Tyrosine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body from another amino acid called phenylalanine. It is found in many foods, especially in cheese, where it was first discovered. In fact, “tyros” means “cheese” in Greek. Other sources of tyrosine include chicken, turkey, fish, dairy products and most other high-protein foods.
It helps make several important substances, including:
- Dopamine: Dopamine regulates your reward and pleasure centers. This important brain chemical is also important for memory and motor skills.
- Adrenaline and noradrenaline: These hormones are responsible for the fight-or-flight response to stressful situations. They prepare the body to “fight” or “flee” from a perceived attack or harm.
- Thyroid hormones: Thyroid hormones are produced by the thyroid gland and primarily responsible for regulating metabolism .
- Melanin: This pigment gives your skin, hair and eyes their color. Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin than light-skinned people.
Other benefits of Tyrosine
1. It May Improve Mental Performance in Stressful Situations
Stress is something that everyone experiences. This stress can negatively affect your reasoning, memory, attention and knowledge by decreasing neurotransmitters. In one study in 22 women, tyrosine significantly improved working memory during a mentally demanding task, compared to a placebo. Working memory plays an important role in concentration and following instructions. Additionally, supplementing with tyrosine has been shown to benefit those who are sleep deprived.
2. It Might Help Those With Phenylketonuria
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a rare genetic condition caused by a defect in the gene that helps create the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase. Your body uses this enzyme to convert phenylalanine into tyrosine, which is used to create neurotransmitters. However, without this enzyme, your body cannot break down phenylalanine, causing it to build up in the body.
3. It May Have Good Effects on Depression
Tyrosine has also been said to help with depression. Depression is thought to occur when the neurotransmitters in your brain become unbalanced. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to help realign and balance them. Because tyrosine can increase the production of neurotransmitters, it’s claimed to act as an antidepressant. However, early research doesn’t support this claim.
Nevertheless, depressed individuals with low levels of dopamine, adrenaline or noradrenaline may benefit from supplementing with tyrosine. In fact, one study among individuals with dopamine-deficient depression noted that tyrosine provided clinically significant benefits.
Side Effects of Tyrosine
Tyrosine is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration. While tyrosine is safe for most people, it can cause side effects and interact with medications like:
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) – Tyramine is an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure and is produced by the breakdown of tyrosine. Antidepressant medications known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) block the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down excess tyramine in the body. Combining MAOIs with high-tyramine foods can increase blood pressure to a dangerous level.
- Thyroid Hormone – The thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) help regulate growth and metabolism in the body. Supplementing with tyrosine may influence these hormones. This is because tyrosine is a building block for the thyroid hormones, so supplementing with it might raise their levels too high. Therefore, people who are taking thyroid medications or have an overactive thyroid should be cautious when supplementing with tyrosine.
- Levodopa (L-dopa) – Levodopa (L-dopa) is a medication commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease. In the body, L-dopa and tyrosine compete for absorption in the small intestine, which can interfere with the drug’s effectiveness. Thus, doses of these two drugs should be separated by several hours to avoid this.
How to Supplement With Tyrosine
As a supplement, tyrosine is available as a free-form amino acid or N-acetyl L-tyrosine (NALT). NALT is more water-soluble than its free-form counterpart, but it has a low conversion rate to tyrosine in the body. This means that you would need a larger dose of NALT than tyrosine to get the same effect, making the free-form the preferred choice.
Tyrosine is commonly taken in doses of 500–2,000 mg 30–60 minutes before exercise, even though its benefits on exercise performance remains inconclusive. It does seem to be effective for preserving mental performance during physically stressful situations or periods of sleep deprivation when taken in doses ranging from 45–68 mg per pound (100–150 mg per kg) of body weight. This would be 7–10 grams for a 150-pound (68.2-kg) person.
- NHS – Tyrosine
- Examine.com – L-Tyrosine Supplements
- Webmd – Vitamins
- Healthline – Nutrition:- Tyrosine
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