Tyrosine Introduction

Tyrosine is a nonessential protein amino acid that is critical for the structural integrity of nearly all proteins found in the body. It is synthesized from the essential amino acid phenylalanine, and may be conditionally essential in times of prolonged stress or severe conditions. Tyrosine is a direct precursor to the catecholamines epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are vital in processes relating to the regulation of mood, stress response, and mental functioning. [1]

Tyrosine also aids in the function and maintenance of organs responsible for the production of specialized hormones. The adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands are all dependant upon sufficient levels of tyrosine to create hormones that regulate various metabolic and neurological processes within the body. [2] Tyrosine is also required to form melanin, the dark pigment responsible for hair and skin color. This pigment is critical as it also provides protection from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light (UV exposure).

This unique nonessential amino acid may also afford the body with mild antioxidant properties. Tyrosine binds many unstable molecules that may potentially cause damage to certain cellular and tissue structures (free radicals). Supplemental tyrosine, consequently, may be beneficial for individuals suffering from the exposure to toxic chemicals often found in the pollution resulting from smoking and radiation.

Tyrosine Food Sources

Tyrosine is principally derived from animal and vegetable proteins. The highest concentrations of this nonessential amino are found in dairy products, meats, fish, almonds, avocados, and bananas. Fermented foods such as yogurt and miso also contain higher percentages of tyrosine. Serving sizes below are based upon 100 grams of a given food source and are expressed in milligrams, representing the amount of tyrosine contained.

Vegetables and Vegetable Products
mg/100g Food Name
2584 Seaweed, spirulina, dried

Baked Products
mg/100g Food Name
1579 Leavening agents, yeast, baker’s, active dry

Nut and Seed Products
mg/100g Food Name
2100 Seeds, sesame flour, low-fat
1796 Seeds, cottonseed flour
1689 Seeds, sesame flour, partially defatted

Legumes and Legume Products
mg/100g Food Name
3222 Soy protein isolate
2301 Soy protein concentrate
2122 Peanut flour, defatted
1778 Soy flour, defatted
1760 Soy flour, low-fat
1700 Soy meal, defatted, raw
1604 Tofu, dried-frozen (koyadofu)
1497 Soybeans, mature seeds, dry roasted
1457 Winged beans, mature seeds, raw

Finfish and Shellfish Products
mg/100g Food Name
2121 Fish, cod, Atlantic, dried and salted
1518 Mollusks, whelk, unspecified, cooked, moist heat

Dairy and Egg Products
mg/100g Food Name
3153 Egg, white, dried
3089 Egg, white, dried, flakes, glucose reduced
2328 Cheese, parmesan, grated
2319 Cheese, parmesan, shredded
1995 Cheese, parmesan, hard
1932 Egg, whole, dried
1776 Cheese, gruyere
1775 Cheese, romano
1746 Milk, dry, nonfat, regular, without added vitamin A
1693 Cheese, swiss
1656 Milk, buttermilk, dried
1524 Cheese, fontina
1523 Egg, yolk, dried
1520 Cheese, provolone


Tyrosine Uses

Clinical studies have suggested that tyrosine may be effective in the treatment of various cognitive disorders. Tyrosine is believed to be an adaptogen, assisting the body in coping with the effects of both psychological and physical stressors. The two main stress-related hormones, norepinephrine and epinephrine, are created by tyrosine. Supplemental tyrosine may be useful in minimizing many bodily reactions and symptoms resulting from elevated stress. [4, 5]

Tyrosine levels are often low in moderately depressed individuals. Studies have proved encouraging, regarding tyrosine supplementation and its ability to ease symptoms associated with moderate depression. Tyrosine in combination with 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) yielded even greater results in diminishing depressant activity than tyrosine administered alone. [6] Depression caused by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's disease, has also been reduced with supplemental tyrosine. [7, 8] Although these results are promising, more research is needed to accurately assess tyrosine and its continued benefit in persons suffering from mild to moderate depression.

Due to tyrosine’s ability to enhance the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, it has been used in the detoxification of certain highly addictive drugs. Tyrosine has been used in union with conventional treatments for cocaine abuse and withdrawal. Cocaine is a drug which rapidly depletes the body of natural dopamine. Cocaine and methamphetamines create an addiction to dopamine which is delivered through an increased usage of the drug. Tyrosine may assist these individuals by synthesizing more dopamine rather than relying on these harmful substances. [9] Successful withdrawals of caffeine and nicotine have also been attributed to tyrosine supplementation.

In addition, tyrosine may assist in the condition Vitiligo. Vitiligo is characterized by an irregular depigmentation of skin. It has been proposed that because tyrosine is a critical component in the formation of melanin, it may be an effective treatment for vitiligo sufferers. Phenylalanine, the essential amino acid from which tyrosine is derived, has been used successfully in the treatment of this disorder. [10] In combination with ultraviolet radiation, supplemental phenylalanine was effective in darkening the white patches, or depigmented areas, in those suffering this condition.

