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Tyrosine: What It Is, Function And Foods That Contain It

Tyrosine is a non-essential aromatic amino acid, that is, it is produced by the body from another amino acid called phenylalanine, in addition to this, it can also be ingested through foods such as cheeses, fish, avocado and nuts, for example, and in the form of nutritional supplement as L-tyrosine. 

This amino acid is a precursor of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, so it is associated with antidepressant effects, and is also involved in the formation of melanin, the latter being a substance that gives color to the skin, eyes and hair. 

What it is for

Tyrosine provides various health benefits, these include:

  • It may act as an antidepressant and improve mood;
  • It may help improve memory in stressful situations, improving the ability to perform various tasks under pressure. However, some studies show that in older people it may not cause this effect;
  • It participates in the formation of red and white blood cells;
  • It could help in the treatment of some diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. 
  • Also, its supplementation could help people suffering from phenylketonuria, a disease where they are not able to metabolize phenylalanine, because tyrosine is produced in the body from phenylalanine, so people with this problem could suffer from a tyrosine deficit, however, studies in this regard are not conclusive. 

    Main functions in the body

    Tyrosine is an amino acid that fulfills several functions in the body, it reaches the brain and becomes a precursor of some neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline, forming an essential part of the nervous system. 

    In addition to this, tyrosine also acts in the formation of thyroid hormones, catecholestrogens and melanin. It is also part of many proteins in the body, including enkephalins, the body’s natural analgesic, so called because they are involved in pain regulation. 

    List of foods rich in Tyrosine

    The main foods rich in tyrosine are milk and its derivatives, other foods include: 

  • Eggs;
  • Fish and meats;
  • Nuts such as walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts;
  • Avocado;
  • Peas and beans;
  • Rye and barley.
  • Besides this, other foods where it can be found are mushrooms, green beans, potatoes, chayota, eggplant, beets, radish, okra, turnip, chicory, asparagus, broccoli, parsley, cucumber, red onion, spinach, tomato, cabbage.

    Tyrosine Supplements

    There are two types of supplements, one containing the free amino acid tyrosine and the other containing N-acetyl L-tyrosine, better known as NALT. The difference is that NALT is more soluble in water, so it is metabolized in the body more slowly, so to exert the same effect as free tyrosine, the doses must be higher.

    To improve mental performance in a stressful situation or period of sleep deprivation, the recommendation is 100 to 200 mg/kg body weight of tyrosine per day. In addition to this, although studies are not conclusive regarding the intake of this amino acid before physical activity to improve performance during exercise, in general the recommended doses vary between 500 to 2000 mg, 1 hour before the activity.

    For any effect, the ideal is to consult a doctor or nutritionist before ingesting a tyrosine supplement.

    Contraindications to supplementation

    Avoid use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, because there is not enough information about it. It should also be avoided by people with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease.

    Tyrosine may interact with drugs such as Levodopa, with drugs to treat thyroid problems and with monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant drugs, because it may cause increased blood pressure.

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