James Dixon takes a look at DLPA and assesses the benefits, side effects and the daily dose you should aim for if taking it.
Written by James Dixon
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Plenty of people need and are looking for some kind of cognitive boost. There is a definite need for it. Modern life is stressful and often overwhelming. We have so much to do and limited brain space and energy with which to do it.
I think most of us would love a cheeky boost to our cognition, mood, and energy levels.
This has led to the market being flooded with nootropic supplements of late. So called ‘smart drugs’, nootropics are all-natural supplements that aid executive function, working memory, cognitive focus, and mental energy, all whilst lifting your mood. They are pretty wonderful, and some of them represent, to me, the pinnacle of what supplements can be and what supplement companies can produce.
I use them all the time, favoring a select group of top-tier brands.
However, there is a compound, an amino acid, that can help with all of the above and more. It can do everything a nootropic can do, can work wonders when taken alongside a good quality nootropic, and can bring about a range of health benefits that is frankly dizzying to consider.
I am, of course, talking about DLPA, the best supplement that you are probably not taking.
DLPA (or DL phenylalanine) is a very bioavailable form of phenylalanine, an essential amino acid. This is incredibly important to note. There are 9 essential amino acids. The essential part means that they aren’t made in the human body. Rather, they have to come exogenously – we must obtain them from external sources like food and supplements.
This means that we have to take phenylalanine from external sources. You will typically find the essential amino acids in ‘complete’ protein sources – these are usually animal sources like milk and dairy. However, it is also commonly supplemented.
In fact, it is one of the more popular supplements in health and fitness circles these days. It has many uses, which we’ll get into below. People often take it as a nootropic – a so called ‘smart drug’ – to help with mental clarity, focus, creativity, long term cognitive health, and improved mood.
The science underpinning DLPA’s efficacy and continued use is uncommonly strong. There is a great deal of clinical evidence backing up claims that it can help with cognition, cognitive health, and feelings of overall wellness.
DLPA is a combination of D-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanine. L-phenylalanine is naturally found in various food sources. D-phenylalanine, on the other hand, is manufactured. We have to create it in labs. Putting them together as DLPA (giving DL phenylalanine its name) gives us the benefits of each.
Phenylamine is a precursor for several chemicals and hormones. These include tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, as well as melanin, our skin pigment. DLPA helps our bodies to more readily create these, hence the many benefits we’ll get into shortly.
The Benefits of DLPA Supplementation
There are a great many benefits to taking DLPA. I would be writing constantly for a week if I were to go into them all, and you’d be reading for days! However, there are a few key benefits that it really is worthwhile highlighting.
Brain Health and ADHD Treatment
Many people take DLPA as a form of nootropic supplement – as a smart drug to boost their cognitive health and wellbeing. It can improve executive function and working memory, giving anyone a good mental boost, making them more cognitively efficient.
In this way, DLPA also represents a great supplementary tool for ADHD treatment. ADHD affects executive function and working memory quite profoundly, making it hard to focus, concentrate, and think, diminishing attention, and eliciting a great deal of anxiety. DLPA can help with all of these just like some nootropics that are good for ADHD can.
Firstly, of course, it can greatly improve concentration and focus. It is a plasma amino acid, involved in neurotransmitter creation and maintenance. In fact, it is a crucial component of the neurotransmitter dopamine. ADHD has been linked with low dopamine levels, with some experts suggesting a causal relationship between low dopamine and symptoms of ADHD.
As a dopamine precursor, it therefore makes sense that L-phenylalanine would be useful for ADHD treatment.
In fact, tentative research (which have yet to be replicated successfully) has shown ADHD symptoms improve after just a few weeks of DLPA use. It might also play a supplementary role for common ADHD medications such as Adderall or Ritalin, diminishing the crash associated with them whilst making their positive effects last a little longer.
As both Adderall and Ritalin work in large parts by stimulating dopamine release, this would seem to make a lot of sense.
