Brain & Nervous System
|Brain & Nervous System|
Below is an excerpt from the book Primordial Food: Aphanizomenon flos-aquae by Christian Drapeau. Mr. Drapeau is a wild food expert, author, research scientist and neurophysiologist who has lectured on nutrition to over 30,000 people internationally since 1994. Since 1995, Mr. Drapeau has been pursuing scientific research in collaboration with various universities and research centers on the health benefits of AFA. In this section of Primordial Food, AFA, and particularly the compound PEA or Phenylethylamine, is shown to stimulate brain function and elevate mood.
AFA is a Unique Source of PEA (Phenylethylamine)
Individuals have reported discontinuing their antidepressant medications after a few months of AFA consumption. More generally, people have been reporting an elevation of mood, an enhancement of mental energy and mental clarity, and an increase in quality of life.
The type of effect reported by consumers was consistent with the presence in AFA of a neuroactive amino acid or a biogenic amine. An effort was then made to search for such compounds, and recent scientific analysis has revealed the presence of the biogenic amino phenyl-ethylamine (PEA) in AFA. PEA is well known to alleviate depression and elevate mood, and it plays an important role in the pathogenesis of learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder.
PEA, a compound naturally produced by the brain, is responsible for the feeling of experiences associated with pleasure and mental awareness. For example, when one is absorbed by an activity like painting, sculpting, or reading a fascinating book, when the world around seems suspended and nothing can disturb us, when worries vanish and hunger goes away, in such moments PEA is being produced by the brain. Likewise, PEA is released in the brain when one experiences the feelings of love and joy. For this reason, PEA has been coined “the molecule of joy.” When taken orally, PEA is known to readily cross the blood-brain barrier and become immediately available in the brain.
In the brain, PEA is believed to act by having a greater affinity for the re-uptake mechanism for dopamine in presynaptic vesicles. Therefore, when present in the brain, PEA is captured into the presynaptic vesicles and occupies the space normally taken by dopamine. This leads to an increase in free-circulating dopamine in the presynaptic terminal and a higher concentration of dopamine diffusing into the synaptic cleft, therefore enhancing dopaminergic transmission.
This ability to modulate dopaminergic transmission provides PEA with interesting properties in alleviating depression and Attention Deficit Disorder, while increasing concentration and elevating mood.
PEA has also been shown to enhance norepinephrine transmission in the brain. Norepinephrine is also involved in the experience of joy. Enhancing norepinephrine transmission in the brain increases the experience of joy and reduces appetite. For example, if an animal is implanted with an electrode in an area of the brain concentrated in norepinephrine, and this electrode is activated by a pedal that the animal has access to, the animal will disregard food and water and will press the pedal relentlessly until exhaustion to elicit an electrical impulse in this area of the brain.
It was discovered nearly two decades ago that the amount of PEA in the brains of depressed patients was less than that of normal individuals71,72 and that PEA given orally to individuals suffering from depression was able to reverse the depressive condition.73 A decrease in the brain levels and/or turnover of endogenous PEA may therefore play a major role in the etiology of certain forms of depression. In fact, it has been observed that most antidepressant drug treatments act by increasing the level of PEA in the brain.74-77
In one study, when taken orally (10 mg/day), PEA was shown to decrease the symptoms of depression in 60 percent of the patients tested. The patients did not develop tolerance, and PEA remained effective over time. None of the side effects associated with conventional antidepressant therapy was experienced (i.e., nausea, fatigue, decreased libido, cardiovascular problems). On average, patients did not gain weight, in fact many actually lost the weight they had gained on the conventional antidepressant therapy.73
AFA contains on average 2 mg/g of PEA, and an AFA extract has been developed that contains up to 10 mg/g of PEA.78 Daily consumption of one gram a day of AFA extract could constitute an effective therapeutic approach in the treatment of depression and other affective disorders.
Attention Deficit Disorder
PEA is synthesized in the brain from the two amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. It is degraded by the enzyme monoamine oxilase (MAO) into phenylacetic acid (PAA), which is eliminated in the urine. Both PEA and PAA were found to be decreased in the urine of patients suffering from depression and ADD. The PEA precursors phenylalanine and tyrosine were also both decreased in the plasma of children suffering from ADD.79
The Phenylethylamine hypothesis of affective behavior 77 states that PEA is an endogenous neuromodulator responsible for triggering or sustaining wakefulness, alertness, and excitement. Structurally, PEA is closely related to amphetamine and to a lesser extent to catecholamines. PEA induces behavioral and electrophysiological effects similar to those of some amphetamine derivatives, which are already sold under the name Adderall® for the treatment of ADD.80 However, unlike amphetamines, PEA is endogenous to the brain and does not develop tolerance or dependency, nor does it produce any side effects. Likewise, methylphenidate (Ritalin®), the most prescribed drug for the management of ADD, is believed to act by stimulating the release of endogenous norepinephrine and PEA.
PEA may therefore prove to be a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of ADD. In fact, preliminary data indicates that AFA has been effective at significantly improving concentration and mental performance shortly after consumption.78
The Phenylethylamine hypothesis of affective behavior also states that PEA is a neuromodulator that modulates mood, attention, pleasure-seeking behavior, and libido. A deficit in the brain’s level of PEA and/or a decrease in the turnover of endogenous PEA may therefore be a causal factor in certain forms of subclinical depressive conditions. Oral intake of PEA may increase PEA levels in the brain and may alleviate subclinical symptoms of depression. Individuals would then experience an increased quality of life and elevation of mood.81
Phenylalanine (PA), the precursor of PEA, has been shown to increase brain PEA content in animals. In one study, phenylalanine was shown to be effective at alleviating depression in patients with low PAA urinary excretion. Furthermore, phenylalanine led to an increase in urinary PAA excretion that was concomitant with its anti- depressant therapeutic effects. This suggests that the antidepressant and mood-elevating effects of phenylalanine may be related to its ability to increase brain levels of PEA.
All this data clearly explains the physiological mechanism behind the well-known effects of AFA on attention, mental energy, and general quality of life.
Finally, PEA also carries another interesting benefit. As mentioned before, PEA is produced by the brain when one is fully absorbed into an activity like painting, sculpting or reading a fascinating book. At such a time, the world seems to disappear around us, and we are no longer hungry. This phenomenon is not an anorectic effect in which hunger completely disappears but happens because our attention is taken away from the feeling of hunger. In this manner, PEA acts as an appetite suppressant. Therefore, through its ability to reduce appetite, AFA is an effective supplement to be taken as part of a comprehensive weight-loss program.
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