and Gruyère cheeses. [1]

Phenylalanine’s physiological importance lies on its being a building block for proteins in the body, like all other amino acids, and being most characteristically the precursor of a variety of vital hormones and neurotransmitters, such as melanin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and thyroxine. Phenylalanine is usually buried within a protein because of its hydrophobic nature where this amino acid’s phenyl ring stacks with other aromatic systems, resulting in added structural stability. [2]

Phenylalanine is interestingly one of few amino acids that exist in both L- and D-forms. D-Phenylalanine is an enantiomer, that is, mirror image, of L-phenylalanine, and although further research is still needed to clearly unravel its functions, D-phenylalanine has been reported to exert pharmacological activity at niacin receptor 2. In contrast, L-phenylalanine is converted by the body into L-tyrosine and is considered a competitive antagonist of NMDA and AMPA receptors. The third form of the amino acid, DL-phenylalanine, can be produced by combining the previously mentioned D- and L-forms. [3]

Phenylalanine and Depression

Because phenylalanine is the precursor of neurotransmitters associated with mood, it comes naturally that manipulating its levels to alter other neurotransmitters’ concentrations would be explored as a possible therapeutic strategy against depression. A clinical study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry demonstrated that phenylalanine elevates mood in 31 out of 40 study participants with depression. [4] Moreover, in the preliminary study of Fischer, Heller, Nachon, and Spatz (1975), 17 study participants of 23 subjects with depression manifested absolute euthymia (i.e., normal or positive mood) between 1 and 13 days of treatment with 50 or 100 mg of orally administered DL- or D-phenylalanine. [5] An open study on DL-phenylalanine in doses of 75-200 mg/day administered on 20 depressed patients for 20 days reported substantial antidepressant properties for the amino acid. Out of the 20 individuals enrolled in the trial, 12 patients were discharged without any further treatment; additionally, anxiety and sleep disturbances were observed to have been moderately affected by DL-phenylalanine treatment, whereas core symptoms such as depressed mood, retardation, and agitation were “preferentially” influenced. [6]

Phenylalanine and Pain

Phenylalanine has been proposed as well to exert analgesic properties and lessen discomfort in chronic pain conditions. In rodent studies, administration of D-phenylalanine results in long-lasting, naloxone-reversible analgesia, with a potency similar to that of inhibitors of met-enkephalin degradation by mouse brain enzymes. [7]

Phenylalanine and Vitiligo

An earlier study by Antoniou et al. (1989) indicated the efficacy and safety of oral administration of phenylalanine at a dose of 100 mg/kg body weight along with ultraviolet A (UVA) exposure in treating vitiligo, a condition chiefly characterized by hypopigmentation and white patches on the skin. [8] Such study finding is similar to that of Cormane et al. (1985), who also reported the effectiveness of phenylalanine treatment with UVA exposure against vitiligo. In this study, 4-month treatment led to repigmentation of hypopigmented macules in skin areas with adipose tissues, with patients displaying tolerance to the sun and absence of sunburn. [9] A comprehensive systematic review by Szczurko and Boon (2008) on published articles about natural vitiligo remedies, including vitamins, herbs, and supplements, identified four clinical trials associating L-phenylalanine with beneficial effects for patients with vitiligo. [10] Additionally, Camacho and Mazuecos (2002) augmented their vitiligo “L-phenylalanine plus phototherapy” treatment approach with 0.025% clobetasol propionate, a very potent topical corticosteroid. Their open trial involved 70 patients diagnosed with evolutive vitiligo and receiving oral and topical L-phenylalanine treatment and 0.025% clobetasol propionate at night while being exposed to sunlight (during spring and summer) or UVA lamps (during autumn and winter). The study results indicated a 90.9% improvement among participants, 68.5% of whom had obtained an improvement equivalent to 75% or more. Such improvement rate (i.e., 75%) was achieved 87.9% of the time on the face, 60.4% on the trunk, and 54.6% on the limbs, although only moderate treatment response was observed among individuals with focal and segmental vitiligo. [11]


[1] Phenylalanine(g). USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27.

[2] Phenylalanine. The Biology Project, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, University of Arizona.

[3] Phenylalanine. Wikipedia.

[4] Sabelli H. C. et al. (1986). Clinical studies on the phenylethylamine hypothesis of affective disorder: urine and blood phenylacetic acid and phenylalanine dietary supplements. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 47(2): 66-70.

