Thursday, April 19, 2018

Eggs, phenylalanine, and hyperactive behavior

This last Easter, I boiled dozens of eggs for my children to dye. During the next few days, despite my limiting of Easter candy to a very small amount, my two youngest children (3 & 6 years old) were hyperactive and "crazy." Their behavior differed markedly from their normal temperament. One thing we noted was that they were living off egg whites as much as they could; they love peeling boiled eggs and eating the whites, but they avoided the yolks. So I looked into whether there was something in egg white that could explain their changed behavior.

Phenylalanine. ( It is an amino acid that is very high in eggs. It is used by the body in two different pathways, one that leads to the production of dopamine and the other that leads to the production of NMPEA (, which has a similar effect on the body as amphetamine. The first pathway depends on an iron-containing enzyme (AAAH). My children weren't getting enough iron from their diet, I believe, for they were doing their best to live off of rice, eggs, cheese, and milk, all of which are either low in iron or hinder absorption of iron. I think that due to low iron, their body was utilizing the second metabolic pathway at a higher-than-usual level and so making much of their ingested phenylalanine into NMPEA, meaning that they were being affected to some degree as though they'd been taking amphetamines. Oops.

We took the boiled eggs away from them and instead gave them more foods high in iron, and our children calmed down within two or three days. I hesitated to blog about this observation, but today I was visiting a friend whose her young children were acting "crazy" during our conversation. I told her about what happened with our children at Easter time, and she said that her children do eat a lot of eggs.

Moral of the story: If unusual food patterns are occurring alongside unusual behavior, look for possible causation.

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