Ongoing studies into the benefits of tyrosine supplementation include; athletic performance, End-Stage Renal Disease, PreMenstrual Syndrome, and Parkinson's disease. [11-13]

Tyrosine Dosages

A Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) has not been established for tyrosine. Several research studies conducted upon various conditions have estimated the supplemental dosage of tyrosine being 100 milligrams per 2.2 pounds of bodyweight. This equates to approximately 7 grams per day for the average sized person. It is suggested that supplemental tyrosine be taken at least 30 minutes prior to meals so that it does not compete with the absorption of other amino acids. Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9, and copper assist tyrosine’s conversion into critical compounds in the brain.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommends that healthy people achieve .36 grams of highly bioavailable protein for each pound of bodyweight - equaling 0.8 grams of protein, per kilogram of bodyweight. Listed below are the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for the majority of amino acids. Tyrosine is an aromatic amino acid, and its approximate daily dosage is listed below.

Requirement - mg. per kg. of body weight
Amino acid Infant 3 - 6 mo. Child 10 - 12 yr. Adults
Histidine 33 not known not known
Isoleucine 80 28 12
Leucine 128 42 16
Lysine 97 44 12
S-containing amino acids 45 22 10
Aromatic amino acids 132 22 16
Threonine 63 28 8
Tryptophan 19 4 3
Valine 89 25 14


Tyrosine Toxicities and Deficiencies

Tyrosine Deficiencies

Deficiencies of tyrosine are often seen in persons suffering from the inborn error PKU, or Phenylketonuria. (See Phenylalanine) This rare condition occurs in people who lack the ability to metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine. Tyrosine is synthesized from phenylalanine. The restriction of phenylalanine from diet often times leads to a paralleled deficiency of tyrosine. Findings are mixed, but studies show that many experts recommend and advocate the supplementation of tyrosine-enriched proteins in persons suffering from this disease. [15]

Ordinarily, symptoms of tyrosine deficiency may manifest as nervousness, impaired thought patterns, emotional agitation, behavioral changes such as depression and impaired alertness, bloodshot eyes, cataracts, as well as loss of memory and sexual interest. Impacts in the production of skin melanin and insulin production have also been studied.

Lower levels of this amino acid have also been associated with the lowering of systolic blood pressure, body temperature, and impairment in the production of thyroid hormones.

Tyrosine Toxicities

It remains unclear whether prolonged usage of tyrosine in large amounts (> 1000 milligrams per day) is safe. There have been no reported side effects associated with these excessive dosages. However, It is theorized that dosages over this amount may lead to an increase in blood pressure, emotional agitation, insomnia, and frequent headaches. More research regarding tyrosine toxicity is needed.


1. Banderet LE, Lieberman HR. Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans. Brain Res Bull 1989; 22: 759-62.

2. Balch, Phyllis A., James F. “Amino Acids.” Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Ed. Amy C. Tecklenberg. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc., 3rd Ed. 2000. 42-53.

3. Nutrition Data. “999 Foods; Highest in Tyrosine.” (2004) http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/herbaldrugs/101840.shtml

4. Deijen JB, Orlebeke JF. Effect of tyrosine on cognitive function and blood pressure under stress. Brain Res Bull. 1994;33(3): 319-323.

5. Kelly GS. Nutritional and botanical interventions to assist with the adaptation to stress. Altern Med Rev. 1999;4940;249-265.

6. Chiaroni P, Azorin JM, Bovier P, et al. A multivariate analysis of red blood cell membrane transports and plasma levels of L-tyrosine and L-tryptophan in depressed patients before treatment and after clinical improvement. Neuropsychobiology. 1990;23(1):1-7.

7. Growdon JH, et al. Effects of oral L-tyrosine administration on CSF tyrosine and homovanillic acid levels in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Life Sci. Mar1982;30(10):827-32.

8. Meyer JS, et al. Neurotransmitter precursor amino acids in the treatment of multi-infarct dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. J Am Geriatr Soc. Jul1977;25(7):289-98.

9. Blum K, et al. Reduction of both drug hunger and withdrawal against advice rate of cocaine abusers in a 30 day inpatient treatment program by the neuronutrient Tropamine. Curr Ther Research. 1988;43:1204.

10. Camacho F, Mazuecos J. Treatment of vitiligo with oral and topical phenylalanine: 6 years of experience. Arch Dermatol. 1999;135:216-217.

11. Wagenmakers AJ. Amino acid supplements to improve athletic performance. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 1999;2(6):539-544.

12. Boirie Y, Albright R, Bigelow M, Nair KS. Impairment of phenylalanine conversion to tyrosine in end-stage renal disease causing tyrosine deficiency. Kidney Int. Aug2004;66(2):591-6.

13. Yehuda S. Possible anti-Parkinson properties of N-(alpha-linolenoyl) tyrosine. A new molecule. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002;72(1-2):7-11.

14. Zest for life information page. “RDA of amino acids.” (1999-2003) http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/herbaldrugs/101840.shtml (14 Sept. 2004).

15. Koch R. Tyrosine supplementation for phenylketonuria treatment. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996;64(6): 974-975.