Flip and mix molecules of phenylalanine, and you’ll get DPLA: an amino acid mixture with surprising features. It may help you overcome depression, chronic pain, and the inability to focus. Read on to see if DLPA is for you and how to take it.
DLPA (DL-phenylalanine) is a nutritional supplement with 2 different forms of phenylalanine in equal amounts: D- and L-phenylalanine. As you can see in the image above, they are “mirror images” of the same amino acid oriented differently in space .
L-phenylalanine is the active form in the human body; it builds proteins, neurotransmitters, and other crucial molecules. It’s an essential amino acid, which means we need to get it from foods such as eggs, meat, soy, nuts, and dairy [2, 3].
People take DLPA to boost energy, manage pain, balance mood, and more. Let’s see what the science and clinical evidence say about this supplement…
L-phenylalanine builds neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline that control mood, mental health, heart rate, and other vital functions. As a supplement, it may help with [6, 7, 8, 9, 10]:
Your body converts about ⅓ of D-phenylalanine into the L-form, while the rest has unique effects. Supplementation with D-phenylalanine can increase your natural opioids, enkephalins, and soothes inflammation. It may help with [4, 11, 12, 13]:
In theory, DLPA should deliver the combined health benefits of both forms with fewer side effects, but there’s no substantial evidence to back this up.
Your brain uses L-phenylalanine in DLPA to produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline. Low brain levels of these chemicals often lurk behind the symptoms of depression [6, 14].
D-phenylalanine may also contribute by boosting natural opioids in the brain .
In a clinical trial on 40 depressed patients, DLPA (150-200 mg/day) had the same effect as an antidepressant, imipramine. However, the authors pointed to study design flaws that may have skewed the results .
DL-phenylalanine (75-200 mg/day for 20 days) wiped out the symptoms of depression in 12 out of 20 patients. It offered mild to moderate benefits in 4 more patients, while it failed to affect the remaining 4 .
Lower doses of the same supplement (50-100 mg daily for 15 days) restored normal mood in 17 out of 23 depressed patients who didn’t respond to standard treatment .
The above studies are over 40 years old and lack placebo controls. We should take their results with a grain of salt.
Doctors are struggling to manage their patients’ chronic pain. The standard painkillers only work to an extent and carry serious long-term risks .
Although clinical trials haven’t found the same for DLPA, some doctors have reported positive results in pain management with large doses (1,500-3,000 mg daily). DLPA’s antidepressant and painkiller effects are tightly linked .
Bottom line? We need more evidence before proclaiming DLPA a natural painkiller.
Low dopamine is one of the triggers of ADHD. By providing L-phenylalanine for dopamine production, DLPA may help with ADHD and other attention disorders .
In one older analysis, 44 children with ADHD had lower blood and urine phenylalanine levels than their healthy peers. But according to a more recent study, children with ADHD have normal phenylalanine levels [24, 25].
DLPA improved the symptoms such as anger, restlessness, and poor concentration in 19 adults with ADHD. However, 3 months after the study finished, the beneficial effects disappeared .
D-phenylalanine had no beneficial effects on 19 hyperactive boys in another study .
Based on the available research, phenylalanine does not help with ADHD symptoms .
DLPA is 50% D-phenylalanine so it might deliver the same benefits, but once again, there’s no evidence to back this up.
Although DLPA is safe in general, there’s a massive exception to this rule!
People with a rare metabolic disorder – phenylketonuria (PKU) – are unable to process phenylalanine properly. The accumulation of this amino acid can cause brain damage and cognitive impairment in PKU patients [34, 35, 36].
Children and pregnant women should also avoid DLPA due to the lack of safety data.
Most supplements contain pills with 500-1,000 mg of DLPA. Bulk powder with 375 mg per serving is also available.
The following DLPA dosage had beneficial effects in clinical trials:
Others take it to boost mental clarity and ease chronic pain, and they report mild improvements.
On the other hand, some users experienced no benefits from DLPA supplements. The most common side effects include:
In theory, DLPA should deliver additional benefits compared with L- phenylalanine, but the evidence tells a different story.
If you’re struggling with chronic pain or substance dependence, D-phenylalanine might be the best choice.
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DLPA supplements contain 2 symmetric forms of phenylalanine. They provide building blocks for proteins and neurotransmitters. Weak evidence points to their benefits for depression, chronic pain, and attention disorders.
Due to its L-phenylalanine content, DLPA may cause nausea and interact with Parkinson’s disease medication.
People with phenylketonuria, children, and pregnant women should avoid DLPA.