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Hyperactivity: no go for amino acid.

Hyperactivity: No go for amino acid

The theory makes sense: Hyperactive children given strongdoses of phenylalanine, an amino acid found in some foods, may show behavior improvements, since this dietary chemical is eventually converted into two important chemical messengers in the brain, dopamine and norepinephrine. Deficiencies in these neurotransmitters have been implicated in hyperactivity, and a recent study suggested that hyperactive children may excrete less phenylethylamine, a metabolic product of phenylalanine.

In practice, however, loading up on phenylalanine appears tohave no effect on hyperactivity, report psychiatrist Alan J. Zametkin of the National Institute of Mental Health and his colleagues in the June AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY. Eleven hyperactive boys between the ages of 6 and 12 were treated for two weeks with capsules containing a phenylalanine compound and two weeks with placebo capsules. No significant behavior changes, for better or worse, were noted on parent, teacher and experimenter ratings. Scores on tests of attention and memory also did not change with treatment. Although active treatment increased phenylalanine levels in the blood, there was no change in the amount of phenylethylamine excreted in urine.

Despite the amino acid's inability to quell hyperactive behavior,there is an encouraging aspect to the data, say the researchers. The artificial sweetener aspartame contains phenylalanine and is consumed in great quantities by some children, they observe, but it appears that large daily doses have no adverse effects on behavior. Blood levels of phenylalanine among boys in the study were comparable to levels reported for adults considered to be heavy aspartame users. There may, add the investigators, be long-term effects of increased phenylalanine levels that have not yet been examined.
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Title Annotation:phenylalanine found to be ineffective in treating hyperactivity
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 13, 1987
Words:273
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