The data is scarce in some areas with regards DLPA and ADHD treatment. However, anecdotal evidence suggests great promise, whilst common-sense rationale adds a great deal to its plausibility.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are horrible conditions. They are debilitating and can greatly diminish quality of life. They are also common, with around a fifth of us suffering from severe symptoms. Millions of people around the world can be expected to suffer either or both in their lifetimes.
Therefore, anything that can help in treating either will be reason to celebrate.
DLPA can potentially help with both.
Though the two are often linked, with depression often causing anxiety, anxiety often causing depression, and both often sharing root causes, I want to split them up for a minute. DLPA can help with each in subtly different ways.
Let’s begin with depression. Many experts agree that depression is caused at least in part by a dopamine deficiency. As we have seen, DLPA can boost dopamine levels, bringing more into the brain. This means that it represents a natural mood lifter.
Recent research has shown that DLPA may act as a powerful antidepressant. Several studies have found DLPA to be far more effective than placebos in easing symptoms of depression. It may even be as effective in treating depression as the common anti-depressant imipramine.
Most studies into DLPA’s benefits for depression are small. More data is needed. Some data from animal studies have shown no increase in dopamine from phenylalanine supplementation. However, it is still a promising avenue to explore.
Studies have also found that DLPA can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress.
In a double-blind study using 12 men, L-phenylalanine use was found to improve mood and memory function. Anxiety levels were reduced. Those who didn’t supplement with phenylalanine had a decreased level of alertness and decreased word recall ability and heightened anxiety levels. Those who did supplement with it showed improved working memory and alertness, with diminished anxiety symptoms.
Another study looked into women’s response to a phenylalanine deficient diet led to decreased mood and energy levels. It made them more anxious, aggressive and irritable in response to psychological stress.
The theory is that this is a result of reduced serotonin production in participants’ brains. As we have seen, phenylalanine is a precursor for the production of serotonin, which makes this make sense. Irritability and anxiety would logically increase in these circumstances. A diet rich in phenylalanine through food sources or supplementation would decrease irritability and anxiety.
Pain Relief and Treatment
DLPA may offer relief for those suffering from acute pain, especially in chronic conditions. There is testimonial evidence suggesting that it may offer similar results to opiates, with none of the substantial risks associated with opiates attached.
The theory is that it activates the endogenous analgesia system (EAS). The EAS is the body’s mechanism for dealing with pain.
DLPA can elevate levels of enkephalins within the brain. These are compounds that work in the brain to help control both our fight-or-flight reactions and pain responses. Raising levels could help us to deal far more ably with pain.
DLPA’s effects on pain relief don’t stop here, however. They may also rob opioid use of some of its harsh side effects. Researchers have suggested that DLPA may work along the same biological pathways as common opiates. This means they might mean higher analgesic effects within opiate therapy, allowing for lower doses needed.
Lower doses mean fewer, or at least lighter, side effects, allowing long term pain sufferers to use opioids to better effect, with far fewer risks.
Parkinson’s disease is caused by dopamine production being disrupted in the body. This results in decreased dopamine production overall, which elicits the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.
Again, DLPA can raise dopamine levels as L-phenylalanine works as a dopamine precursor.
Therefore, DLPA might be able to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, improving quality of life and overall wellbeing in patients. Clinical data support this idea: DLPA has been found to improve Parkinson’s sufferers’ motor functions whilst supporting positive mental health.
It may therefore represent a great supplementary therapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
DLPA may play an important role in overcoming SUD (substance abuse disorder). In mimicking the effects of addiction by elevating dopamine production, it may make it easier to give up any given addictive substance.
It may play a particularly important role in overcoming alcohol withdrawal. Research has shown that food supplements containing phenylalanine and other amino acid precursors can help to alleviate symptoms.
Exercise and Body Recomposition
DLPA has been linked with fat loss and muscular growth. It might be a valued supplement for anybody looking to boost their athleticism, build a little extra muscle, and lose unwanted body fat.
There are a couple of reasons that this might be the case.
Firstly, it might increase the oxidization of fat, according to one study. This may be particularly applicable to young, athletic men. However, more data is needed before we can say this with any certainty.
