Phenylalanine is part of aspartame, an artificial sweetener that in large doses can be harmful to health. Find out why.
Although it is true that phenylalanine is characterized by being an essential amino acid (that is, fundamental for our body because it is not capable of producing them by itself), which among other basic functions our brain uses for the production of norepinephrine, it is also known for being part of aspartame, an artificial sweetener that in a very common – and usual – way we can find in different foods, beverages and dietary products.
In fact, almost certainly, at some point, you will have taken a look at your usual sweetened soft drink (for example, Pepsi Diet or the popular Coca Cola Zero) and you will have noticed the following message: it contains a source of phenylalanine.
Indeed, it is a part of the composition of aspartame, an artificial sweetener that we find in most diet foods, and its use in refreshing beverages is very common.
Why is a product advertised as containing a source of phenylalanine?
The main reason is that the consumption of phenylalanine products is not recommended either by pregnant women or by patients with phenylketonuria (i.e., phenylketonurics).
In the case of phenylketorunia, it is a genetic disease due to the lack of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase or dihydropterine reductase, the deficiency of which causes phenylalanine to degrade in an alternate metabolic pathway towards phenylpyruvate, a neurotoxic agent that seriously affects the brain during development and growth. Precisely the accumulation of phenylpyruvate causes phenylpyruvic oligophrenia, which is characterized by an IQ below 20.
With regard to the consumption of aspartame, in the European Union a daily upper limit value of 40 mg / kg of body weight is recommended. For example, for a 70 kg person. It is equivalent to 2800 mg, which is – obviously – a tremendously excessive amount, hence it is common for the recommended consumption not to be exceeded.