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What is the role of tyrosine in brain health?

tyrosine supplements

What is L-tyrosine?

tyrosine is an amino acid and the building block to your reward and pleasure chemical messenger; dopamine. Dopamine is released when you derive pleasure from sex, great food, and a sense of accomplishment. According to the Natural Medicines database, dopamine is responsible for modulating emotional states, sex drive (libido) and body movements [1], and the capacity to handle your everyday stress [2].

Who might benefit from focusing on tyrosine intake?

if you follow a vegan diet there is a chance you might want to pay closer attention to your dietary tyrosine intake. Tyrosine is found in protein-rich foods and the highest sources are found in animal-based proteins [4]. The top plant-based sources of tyrosine are seaweed, pumpkin leaves and cooked mustard greens [5]. A 2010 Cochrane review also found those people with a rare genetic disorder that struggle to breakdown another dietary amino acid (phenylalanine) may benefit from tyrosine supplementation [6]

How does tyrosine work?

tyrosine is converted into dopamine via L-DOPA [7] and it has been shown to release spikes of dopamine in regions of the brain centrally involved in emotional response and reinforcing behaviours [8]. A 2015 US military clinical review on studies found that "the effects of tyrosine are found 60- 300 minutes after ingestion; plasma levels peak at about 120 minutes. Accordingly, future studies should strongly consider administering tyrosine approximately 2 hours before performance tasks" [9]

Alertness and motivation?

the Journal of Psychopharmacology published a study that found 5 hours post-ingestion of tyrosine increased alertness [10], and investigations into diets depleted in tyrosine highlighted an association between decreased dopamine synthesis and slower reaction time in phasic alertness tasks [11].

when you anticipate an event as well as the event itself has been shown to spike dopamine levels spike and to induce motivation and alertness. This response is important because it encourages you to act on the perceived benefit you or avoid something negative [12].

Dopamine and sexual libido

motivation also plays a significant role in your sexual libido.  When anticipating sexual activity, erotic stimuli triggers dopamine which encourages us to seek reward. MRI scans revealed that whilst in a subconscious state, adults that looked at erotic images for 6 minutes had a surge of dopamine release and activity in reward-related brain areas [13].

Does tyrosine impact your stress response?

tyrosine is not a relaxant. However, there is some evidence that shows it can improve two outcomes where acute stressors are involved [15].

  1. Cognition: in short term, stressful situations, clinical reviews suggest that tyrosine may help to improve decision making when dopamine is depleted, particularly in cognitively demanding tasks [16]. A military study revealed that cadets that consumed L tyrosine improved on their memory, tracking tasks, and cognitive performance in comparison to control [17]. Those tasks occurred whilst they were undergoing high-intensity training and additional stressors such as heat whilst further studies have suggested the administration of tyrosine may promote convergent (deep) thinking when multitasking creative tasks [18].
l tyrosine and 5-htp

2. Reduction in fear:  Research on the administration of tyrosine measuring patient self-assessment of fear, stress, and tension was able to demonstrate that tyrosine reduced fear expression [20] when subjected to negative audio and visual stimuli.

Can tyrosine improve mood?

Acute tyrosine depletion studies have induced mood lowering in healthy women with mild seasonal changes to mood and behaviour [23] and it is believed that an imbalance of dopamine in the brain adversely affects mood. The amino acids tyrosine and 5-htp have been widely studied to test their impact on serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is released in regions of the brain that are involved in emotional connection and mood and a 2015 study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that “boosting dopamine increased happiness resulting from some rewards” [22]. Trying to feel motivated, rewarded, and pleasured whilst running low on dopamine may feel like running a marathon with a broken leg to some.

tyrosine supplementation

Anecdotal evidence found online such as L tyrosine Reddit discussions frequently discuss high dose tyrosine [24] but these can cause side effects including headaches and nausea [25].  Speak to a nutritionist or healthcare professional about tyrosine supplements and buy from reputable health food stores such as Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic or even L tyrosine from Holland and Barrett. brain feed has a 750mg natural tyrosine from fermented corn and you can read more about it here.

[1] Nootriment (2018) Is tyrosine the best dopamine-boosting supplement to take? [2] Grevet et al (2002) Behavioural effects of acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion in healthy male volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology. [3] Grevet et al (2002) Behavioural effects of acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion in healthy male volunteers. Journal of Psychoparmacology.[4] Nutrition Data (2018) Foods highest in Tyrosine.  [6] Webster, D. & Wildgoose, J (2010) Tyrosine supplementation for phenylketonuria. Chochrane Library[7] Livestrong (2021) l-tyrosine vs l-dopa. [8] Tyree, S. & Lecea, L.D. (2017) Lateral Hypothalamic Control of the Ventral Tegmental Area: Reward Evaluation and the Driving of Motivated Behavior. Frontiers in systems neuroscience. [9] Attipoe et al (2015) Tyrosine for mitigating stress and enhancing performance in healthy adult humans, a rapid evidence assessment of  the literature. Military Medicine. [10] Grevet et al (2002) Behavioural effects of acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion in healthy male volunteers. Journal of Psychoparmacology. [11] Hildebrand et al (2015) Effects of dietary tryptophan and phenylalaninetyrosine depletion on phasic alertness in healthy adults - A pilot study. Food & Nutrition Research. [12] Asociacion (2013) Dopamine regulates motivation to act, study shows.  [13] Oei et al (2012) Dopamine Modulates Reward System Activity During Subconscious Processing of Sexual Stimuli. Neuropsychopharmacology. [14] The Conversaiton (2017) Now for some good news: regular sex benefits your mental health, too. [15] Lieberman, H.R.(1994) Tyrosine and Stress: Human and Animal Studies. [16] Jongkees et al (2015) Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands—A review. Journal of Psychiatric Research. [17]Deijen et al (1999) Tyrosine improves cognitive performance and reduces blood pressure in cadets after one week of a combat training course. Brain Research Bulletin. [18] Nutrition Reviews (2015) Food for Creativity: Tyrosine Promotes Deeper Thinking in New Study. [19] Rutledge et al (2015) Dopaminergic Modulation of Decision Making and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Neuroscience 35.[20] Sorenzo, A. & Aquili, L (2019) Fear expression is suppressed by tyrosine administration. [21] Parker G. & Brotchie, H. () Mood effects of amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. [22] Rutledge et al (2015) Dopaminergic Modulation of Decision Making and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Neuroscience 35.[23] Cawley et al (2013) Dopamine and light:dissecting effects on mood and motivation states in women with subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience [24] Reddit (2021) How true id this statement about l-Tyrosine? Is it basically worthless because of such high doses needed? [25] Grevet et al (2002) Behavioural effects of acute phenylalanine and tyrosine depletion in healthy male volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology. [26] U.S. National Library of Medicine (2020) Contributions of L-tyrosine to human decision making in stressful situations (TYRO-STRESS).

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