Also known as l-tyrosine, the amino acid tyrosine is a precursor to some of the most important brain chemicals and hormones. It also contributes to the structure of almost every protein in the body. The following are the five most important benefits and proven uses for tyrosine:
Tyrosine is a precursor to neurotransmitters – Tyrosine is an essential building block for catecholamines, a group of neurotransmitters composed of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Tyrosine helps keep a healthy brain chemistry by providing the raw material needed for the synthesis of catecholamines. According to research, this amino acid is actively transported across the blood-brain barrier to increase dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine in the brain. Initially, tyrosine is converted into l-dopa and then into dopamine and norepinephrine. Although simply increasing the levels of tyrosine in the body does not instantly increase neurotransmitter production, it still helps prevent neurotransmitter depletion.
Tyrosine improves dopamine-related depression – Depression is commonly believed to be caused by inadequate serotonin levels. However, other experts say that the illness may have other underlying causes, including brain inflammation, or low dopamine or norepinephrine levels. Thus, depression due to low levels of dopamine or norepinephrine could potentially be treated with tyrosine. Catecholamine-related depression causes depressive symptoms such as feelings of apathy, lethargy, and lack of zest for life.
Tyrosine fights stress – Tyrosine may not be as helpful to your mental or physical performance under normal circumstances, but it is effective as an anti-stress supplement during acute physical or mental stress. Studies revealed that tyrosine can ward off performance impairment, fatigue, mood swings, and cognitive decline caused by physical stressors. It can also prevent the decline in mental performance, motor skills, and mood caused by metal stressors.
Tyrosine helps treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – The primary cause of ADHD is believed to be dopamine dysfunction. Since tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, it may help in treating ADHD. Several studies have confirmed the usefulness of tyrosine to ADHD treatment. A study on ADHD in children revealed that those who received tyrosine together with 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a precursor of serotonin, experienced a 67 percent improvement in ADHD symptoms. (Related: Top 6 Natural Alternatives to ADD & ADHD Drugs.)
Tyrosine plays a role in phenylketonuria (PKU) treatment – Tyrosine plays an important role in the treatment of PKU, a rare inherited amino acid disorder. People with this disorder are deficient in an enzyme that breaks down the amino acid phenylalanine, which leads to its toxic buildup. If left untreated, PKU can impair the brain. PKU is largely managed by strict restriction of phenylalanine in the diet. However, tyrosine is found in protein-rich foods and made from phenylalanine, people with PKU can become deficient in tyrosine, causing behavioral problems. Thus, tyrosine supplementation is usually prescribed.
Where to get tyrosine?
There are two primary tyrosine sources: from dietary sources and from the breakdown of phenylalanine. Although the body can produce tyrosine from phenylalanine, it is not always enough. The body may not be able to produce enough tyrosine due to stress. The need for tyrosine also increases due to overwork, stress, lack of sleep, illness, or not eating enough protein. Thus, a tyrosine-rich diet can be beneficial.
The best food sources of tyrosine include the following:
If you are under stress and feel your diet does not meet your tyrosine needs, you may consider taking tyrosine supplements. Tyrosine supplements are available in two main forms: l-tyrosine and n-acetyl l-tyrosine (NALT).