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Dopa Mucuna Benefits, Side Effects & Safety Information

Published: 13th May 2018. Last updated: 21th July 2019.

Shaun Ward MSc ANutr

Staff Writer


Introduction

Dopa mucuna is a plant that is mainly found in India, Africa, and the Caribbean.

The reason this plant is currently being studied is because it contains a unique amino acid called L-DOPA (also known as Levodopa), which is a precursor to dopamine – a chemical messenger responsible for facilitating communications between nerve cells [1].

Furthermore, L-DOPA itself mediates neurotrophic factor release by the brain and central nervous system [2]. Neutrophic factors are a group of small proteins that support the number and activity of developing and mature neurons.

Humans naturally synthesize L-DOPA via the biosynthesis from the amino acid L-tyrosine, however consuming L-DOPA directly from food is linked to more significant effects.

The Potential Benefits of Dopa Mucuna

Below is a list of potential benefits we've found that have credible scientific backing:

It May Be An Antioxidant

An antioxidant is a substance that reduces damage due to oxygen, such as that caused by free radicals.

Dopa mucuna has shown to possess antioxidant capabilities [3]. Unfortunately the strength and significance of this antioxidant effect on human health has not been established.

Based on phytochemical analyses, the extracts responsible for these effects are the saponins, tannins, anthraquinones, terpenoids, flavonoids, and cardiac glycosides.

It May Treat Neurodegenerative Conditions

Many neurological disorders are a result of major losses in dopaminergic neurons in the brain, which contain the main source of dopamine for the central nervous system.

To help prevent this, L-DOPA crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases the survival of dopaminergic neurons through modulating cell survival and apoptotic pathways (programmed cell death) [4]. In turn, this may increase dopamine concentrations in the brain.

The phenolic antioxidant compounds in dopa mucuna may also have a small role in neural function by acting as free radical scavengers and reducing cell damage [5].

For these reasons, L-DOPA is commonly linked in treatments for neurogenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease.

It May Reduce Macular Degeneration

People with age-related macular degeneration experience a gradual loss of central vision over many years.

A retrospective analysis concluded that patients supplementing with L-DOPA delayed their onset of the macular degeneration by around 8 years compared to those that do not supplement [6].

This is due to the discovery that L-DOPA can bind to and activate a G protein-coupled receptor (GPR143) that is expressed in the retina. This receptor is a primary support tissue for the neurosensory retina, and controls trophic factor release that protects against macular degeneration.

How To Take Dopa Mucuna?

As of right now, the optimal dosage of dopa mucuna has not been determined.

Based on the extremely limited amount of evidence, 5 grams of dopa mucuna powder has been used with moderate effectiveness in some human studies on parkinson's disease and fertility. At the very least, this should be a good starting point for most people.

Be aware, some dopa mucuna supplements have a standardized amount of L-DOPA, and others are processed to include a higher concentration. If this is the case, then it is advised to start with half the standard dose – 2.5 grams.

Dopa Mucuna Safety and Side Effect Information

Even in human research that lasts 20 weeks with doses as high as 30 grams, no significant adverse effects have been noted [7].

The only potential negative effects are seen in animal studies that use ~30mg per kg bodyweight, including hyperventilation and a reduced functioning of the nervous system [8].

There is also some concern that L-DOPA may lead to increased dopamine signaling in the peripheral nervous system – the portion of the nervous system that is outside the brain and spinal cord. Excessive dopamine signaling in this area may be undesirable as it can cause many adverse side effects. In fact, in standard clinical practices they actively try to bypass these side effects by using a peripheral DOPA decarboxylase inhibitor such as carbidopa alongside dopa mucuna.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Disturbed respiration
  • Hypotension
  • Arrhythmia
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Hair loss
  • Insomnia

Conclusion

Dopa mucuna is a plant that contains a unique amino acid called L-DOPA.

L-DOPA is a precursor to dopamine, and also mediates neurotrophic factor release by the brain and central nervous system.

Current evidence suggests dopa mucuna may act as an antioxidant and help prevent certain neurodegenerative and eye diseases.

However, because the safety of dopa mucuna has not been established it is not currently recommended to use this supplement.

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