[5] Fischer E., Heller B., Nachon M., Spatz H. (1975). Therapy of depression by phenylalanine. Preliminary note. Arzneimittelforschung. 25(1): 132.

[6] Beckmann H., Strauss M. A., Ludolph E. (1977). DL-phenylalanine in depressed patients: an open study. Journal of Neural Transmission. 41(2-3): 123-134.

[7] Ehrenpreis S. (1985). Analgesic properties of enkephalinase inhibitors: animal and human studies. Progress in Clinical & Biological Research. 192: 363-370.

[8] Antoniou C. et al. (1989). Vitiligo therapy with oral and topical phenylalanine with UVA exposure. International Journal of Dermatology. 28(8): 545-547.

[9] Cormane R. H. et al. (1985). Phenylalanine and UVA light for the treatment of vitiligo. Archives of Dermatological Research. 277(2): 126-130.

[10] Szczurko O., Boon H. S. (2008). A systematic review of natural health product treatment for vitiligo. BMC Dermatology. 8:2. doi:10.1186/1471-5945-8-2.

[11] Camacho F., Mazuecos J. (2002). Oral and topical L-phenylalanine, clobetasol propionate, and UVA/sunlight–a new study for the treatment of vitiligo. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 1(2): 127-131.

Feeling Depressed? An AVOCADO May Be Just What You Need

Feeling Depressed? An AVOCADO May Be Just What You Need
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Food plays a big part in mental health, studies have shown that omega-3, vitamin-B, vitamin-D, amino acids, and different minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and iron play a key role in good mental health. [1]

Avocado is a great food source for vitamins and minerals, as it contains almost 20 minerals and vitamins like B6, C, E, K, and folate. [2] Avocados also contain tryptophan and the highly valuable omega-3 essential fatty acid.

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that helps regulate the neurotransmitters and avoid inflammation in the brain, whereas tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin which is our ‘feel-good’ hormone. Serotonin stabilizes the mood, feeling of happiness, and well-being.

Avocados are rich in other fatty acids that help in maintaining a healthy nervous system and cognitive processes [3]. Fatty acid also helps in balancing the level of the hormone in the body resulting in a healthy and depression-free brain.

Avocados are also rich in folic acid that is part of the vitamin B family. Folic acid prevents excessive accumulation of homocysteine in the body which is naturally produced in the body. Homocysteine affects the production of serotonin and dopamine which regulate the mood.

Now you can see the scientific reasoning behind the suggestion that avocados may be natural mood boosters.

There’s more: Avocados have a high amount of choline that boosts levels of serotonin in the body. They also contain vitamin E that gives the skin freshness and shine. By adding avocados to your daily diet, you may be able to improve the quality of your sleep and have a better mood when you wake up.

Learn more about the amazing health benefits of Avocados and how to use them:


[1] Sarris, J., et al., Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2015. 2(3): p. 271-274.

[2] Majid, D., et al., Avocado, in Antioxidants in Fruits: Properties and Health Benefits. 2020, Springer. p. 103-123.

[3] Ameer, K., Avocado as a major dietary source of antioxidants and its preventive role in neurodegenerative diseases, in The benefits of natural products for neurodegenerative diseases. 2016, Springer. p. 337-354.

Depression, Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Depression, Anxiety and Panic Attacks
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Struggling with depression, anxiety, or panic attacks? Always keep in mind that you’re not alone – there are millions of people affected by these mental health illnesses. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) claims that 40 million American adults are affected by anxiety disorders, another 17.3 million have a depressive disorder, and 6 million are affected by a panic disorder.

Although there are several effective treatments to manage these conditions – including psychotherapy and behavioral therapy – most cases remain untreated. The World Health Organization notes that up to 85% of victims in middle- and low-income countries do not receive treatment.

Most health care providers identify social stigma and misdiagnosis as one of the main barriers to effective mental health care – and it’s easy to see why. Some people are afraid of speaking out due to statements such as “pull yourself together” or “everyone gets anxious and depressed, just snap out of it.” This is often fueled by the assumption that admitting you’re going through depression or anxiety is a sign of weakness – but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sure, most of us feel anxious, depressed, or experience a panic attack from time to time. But in the case of clinical or diagnosable mental health issues, there’s more to it than ‘shaking it off’ – professional medical care and social support are necessary to avoid adverse mental and physical effects. Remember, sharing your experiences and offering support is a sign of strength!

Please note that this content should never be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.


[1] Anxiety And Depression Association of America Facts & Statistics

[2] Depression