Secondly, DLPA is an amino acid. That means it is a protein, one of twenty that the body needs to build muscle and maintain muscular strength.
Finally, it has been linked with a decrease in insulin resistance, which will allow for more even blood sugar levels. This also makes it a great tool for anybody suffering with diabetes.
There is even some evidence showing that phenylalanine may make you feel fuller and better sated after eating, making it far easier for you to maintain the calorie deficit we all need in order to lose weight.
How To Take DLPA
DLPA is easy and safe to take. Most people will benefit from taking anything from 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day. For best results, you should split this across several doses, evenly spaced. I would recommend 2 to 3 servings, though this will of course depend on how much you are taking.
There are very few side effects associated with nootropics in general. The side effects that do crop up are generally minor and short lived.
DLPA is no different. There are few side effects associated with it, especially when it is taken in moderate doses.
However, there is some evidence to suggest that nausea can occur when you take DLPA in excessive doses. This isn’t typical, though, and shouldn’t occur in the 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily range mentioned above.
There are some interactions to look out for with DLPA use. It isn’t suitable for anybody suffering from the condition phenylketonuria. Phenylketonuria includes often dangerous levels of phenylalanine to build up in the body, which DLPA may exacerbate. This is because those with phenylketonuria cannot naturally break down phenylalanine as most people can.
DLPA may also negatively interact with MAOI inhibitors.
It’s always a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any new supplement regime. This is especially the case if you have any pre-existing or underlying health concerns. Your doctor will be able to advise you on DLPA’s safety, appropriate dosing, and any interactions it may have with your own medical routine.
What is DLPA good for?
DLPA is good for a great many uses. It is a highly bioavailable form of phenylalanine, an essential amino acid. Phenylalanine plays several important functions in the body, most notably helping to regulate the production of several chemicals and hormones. Benefits to taking it can include improved cognition and working memory, heightened mood and decreased anxiety. It may also be of use in treating various health conditions, such as ADHD and Parkinson’s Disease.
Can you take DLPA every day?
DLPA is safe for everyday use. In fact, daily use is necessary for optimal benefits. You should aim for a daily dose of 1,000 to 2,000 mg DLPA, split across two to three servings evenly spaced throughout the day.
Does phenylalanine increase dopamine?
Phenylamine is a precursor for several chemicals and hormones. These include tyrosine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and, of course, dopamine. DLPA helps our bodies to more readily create them, thus increasing levels of all of them.
Is DLPA good for anxiety?
Phenylamine is a precursor for many hormones, including dopamine. An increase in dopamine will generally correlate with lower stress levels, so yes, DLPA is good for anxiety. Studies have demonstrated its use for anxiety treatment in men and women.
DLPA looks like one of the most promising supplements available on today’s market. As a precursor for several chemicals and hormones, including dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, tyrosine, and melanin, it is incredibly important in maintaining overall health and wellbeing.
We have seen some of DLPA’s benefits and applications. They paint a rosy picture. It is a good supplement for anybody to take. As an essential amino acid, we all need to make sure we are taking in plenty from outside sources. Doing so will lead to improved cognition and mood, giving us some of the best, most profound nootropic benefits going.
DLPA is also good for those suffering from a range of health concerns. It can help those with ADHD to focus and improve their executive function and working memory. It can help those suffering with Parkinson’s to maintain healthy dopamine levels. Those suffering from anxiety and depression will likely find their symptoms eased by taking it, as will those suffering from chronic pain.
I would recommend that anybody and everybody consider taking DLPA, if they can. Those in good health will find their health, mental wellbeing, and cognitive function greatly improved. Those suffering from a range of health concerns may find their lives completely turned around.
This article was written by: James Dixon – SOMA Analytics PT, Nutritionalist & Published Author
James Dixon is one of the key players in the SOMA Analytics’ team. He is a personal trainer and is educated to Masters level. He is a published author and is a keen advocate of high quality nootropic supplements. James enjoys helping others to reach their peak both physically and mentally and believes that expressing his knowledge through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the wellbeing of others on a larger scale.