The process of metabolization by monoamine oxidase-B (MOA-B) is how the body produces phenylethylamine (PEA). Unfortunately, as we grow older, the MAO-B levels rise to a level that then suppresses the necessary levels of PEA. Also, it is interesting to note that it is naturally occurring in the central nervous system of virtually all mammals.
Although the human body naturally produces phenylethylamine, you will find it in the supplemental forms of either powder or capsules. You will also see it under the names of β-Phenylalanine and 2-Phenylalanine.
To further explain, when the brain naturally converts l- phenylalanine to phenylethylamine, it functions as a neurotransmitter that modulates serotonin and dopamine. In fact, many refer to as the love molecule because it’s found in abundance in chocolate and might be what gives chocolate its indisputable reputation as a pleasurable mood enhancer.
In so doing, it helps elevate mood, reduce stress, and increase focus. Conversely, low levels of phenylethylamine in our bodies are associated with mild depression, ADHD, and other unpleasant symptoms.
In this article, you will learn how phenylethylamine (PEA) works in the body and what health benefits you may expect from this amazing neurotransmitter.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) Uses & Health Benefits
Phenylethylamine Mechanisms of Action
The primary results of PEA’s mechanisms of action include the following:
- Increases dopamine which benefits in feelings of wellbeing and pleasure.
- It also increases norepinephrine for the enhancement of alertness and focus.
- Next, it increases acetylcholine for memory and cognition benefits.
- Finally, it increases serotonin for the benefits of improvements to appetite, mood, impulse control, and sleep.
PEA and ADHD
Some research attributes low levels of PEa as a cause for childhood ADHD. However, in a 6-month study with 30 children with ADHD with age ranges from 6 to 15 years, they were given phenylalanine in the form of Klaman® extract. Klaman® extract derives from the Klamath Lake microalgae from Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon and inherently contains elevated levels of Phenylalanine. The interesting results show significant improvements to symptoms of ADHD.
Helps Prevent Microbial Food Attacks
Humans have been looking for ways to keep food from spoiling since the agricultural age began. There is a breakthrough, however, with the inherent microbial qualities of phenylethylamine. Interestingly, one study shows that PEA has phenomenal bacteria-fighting qualities. The results suggest that PEA is an excellent solution for fighting microbial attacks on food.
Help with Anxiety & Depression
In the process of activation of the TAAR1 And TAAR2 receptors, phenylalanine prevents uptake and boosts the release of the neurotransmitter’s serotonin and dopamine which helps with anxiety and depression.
This is significant because sometimes both mild and severe cases of depression sometimes have simple causes behind them. In fact, it PEA controls depression effectively in 60% of people with depression.
Amazingly, phenylethylamine is a simple cure for many people with depression. In fact, taking a supplement of phenylethylamine relieves depression rapidly with no toxic effects or increases in the tolerance of this supplement.
However, it worth noting that because PEA rapidly destroyed by your body, some doctors also prescribe low doses of selegiline (Eldepryl) to slow down the PEA destruction by the body. Interestingly, selegiline is a drug for Parkinson’s disease.
Here is a breakdown of some of the advantages of taking PEA for depression:
- It is rapid-acting.
- There are no side effects or toxicity when taken within the RDI.
- It is a great alternative for those who do not respond well to antidepressants.
- It is less toxic than other medications due to its ability to directly restore deficit neurohormones.
Delivers Excellent Neuroprotection
Phenylalanine also reduces dopamine and norepinephrine levels. This helps with the reduction of symptoms for some neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s’ disease.
Improvements to Neurotransmission Function
PEA is a stimulant to the central nervous system and in that function, works to improve the functions of neurotransmitters. It does this with its inherent capabilities to modulate neurons and the interacting brain chemicals. Within this function, phenylethylamine not only enhances nerve health, but it also protects the neurons.
