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Tyrosine for your thoughts

“You are what you eat”, the wisdom of ancient worlds would be even more accurate if one tried to narrow the scope of eating to “eating amino acids”. Among others, you need to ingest essential amino acids to stay alive; you need to eat tryptophan to be in positive mood, proline to keep healthy skin or glutamate to preserve your intestines moving (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24251696). This list would be very long…

It sounds too simple, but in this case “simple” is not naïve. Let’s look at what science says. In a recent study (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25257259), clinicians investigated whether creativity was promoted by supplementing diet with the non-essential amino acid tyrosine. The biochemical reason was pretty straightforward; tyrosine is the precursor of brain neurotransmitter dopamine, which is assumed to underline creativity and dietary intake of tyrosine correlates with much of tyrosine actually finishes in your brain. Scientists found evidence that tyrosine promoted deep thinking which required substantial cognitive control, suggesting that tyrosine may facilitate creative operations. Wow, can we still categorize tyrosine as a “non-essential amino acid”?

This line of thinking is not even new. Among others, you may have a look at the following 40-year-old review article focused on dietary control of some brain neurotransmitters (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1093382). A few researchers in the four decades demonstrated positive impact of supplemental tyrosine on various aspects of memory performance, mostly in situations when the cognition was compromised by outside factors, such as sleep deprivation www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12887140 or stress. For example, one human test showed that exposure to very cold weather degraded cognitive performance (that sounds logical since a freezing body must concentrate on more pressing issues than cognitive brilliance) and supplementation with tyrosine significantly normalized it (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17585971).

To strengthen experimental evidence, researchers tried also to look at cognitive effects of tyrosine depletion (i.e., www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16163534), reversing the above logic and expecting a drop in memory performance. Interestingly, they found only minor impact on spatial working memory and planning accuracy. Well, it seems the human brain is truly a complicated “machine” and a removal of one “memory fuel”, in a form of the amino acid tyrosine, does not lead to a complete break-down of higher cognitive functions. But, to be on the save side, eat foods rich in fish, turkey, egg white or simple try high quality tyrosine supplements.