What is Phenylalanine? Diet, Containing Foods
Phenylalanine is an amino acid used to produce proteins and other important molecules. It is also used to make important molecules in the body. Phenylalanine has been used to treat ailments such as depression, skin conditions, and pain.
So what is the phenylalanine diet? What does it do? What foods contain phenylalanine? The answers are in the rest of our article…
What is Phenylalanine?
- Amino acids are used in almost every metabolic process in the body. There are 20 types of amino acids. Amino acids are divided into 2 groups as essential and non-essential amino acids.
- Essential amino acids are not produced in the body, they are taken from the outside through food. These; phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, valine, leucine, threonine, isoleucine and tryptophan. Non-essential amino acids can be produced in the body. These; aspartic acid, histidine, tyrosine, alanine, glutamic acid, cysteine, arginine, cystine, hydroxyproline, glycine, serine and proline.
- Phenylalanine amino acid is one of the essential amino acids. It is available in 3 basic forms. These; -D, -DL and -L are phenylalanine. D-phenylalanine is produced in the laboratory. L-phenylalanine is naturally found in proteins. DL-phenylalanine is a combination of these two.
- Phenylalanine is the metabolic precursor of many amino acids. Tyrosine is one of them. Tyrosine is an important compound in the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and nephrine in the making of proteins. It is one of the essential elements in the synthesis of thyroid hormones.
- Phenylalanine deficiency is rare. Because it is found in approximately 4-5% of all proteins.
- In phenylalanine deficiency, effects such as loss of appetite, edema, anorexia, weakness, amino aciduria, edema, eating disorders, liver damage, depression, bloodshot eyes, loss of skin pigmentation, memory problems, cataracts, decreased sexual desire, slowing of growth and development can be seen.
Phenylalanine Diet and Nutritional Recommendations
- The phenylalanine diet is a diet suitable for patients with PKU or phenylketonuria. Phenylketonuria patients and children born with this hereditary disease cannot digest phenylalanine, a type of amino acid found in protein-rich foods.
- As they cannot digest, excess phenylalanine negatively affects the brain activities of children in developmental age.
- Therefore, patients diagnosed with PKU should limit foods high in protein. A low protein diet list suitable for the patient’s body is prepared with the control of a specialist dietitian and doctor.
- It is a diet that includes food groups with low phenylalanine value, especially meat and dairy products.
List of Foods Containing Phenylalanine
Many animal and plant products contain this amino acid. Foods containing phenylalanine:
- Soy products
- Pumpkin seeds
- some meats
- Sesame seeds
- sea products
- Milk and milk products
- Dry beans
- skinless chicken
- chili pepper
What Should the Value of Phenylalanine Be?
Amino acids, which are the basic functional units of proteins, are used in every metabolic process in the body. The ratio of amino acids needed for the human body is 11% in adults, 26% in children and 39% in infants.
Phenylalanine values vary according to age. You can also learn the phenylalanine values in yourself or your child by having a phenylalanine test.
Phenylalanine values in infants:
- 1.62-3.50 mg/dl in premature babies
- 0-1 months: 0.63-2.26 mg/dl
- 2-12 months: 0.51-1.24 mg/dl
Phenylalanine values in children:
- 1-20 years 0.43-1.50 mg/dl
Phenylalanine values in adults:
- 20 years and older: 0.58-1.40 mg/dl
High levels of phenylalanine can also cause significant health problems. Blood phenylalanine levels:
- Less than 6 mg/dL (360µmol/L) under 10 years of age
- Less than 12mg/dL (720 µmol/L) between 10 – 15 years of age
- It is recommended to be less than 15 mg/dL (900 µmol/L) for 15 years and older.
What Does Phenylalanine Do?
- The human body needs amino acids to produce protein. There are many important proteins in the internal organs, in the brain, in the muscles, in short, in almost every area of the body.
- Phenylalanine is crucial for dopamine production. Phenylalanine can be used to produce the molecule dopamine. Dopamine shapes learning skills and memories.
- Dopamine disorder is closely associated with some forms of depression. Therefore, phenylalanine is used in the treatment of depression.
- Some studies have indicated that phenylalanine may be effective in treating vitiligo, which causes staining and loss of skin color.
- Some studies have noted that using phenylalanine supplements can improve skin and pigmentation in people with ultraviolet (UV) light exposure.
- Some studies have revealed that phenylalanine, along with other amino acids, can help relieve symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
- Limited research suggests that phenylalanine may be useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. But more research is needed for this.