DLPA – An Overview
DLPA (DL-phenylalinine) is a more bioavailable form of the essential amino acid phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is one of the 9 essential amino acids, meaning it is not made in the body and must be obtained from outside sources.1Phenylalanine Wikipedia
Many people take DLPA as a nootropic supplement for:
- Mental Sharpness
- Pain Relief
There are plenty of reports that DLPA can improve cognition and general feelings of wellbeing, and there is some clinical evidence that backs up these claims.
DLPA is made from combining D-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanine. D- and L-phenylalanine are isomers, meaning they are mirror images of one another. L-phenylalanine is found naturally, while D-phenylalanine must be synthesized in a laboratory.
DLPA, then, is both of these isomers combined into one substance. It provides the best of both worlds.
Phenylalanine is a precursor for tyrosine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, and the skin pigment melanin. By affecting these systems, DLPA can have various nootropic and health effects.
What Does DLPA Do?
DLPA for ADHD
There is some preliminary evidence that DLPA can improve attention and possible treat symptoms of ADHD. DLPA provides the building blocks for neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Many researchers believe that ADHD may be caused by low dopamine, which DLPA might alleviate.
A small double-blind study showed an improvement of ADHD symptoms after a few weeks of supplementing with DLPA. However, these results have not been successfully replicated.2Wood DR, Reimherr FW, Wender PH.Treatment of attention deficit disorder with DL-phenylalanine, Psychiatry Res. 1985 Sep
Still, some nootropics enthusiasts swear by DLPA for attention. Their reports are anecdotal, but suggest that further research on this subject is needed.
Some users also claim that DLPA can prolong the effects and ease the crash associated with traditional ADHD meds like Ritalin and Adderall. This would make sense, considering DLPA can help the brain produce more dopamine as the Adderall triggers its release.
DLPA for Depression
DLPA can possibly increase the amount of dopamine circulating in the brain. This theoretically could improve mood, because dopamine is heavily linked to feeling good, pleasure, and motivation. Clinical results lean towards this being the case.
Several double-blind, placebo-controlled trials indicate that DLPA could act as an effective antidepressant. Researchers theorized that this could be due to DLPA raising dopamine levels. One even found it as effective as the traditional pharmaceutical imipramine.
However, none of these studies used particularly large sample sizes, so these results may not be that robust. Hopefully there will be larger-scale studies in the future that can confirm these results.3Beckmann H, et al DL-phenylalanine versus imipramine: a double-blind controlled study, Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr (1970)4H. Spatz, et al. Effects of D phenylalanine on clinical picture and phenethylaminuria in depression Biological Psychiatry 19755Cordonnier L1, Sanchez M, Roques BP, Noble F. Facilitation of enkephalins-induced delta-opioid behavioral responses by chronic amisulpride treatment., Neuroscience. 2005 6Fischer E, Heller B, Nachon M, Spatz H.. Therapy of depression by phenylalanine. Preliminary note, Arzneimittelforschung. 1975
On the other hand, an animal study suggests that phenylalanine supplementation does NOT actually increase dopamine levels, as many have theorized.
If this is true, then there may not be a mechanism for DLPA to raise mood, and the previous studies only showed a placebo effect. Again, more study is needed on DLPA for mood disorders.7Fernstrom MH1, Baker RL, Fernstrom JD.. In vivo tyrosine hydroxylation rate in retina: effects of phenylalanine and tyrosine administration in rats pretreated with p-chlorophenylalanine., Brain Res. 1989
DLPA may be able to significantly reduce perception of pain. Some users report that it can be used as a substitute for opiates (which obviously come with significant dangers.)
Researchers suspect it works by activating the ‘endogenous analgesia system’ (EAS). The EAS is your body’s internal painkiller system. DLPA produces an elevation in brain enkephalins.
Enkephalins are compounds in the brain that are closely related to fight-or-flight and pain responses. They bond to mu-opioid pain receptors.
