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PEA: The Love Molecule

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It’s February again, which means on the 14th you are either reminded of your deep, intimate love relationship, or you are reminded of your singleness. Whatever your love life looks like this year, know that it is not completely your fault. You see, love is not just an emotion or feeling, it is also a biochemical process. A major player in this love chemistry is Phenylethylamine or PEA, also known as  the “love molecule”.

The Natural Amphetamine

PEA creates a euphoric feeling of pleasure, reward, and joy, as it acts as an endogenous (or natural) amphetamine [1]. For those that are unfamiliar, amphetamines are commonly prescribed for ADHD, and act as a central nervous system stimulant, causing a huge release of dopamine and norepinephrine [2]. The neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, in turn, impact libido, energy, and excitement. When a person is in love, they have increased activity in two areas of the brain called the ventral tegmental area (or VTA) and caudate nucleus [3]. The VTA and caudate nucleus are dopamine-rich areas of the brain, which contribute to feelings of reward and joy. Furthermore, research shows that dopamine can be released in the brain during sexual intercourse [4].

Love and Chocolate

Thus, as PEA can stimulate dopamine activity, PEA can play an important role in feelings of reward, joy, and “love.” If you are low on love and PEA, a way to get a natural boost is to eat some chocolate. Believe it or not, chocolate contains PEA [5]. Funny then, how Valentine’s Day is centered around love and chocolate (it seems that the two go hand-in-hand!).

The next time you are around your love partner, or encounter a person who makes you feel amazing, you can know that PEA is at work, connecting your hearts every single time.

 

Resources

[1] Kaur N, Kumari B. (2016). Phenylethlamine: Health Benefits – A Review. World J Pharm & Pharmaceut Sci. Mar;5(4):743-750.

[2] Sulzer, D., Sonders, M. S., Poulsen, N. W., & Galli, A. (2005). Mechanisms of neurotransmitter release by amphetamines: A review. Progress in Neurobiology, 75(6), 406-433. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2005.04.003

[3] Fisher, H., Aron, A., & Brown, L. L. (2005). Romantic love: An fMRI study of a neural mechanism for mate choice [Abstract]. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 493(1), 58-62. doi:10.1002/cne.20772

[4] Putnam SK, Du J, Sato S, Hull EM. Testosterone Restoration of Copulatory Behavior Correlates with Medial Preoptic Dopamine Release in Castrated Male Rats. Hormones and Behavior 2001;39(3):216–224.

[5] Irsfeld, M., Spadafore, M., & Prüß, B. M. (2013). β-phenylethylamine, a small molecule with a large impact. WebmedCentral, 4(9), 4409.

Clinical Contributor

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Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard graduated with honors from the University of California with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s Degree in Health and Nutrition Education. She also holds a Standard Designated Teaching Credential from the State of California, is a California state-certified Nutrition Consultant and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Ramona has participated in nutrition education in both public and private venues, including high school and college presentations, radio and public speaking for the past 20 years. She is the owner of Radiance, a nutrition consulting company, the Director of Education for Sanesco International, and a medical technical writer.

Disclaimer: The information provided is only intended to be general educational information to the public. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific questions about any medical matter or if you are suffering from any medical condition, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

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