Phenylalanine as the “Safe” Amphetamine
It has similar effects and characteristics of amphetamines without the dangerous side effects. In fact, studies suggest that it helps with depression in some patients. Moreover, people who use phenylalanine report increases in energy levels, feelings of elation, and a greater sense of alertness.
Exercise as Nature’s Antidepressant
“Runner’s High” is a term that describes the feeling of elation that exercise gives people. In fact, exercise proves to be an excellent way to lessen symptoms of mild depression. Not surprisingly, one study with healthy young men show increases in PEA by 77% within 24 hours after exercise.
The study also shows, however, that the level of phenylalanine increase varies from person to person. Never-the-less, the results show an overall positive effect from exercise to lower the symptoms of depression.
Phenylethylamine Precautionary Side Effects
Taking phenylethylamine supplements is safe when taking appropriate doses of 100 – 500mg. You may avoid the side effects by taking a lower dose if you experience constipation, headaches, or nausea. However, other, more serious side effects may also include the following symptoms.
Due to fluctuations in dopamine levels and increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and adrenaline, taking a phenylethylamine supplement may increase anxiety in some people.
Taking a stimulant of any kind causes dehydration in the human body. Therefore, it’s important to consume extra water if you take this supplement.
Heart Rate Increases
Phenylethylamine has similar effects of amphetamines or caffeine, so taking this supplement in large doses may cause a dangerous increase in heart rate.
Sleeplessness or Insomnia
The results of taking phenylethylamine include stimulating the brain for greater energy and focus. Therefore, it is not advisable to take this supplement close to bedtime.
Pregnant and Lactating Women
There is not enough current research to know the safety of this supplement for pregnant and lactating women. Therefore, it is not advisable for pregnant or lactating women to take this supplement.
Phenylethylamine and Surgery
Because phenylethylamine affects the central nervous system, it’s incredibly important to stop taking phenylethylamine supplements a full two weeks before going into surgery.
Schizophrenia & Bipolar Disorders
Phenylethylamine supplements can shift a bipolar patient from depression to mania. The supplement can also increase hallucinations and delusions in schizophrenia patients. Therefore, taking this supplement is not advisable for patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorders.
PKU is a rare disorder wherein phenylalanine builds up in the body. The cause is a defective gene that does not properly produce the enzyme necessary to break down phenylalanine. People with this disorder must be cautious their entire life about consuming foods with high levels of phenylalanine and must never take phenylethylamine or phenylalanine supplements.
This supplement is available in powder, salt, and tablet or capsule form. If you can find a slow-release formula – all the better.
Please take precautions and read your labels carefully. In the case of phenylethylamine and phenylalanine, it is important to avoid confusing them when shopping for your supplements. Also, take this same precaution when researching this topic – it’s easy to get confused. Remember that the body synthesizes (derives) phenylethylamine from phenylalanine. So, although they are part of the same system, they are distinctly different when purchasing in supplemental form.
The recommended dose is 100 to 500mg. Start with the lowest dose and gradually increase but do not exceed 500mg. If you experience the unpleasant side effects of anxiety, sleeplessness, or nausea, lower your dose, or stop taking this supplement. As with all supplements, it is advisable to consult with your medical professional before starting this regimen to ensure safety.
Again, studies show that patients with depression usually have low levels of phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine supplements increase serotonin and dopamine the brain thereby reducing the depressive symptoms. In patients with Parkinson’s disease, pairing 60mg of phenylethylamine with selegiline reduces depression over a one-year timeline.
Food Sources for Phenylethylamine
Do you prefer to think of food as a supplement? Or, perhaps you simply like to enhance your supplements with the right foods. Either way, it is valuable information to know which foods contribute and enhance your supplemental regimen.
Developing your knowledge of foods that deliver the nutrients you need is important. However, most of us don’t get enough phenylethylamine from our diets so supplementation is something to seriously consider. To help you enhance your diet, here is a list of foods that are high in phenylalanine which the body then converts to phenylethylamine.