Multiple clinical trials show that DLPA can significantly decrease pain with few adverse side-effects. It is significantly more effective than placebo.8Nurmikko T, Pertovaara A, Pöntinen PJ. Attenuation of tourniquet-induced pain in man by D-phenylalanine, a putative inhibitor of enkephalin degradation, Acupunct Electrother Res. 1987 9Kitade T, Odahara Y, Shinohara S, et al Studies on the enhanced effect of acupuncture analgesia and acupuncture anesthesia by D-phenylalanine (2nd report)–schedule of administration and clinical effects in low back pain and tooth extraction., Acupunct Electrother Res. 1990 10S.Ehrenpreis R.C.Balagot S.Myles C.Advocate J.E.Comaty. FURTHER STUDIES ON THE ANALGESIC ACTIVITY OF D-PHENYLALANINE (DPA) IN MICE AND HUMANS, International Narcotic Research, 1979
Interestingly, the effects of DLPA are reversible by naloxone, which is an opiate overdose prevention drug. This seems to indicate that DLPA is working on the same biological pathways as opiates, but with far less danger.11Ehrenpreis S.. Analgesic properties of enkephalinase inhibitors: animal and human studies, Prog Clin Biol Res. 1985
DLPA may amplify the analgesic effects of opiate therapy, while enabling dosage reductions that minimize opiate side-effects. In other words it makes drugs work better while helping to lower the amount of drugs needed. Thus, DLPA can lower the odds of side effects.
This could be extremely beneficial to people who must use opiates to manage chronic pain. It may also complement acupuncture.12Russell AL, McCarty MF. DL-phenylalanine markedly potentiates opiate analgesia – an example of nutrient/pharmaceutical up-regulation of the endogenous analgesia system., Med Hypotheses. 2000
DLPA may also alleviate symptoms of opioid withdrawal.13Grossman A, Clement-Jones V. Opiate receptors: enkephalins and endorphins., Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1983 Mar 14Ehrenpreis S.. D-phenylalanine and other enkephalinase inhibitors as pharmacological agents: implications for some important therapeutic application, Acupunct Electrother Res. 1982
Exercise & Weight Loss
DLPA may be a valuable supplement for people trying to lose weight and improve athletic performance. This may be due to a couple factors.
One small study indicates that DLPA could increase fat oxidization, at least in young athletic males. This could lead to accelerated weight loss.
However, it was a very small study, so it’s difficult to say how applicable the results are. More research needs to be done.15Keisuke Ueda, Chiaki Sanbongi,1 Makoto Yamaguchi. The effects of phenylalanine on exercise-induced fat oxidation: a preliminary, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017
DLPA may also improve insulin resistance, which is an important factor in weight-loss and overall health. This may be due to DLPA possibly stimulating tyrosine production.16Nuttall FQ, Schweim KJ, Gannon MC.. Effect of orally administered phenylalanine with and without glucose on insulin, glucagon and glucose concentrations. Horm Metab Res. 2006 Aug 17A Alamshah, et al. l-phenylalanine modulates gut hormone release and glucose tolerance, and suppresses food intake through the calcium-sensing receptor in rodents, Int J Obes (Lond). 2017
There is also evidence that phenylalanine may promote feelings of satiety and fullness. This could decrease appetite and prevent overeating.
Researchers suspect that this is because phenylalanine is an amino acid that is usually broken down from protein. When you take it as a supplement, your body reads it as intake from a protein source. 18Veldhorst M, et al. Protein-induced satiety: effects and mechanisms of different proteins, Physiol Behav. 2008 19Moran TH. Cholecystokinin and satiety: current perspectives, Nutrition. 2000
DLPA for Skin
DLPA is a precursor to melanin, and can, therefore, help with some pigment disorders, such as vitiligo.20Siddiqui AH, et al. L-phenylalanine and UVA irradiation in the treatment of vitiligo, Dermatology. 1994
21Schulpis CH, Antoniou C, Michas T, Strarigos J. Phenylalanine plus ultraviolet light: preliminary report of a promising treatment for childhood vitiligo, Pediatr Dermatol. 1989
How DLPA Works In The Brain
DLPA is a combination of two phenylalanine isomers, a left handed (L) and right handed (R) version. They are mirror images of each other and have slightly different effects, but are both precursors for catecholamines.
Catecholamines refers to important neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
Once DLPA enters your system, your body breaks it down and converts it into l-tyrosine. Then it converts l-tyrosine into dopamine, which eventually converts to norepinephrine and then epinephrine.
These neurotransmitters are heavily involved in mood, reward, arousal, attention, and other critical processes.
It’s important to note that DLPA provides the building blocks for these neurotransmitters, but does not stimulate their production directly like, say, Adderall.
How Much DLPA Should I Take?
The typical dose is about 1,000 to 2,000 mg DLPA a day, divided into 2 or 3 doses throughout the day.
DLPA Potential Side Effects
Generally, there are no side effects with this nootropic. Some research shows nausea at extremely high doses, but this is atypical.
That said, it is important to note that there are some dangerous interactions to look out for with DLPA. People with phenylketonuria should not take DLPA. This condition can cause a dangerous buildup of phenylalanine in the body.
There may also be negative interactions between DLPA and MAOI inhibitors.
Do you have questions about, supplementing with DLPA? Do you have experience supplementing with DLPA? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.