Phenylethylamine (PEA) is attracting a lot of attention these days. The same compound that is found in chocolate and thought to produce the same pleasurable effects on mood is found in a substance that in no way resembles the creamy confection in taste or appearance. Yet, this concentrated liquid blue green algae aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) is potent; found to have very high levels of PEA (many times more than that of chocolate) and with it, demonstrably positive effects on such brain-related issues as ADHD and depression, as well as the probable cause of “runners’ high.”
WHAT IS PEA?
In the human brain, it is believed to function as a neurotransmitter or brain chemical. It has pharmacological properties similar to those of amphetamine, which has positive effects on people with ADHD and depression.
PEA: THE ANTI-DEPRESSANT
Researchers at Rush University and the Center for Creative Development in Chicago conducted a study demonstrating PEA’s anti-depressant effects. PEA made by the body, increases attention and activity in animals and has been shown to relieve depression in 60% of depressed patients. It has been proposed that a PEA deficit may be the cause of a common form of depressive illness. Fourteen patients with major depressive episodes that responded to PEA treatment were re-examined 20 to 50 weeks later. The anti-depressant response had been maintained in 12 out of 14 patients. Effective dosage did not change with time, and there were no apparent side effects. PEA produces sustained relief of depression in a significant number of patients, including some unresponsive to standard treatments. PEA improves mood as rapidly as amphetamine but does not produce tolerance or dependence.
In the book, Natural Remedies for Depression by Donald Brown, N.D., Alan R. Gaby, M.D., and Ronald Reichert, N.D., the two forms of PEA, the conversion of phenylalanine and tyrosine into PEA, and the use of PEA for depression is discussed as such: “L-phenylalanine, the naturally occurring form of phenylalanine, is converted in the body to L-tyrosine. D-phenylalanine, is metabolized to phenylethylamine, an amphetamine-like compound that occurs normally in the human brain and has been shown to have mood-elevating effects. Decreased urinary levels of PEA (a possible indication of a deficiency) have been found in some depressed patients.”
THE “LOVE MOLECULE”
PEA, commonly referred to as the “Love Molecule,” is the same compound found in many foods, especially chocolate. The PEA in chocolate is believed to work by making the brain release endorphins, which are the driving force behind the pleasurable mood effects it creates.
“RUNNERS’ HIGH” EXPLAINED
A review by Charlotte Grayson of Daniel DeNoon’s book, Is “Runners’ High” a Cure for Depression? posted on WebMD.com states, “… Phenylethylamine is a natural stimulant produced by the body. It is related to amphetamines but without the long-lasting, potentially dangerous effects.” A British research team reports early findings which suggest that moderate exercise increases PEA levels for most people. They argue that this increase causes the euphoric mood often called “runners’ high.” And because depressed people tend to have low PEA levels, the researchers say there now is an explanation of why exercise has a natural anti-depressant action. This evidence could help doctors have more confidence in prescribing exercise for mild depression and as an adjunct to drug therapy.
Hector Sabelli, M.D., Ph.D., studied PEA as a professor at Chicago’s Rush University. Now Director of the Chicago Center for Creative Development, Sabelli tells WebMD, “What we have seen is that PEA metabolism is reduced in people who are depressed. If you give PEA to people with depression, about sixty percent show an immediate recovery very fast, a matter of half an hour.”
So what about the natural substances called endorphins, which have previously been linked to runners’ high? Study author, E. Ellen Billett, Ph.D., says that endorphins don’t penetrate the brain as easily as PEA does. It’s her assertion that PEA may be the true basis for the good mood one gets from a workout. Sabelli is not so quick to rule out endorphins, however, and says that the natural compounds probably interact in various ways.
“We think PEA is part of the reward of exercise,” Billett says, adding that it might be affecting other brain chemicals and that it is likely there are normal differences between individuals. “Some will respond to exercise, some won’t.”
PEA: SAFE AMPHETAMINE
A research abstract from the Centre for Molecular Design in Beerse, Belgium, states, “… Despite its short half-life, PEA attracts attention as a body-made amphetamine since it can help increase the production of neurotransmitters and induce brain activity. Subnormal PEA levels have been linked to disorders such as attention deficit and depression.” PEA is considered very safe and has been used by many with no problems. However, patients pre-disposed to schizophrenia or psychosis should not take supplemental PEA without medical supervision.
ADHD & PEA: HUMAN STUDIES
In a number of controlled studies, urinary tests show PEA was found to be significantly lower in children with ADHD and learning disabilities. A decreased level of PEA may play an important role in the pathogenesis of learning disabilities and ADHD.
Add a little blue green to your diet and you add more contentment and more health.