Phenylethylamine and Chocolate
Earlier in this article, we stated that chocolate contains prominent levels of phenylalanine. Even though humans have consumed chocolate for centuries, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that scientists established that chocolate is indeed a fantastic source of phenylalanine.
Another interesting fact is that the body releases phenylethylamine when you’re in love. So, it’s not surprising that many refer to phenylethylamine as the “love molecule”. It’s also not surprising that chocolate has elevated levels of phenylalanine along with other stimulants such as caffeine, theobromine, and the cannabinoid anandamide. With that knowledge, it naturally makes sense that the combination of these stimulants is why chocolate remains popular worldwide.
Meats High in Phenylalanine
|Type of Meat||Portion Size||RDI|
|Buffalo Sirloin Steak||3 oz||116%|
|Beef Eye of Round Roast||3 oz||118%|
|London Broil||3 oz||118%|
|Ostrich Steak||3 oz||118%|
|Porterhouse Steak (grilled)||3 oz||119%|
|Beef Tenderloin Steak (grilled)||3 oz||121%|
|Beef Chuck Pot Roast||3 oz||128%|
|Beef Liver (pan fried)||1 slice||128%|
|Cube Steak (braised)||3 oz||129%|
|Ham (low-fat, cured)||1 cup||137%|
|Pork Ribs (country-style, roasted)||1 rack||137%|
|Top Round Steak (grilled)||3 oz||139%|
|Lamb Shoulder Roast||100 grams||141%|
|Veal Leg Top Roast||100 grams||144%|
|Ham (lean, cured)||1 cup||145%|
|Roast Duck||1 cup diced||157%|
|Turkey Breast (roasted)||6 oz||164%|
|Ham (roasted)||1 cup diced||181%|
|Kielbasa Sausage||1 link||187%|
|Ribeye Steak||1 fillet||192%|
|Chuck Steak||1 steak||209%|
|Chicken Leg (boneless, raw)||1 leg||232%|
|Turkey (ground, fat free)||6 oz||240%|
|Pork Chops (lean)||6 oz||250%|
|Chicken Breast||6 oz||251%|
|Pork Chops (with fat)||1 chop||260%|
|Skirt Steak||6 oz||262%|
|Chicken Leg (roasted)||1 leg||282%|
Other Foods High in Phenylethylamine
|Type of Food||Portion Size||RDI|
|Coconut (dried)||1 oz||11%|
|Mushrooms (cooked)||1 cup||11%|
|Sweet Potatoes||1 cup||35%|
|Squash or Pumpkin Seeds||1 oz||56%|
|Pinto Beans||1 cup||104%|
|Firm Tofu||1 cup||240%|
Interactions with Medications
The following is a list of drugs that might not interact well with phenylethylamine.
|Drug Name||Brand Name(s)||Rating||Precaution|
|Desipramine||Norpramin||Moderate||Do not take with PNL|
|Dextromethorphan||Robitussin DM||Moderate||Do not take with PNL|
| Antidepressants |
|Moderate||Use cautiously or avoid|
|Moderate||Talk with your doctor|
|Meperidine||Demerol||Moderate||Do not take with PNL|
|Pentazocine||Talwin||Moderate||Do not take with PNL|
|Tramadol||Ultram||Moderate||Talk with your doctor|
Phenylethylamine Stacking Options
- Stack with N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine for increases in dopamine
- Stack with ALCAR for increases in acetylcholine.
- To prolong the effects of phenylethylamine, stack with a low dose of MAOI-B.
Although your body produces phenylethylamine from phenylalanine, most people have surprisingly insufficient levels. You may increase your levels through supplementation along with eating the right foods.
The beauty of phenylethylamine is that it is highly bioavailable, and you feel the effects quickly. It is great for help with boosting levels of acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This helps with depression, anxiety, stress levels, and being able to get a good night’s sleep.
Additionally, phenylethylamine is helpful to patients with ADHD and is increasing in popularity as a treatment for this disorder.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.