Tyrosine is an amino acid produced when the body breaks down phenylamine amino acid. Tyrosine supplement can help produce important hormones, such as dopamine and melanin. It can also help in producing mental performance with minimum side effects.

The world of dietary supplements is diverse, with many claimed to improve health and solve several ailments. One such supplement is tyrosine, taken by some people to enhance their attention, alertness, and focus. Tyrosine is believed to improve certain brain chemicals, helping regulate one’s mood and enhance nerve cells communication. Though tyrosine may have several benefits, it carries some side effects and could interact with some medications.

What is Tyrosine?

In certain conditions, the body releases phenylamine amino acids that naturally produce another amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine was discovered in cheese, where it is richly found. However, it is found in other foods, such as turkey, fish, chicken, high-protein foods, and dairy products.

What does tyrosine Do?

It is used in making the following substances:

Dopamine– Hormone dopamine regulates pleasure and reward centers. It is also used in improving motor skills and memory.

Noradrenaline and adrenaline– These hormones are used by the body to engage flight-or-fight mode when under stress.

Thyroid hormones– This hormone from the thyroid gland is needed by the body to regulate metabolism.

Melanin– This chemical helps give pigment to your skin, eyes, and hair their color.

Apart from food, tyrosine can also be taken as a dietary supplement to enhance levels of neurotransmitters, helping improve brain function.

It may enhance mental performance.

We are all subjected to stressful situations every day, which could affect our attention, memory, and reasoning as it decreases neurotransmitters. One study had rodents subjected to an environmental stressor of cold temperatures and found that their neurotransmitters declined, impairing their memory. These rodents were then given a tyrosine supplement, and their memory and neurotransmitters were restored.

One human study involving 22 women found that tyrosine elevated their working memory when performing the demanding task than the placebo group. This amino acid can increase cognitive flexibility, which can switch from thoughts to tasks.

Some studies also a certain that tyrosine supplements can benefit individuals deprived of sleep to stay alert during the day. This supplement has also been found to help correct mental decline and enhance cognitive function during demanding situations.

Tyrosine may help individuals with phenylketonuria.

 Those with a gene defect responsible for creating the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase could develop a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria. The body uses the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase to convert amino acid phenylalanine to tyrosine used in creating neurotransmitters. Lack of phenylalanine hydroxylase will lead to a build-up of phenylalanine in the body.

This disorder is often treated by following a diet limiting the intake of foods rich in phenylalanine; however, this action can cause behavioral problems since the body will lack tyrosine coming from phenylalanine. Supplementing with tyrosine means that the body does not need phenylalanine, thus helping correct the symptoms of phenylketonuria. Some studies disagree on the effects of tyrosine supplements on the disorder symptoms, with some studies showing positive impact while others show no significant improvements.

Tyrosine and Depression

 Some have claimed that tyrosine can help alleviate depression. Those supporting this assertion believe that an imbalance in brain neurotransmitters causes depression. Antidepressants have been used to try to balance and realign the imbalance. Since studies show that tyrosine can enhance neurotransmitters production, it is thought to act as an antidepressant.

Nevertheless, early studies dispute this claim. For instance, one study involving 65 people having depression gave these participants 2.5 mg/kg of antidepressants, 100 mg/kg of tyrosine, or a placebo daily for four weeks. The result found that tyrosine had no antidepressant effects. Since depression is a complicated disorder, food supplements, such as tyrosine, struggle to combat its symptoms.

Tyrosine can help individuals with depression due to low levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and thyroid. One study demonstrated that people having dopamine-deficient depression experienced some clinical benefits by supplementing with tyrosine.

Tyrosine’s Side Effects

The FDA classifies tyrosine as a safe supplement. Doctors have recommended adaily dose of 150 mg/kg of one’s body weight for three months. Though it is often regarded as safe, it could interact with certain medications. When tyrosine is broken down, it creates tyramine, an amino acid responsible for regulating blood pressure. Some foods such as soy products, cheese, and smoked meat have high amounts of tyramine that can react with antidepressants, thus dangerously increasing blood pressure levels. However, it is not yet established whether taking tyrosine supplements can result in tyramine build-up; therefore, those taking antidepressants should exercise caution.

Tyrosine supplements may increase the levels of thyroid hormone that control metabolism and growth in the body.  This scenario is explained by the fact that tyrosine is used to produce thyroid hormones; therefore, individuals on thyroid medication or having an overactive thyroid should exercise caution with tyrosine supplements.

Tyrosine often competes for absorption with Levodopa, a medication for Parkinson’s disease. It means that tyrosine may interfere with the proper function of the drug. People on Levodopa should put a gap of hours between the tyrosine supplement and the drug.

How You Can Supplement with Tyrosine

Tyrosine is found as a free-form amino acid or N-acetyl L-tyrosine (NALT). Though NALT is water-soluble, its conversion rate to tyrosine is low, meaning a person needs more doses than one would tyrosine, making free-form amino acids the favorable choice. Research shows that tyrosine supplements can improve mental performance during bouts of sleep deprivation or physical stress when taken in the right amounts. Higher doses have been found to contribute to gastrointestinal upset.

The Bottom Line.

Tyrosine is a famous amino acid used as a dietary supplement for several reasons. The body uses tyrosine to enhance the production of neurotransmitters during stressful situations. Studies give evidence that tyrosine can help replenish neurotransmitters, thus improving mental functions. Generally, tyrosine is considered safe; however, it can interact with some drugs, especially antidepressants and thyroid drugs, thus warranting the need for caution. Though some claim that tyrosine can help alleviate depression, there is no concrete evidence to support the assertions.

MS, University of Tartu
Sleep specialist

Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.

Latest from Health