Mood-Lifting Effects of a Chocolate Binge without the Sugar and Guilt
November 13, 2009
Euphoria™ is a new supplement offering very high levels of the same natural mood-elevating molecule found in chocolate - phenylethylamine, or "PEA."
A concentrated liquid derived from blue-green algae (aphanizomenon flosaquae), Euphoria is supercharged to contain many times more PEA than chocolate. (In fact, to match the PEA benefits of a serving of Euphoria, you’d have to consume at least 23 chocolate bars.)
The highly bioavailable, chlorophyll-rich phenylethylamine molecule in Euphoria is believed to support mood by functioning as a neuromodulator or neurotransmitter in the brain; and studies* have demonstrated that it:
• Is effective as a mood adaptogen (antidepressant),
• Plays a role in "runners' high,"
• And is even involved in the chemicals responsible for romantic love.
What Is PEA?
Phenylethylamine is an alkaloid and a mono amine. In the human brain, it is believed to function as a neuromodulator or neurotransmitter.
A colorless liquid that forms a solid carbonate salt with carbon dioxide upon exposure to air, phenylethylamine in nature is synthesized from the amino acid phenylalanine by enzymatic decarboxylation. It is also found in many foods, especially in chocolate...
Phenylethylamine is commonly referred to as the “Love Molecule.”
Researchers at Rush University and the Center for Creative Development in Chicago conducted a study demonstrating PEA’s anti-depressant effects:
“Phenylethylamine, an endogenous neuroamine, increases attention and activity in animals and has been shown to relieve depression in 60% of depressed patients. It has been proposed that PEA deficit may be the cause of a common form of depressive illness. Fourteen patients with major depressive episodes that responded to PEA treatment (10-60 mg orally per day, with 10 mg/day selegiline to prevent rapid PEA destruction) were reexamined 20 to 50 weeks later. The antidepressant 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.”(1)
In the article "Natural Remedies for Depression" by Donald Brown, ND, Alan R. Gaby, MD, and Ronald Reichert, ND, the conversion of phenylalanine and tyrosine into PEA, and the use of PEA for depression is discussed:
“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 (suggesting a deficiency) have been found in some depressed patients. Although PEA can be synthesized from L-phenylalanine, a large proportion of this amino acid is preferentially converted to L-tyrosine. D-phenylalanine is therefore the preferred substrate for increasing the synthesis of PEA - although L-phenylalanine would also have a mild antidepressant effect because of its conversion to L-tyrosine and its partial conversion to PEA."*
The Chemicals of Pleasurable Feelings
PEA has been identified as one of the chemicals involved with love. In a CNN report, Happily Ever After? It’s All In Your Head, Elina Fuhrmann reports that some scientists and psychologists say that love may be dependant on a cocktail of brain chemicals which may be associated with the success or failure of love relationships.
These chemicals, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and phenylethylamine, act on the limbic system, which is the emotional center of the brain, and may be responsible for the feelings of euphoria and ecstasy experienced during new love. Scientists propose that these chemicals wear off after a few months to a few years, and may explain why people fall out of love, or take couples to the place where real love begins.
Neurobiologists at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, conducted an animal study injecting voles with oxytosin (the brain chemical involved with bonding and long-term attachment) and vasopressin, deemed “the monogamy gene.” By injecting the voles with these two chemicals, the scientists were able to cause them to bond and mate for life.
Is there a love and monogamy pill in our future? If so, it may very well include significant amounts of PEA.(2)
Same Compound in Chocolate
PEA is the same compound found in chocolate that is believed to produce chocolate’s positive effects on mood. The phenylethylamine in chocolate is believed to work by making the brain release b-endorphin, an opioid peptide which is the driving force behind its pleasurable effects.(3)
“Runners' High” Explained
From the article "Is ‘Runners’ High’ a Cure for Depression?" by Daniel DeNoon, reviewed by Charlotte Grayson (www.webmd.com):
“...phenylethylamine is a natural stimulant produced by the body. It is related to amphetamines but without the long lasting, potentially dangerous effects.”(4)
A British research team reports early findings suggesting 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 antidepressant action.
Study author E. Ellen Billett, PhD, tells WebMD: “What we are trying to say is, now there is more chemical evidence for why runners’ high occurs. We hope this information might give doctors more confidence in prescribing exercise for mild depression and as an adjunct to drug therapy.”
The Nottingham Trent University research team studied 20 healthy young men. The men had their PEA levels measured after one day of no exercise and after one day of moderate exercise (30 minutes on a treadmill at 70% of their maximum heart rate). All but 2 of the men had increased PEA levels 24 hours after their exercise. The amount of PEA increase varied from person to person. Interestingly, only 3 of the men rated the exercise as “hard,” and two of these men had the greatest increase in PEA.
Hector Sabelli, MD, PhD, studied PEA while a professor at Chicago’s Rush University. Now Director of the Chicago Center for Creative Development, Sabelli says that the new findings fit exactly with all of his own experiments.
“What we have seen is that PEA metabolism is reduced in people who are depressed,” Sabelli tells WebMD, “If you give PEA to people with depression, about 60% 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?
Billett says that endorphins don’t penetrate the brain as easily as PEA does - so she thinks 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.”
ADHD & PEA: Human Studies
In a number of controlled studies, by measuring urinary excretion levels, PEA was found to be significantly lower in children with ADHD and LD (learning disability).
A decreased level of PEA is considered to potentially play an important role in the pathogenesis of LD and ADHD. Beta-phenylethylamine (beta-PEA), a biogenic trace amine, acts as a neuromodulator in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway and stimulates the release of dopamine.
* * * *
Overall, studies have demonstrated PEA's positive involvement in mood, ADHD, runners' high, and even the chemicals responsible for the pleasurable feelings of romantic love.
1. Sabelli H; Fink P; Fawcett J; Tom C. "Sustained antidepressant effect of PEA replacement." J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci, 1996 Spr, 8:2, 168-71.
2. Link: http://archives.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/02/14/love.chemistry/index.html
3. Millward J. "A Chocolate Composition." University of Bristol, UK, 2001. Link: www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2001/millward/introduction.htm
4. Janssen PA, Leysen JE, Megens AA, Awouters FH. "Does phenylethylamine act as an endogenous amphetamine in some patients?" Int J Neuropsychopharmcol 1999 Sep;2(3):229-240
* Note: patients with severe depression considering the use of therapeutic PEA should consult with their healthcare practitioner before discontinuing antidepressant medications.
This article is excerpted with kind permission from the October 2006 issue of Allergy Research Group’s Focus newsletter (www.allergyresearchgroup.com). Copyright © 2006. Allergy Research Group®
The information provided here has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general and educational, and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your health care plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.
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