What is Phenylalanine?

Phenylalanine is an amino acid found in three forms; D-phenylalanine, L-phenylalanine, and a mixture DL-phenylalanine. It is a common ingredient in various medical drugs and food items. It is important to understand where it is found, it’s common uses, and it’s side effects.

The Uses of Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine may be used to treat the skin condition vitiligo. It is also used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity or pain. Although no scientific evidence exists to prove its effectiveness, this amino acid has been used to treat arthritis, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. It is often a common ingredient used to sweeten low calorie foods and beverages as well.

Where is Phenylalanine Found?

Phenylalanine naturally occurs in the breast milk of mammals. Also, it is found in most foods rich in protein, dairy products, nuts, and seeds. It is a common ingredient in aspartame, a synthetic diet sweetener marketed in brands like Equal and Nutrasweet. There have been numerous questions concerning the safety of phenylalanine, especially when it is present in foods and beverages. However, in moderate amounts, the FDA has deemed it safe for human consumption.

Phenylalanine Side Effects

Although considered safe for most people, there are possible side effects associated with the substance. For example, pregnant women are advised against consuming too much. It is believed to increase the likelihood of developing birth defects in unborn babies. It will also cause bad reactions in people with Phenylketonuria.

What is Phenylketonurics?

Phenylketonurics is the word that refers to people with the metabolic disorder Phenylketonuria. This is often called PKU. PKU occurs in people with a deficiency of the enzyme that metabolizes phenylalanine. Individuals with PKU must follow a low protein diet and be wary of products that contain artificial sweeteners. When a person with PKU does not avoid phenylalanine, mental retardation, loss of skin pigmentation, seizures, and muscle aches may occur.

Although some forms of phenylalanine occur naturally, it can be dangerous to people who suffer from Phenylketonuria. For others who do not react, it is wise to consume it in moderate amounts. Surely, the future will bring more research to test its safety.

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