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What is the Connection Between Tyrosine and Dopamine?

By Brandon May
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the reward centers in the brain of animals and humans, is derived from the amino acid tyrosine, thus explaining the link between tyrosine and dopamine. Most supplements that claim to boost dopamine production within the brain often contain the amino acid tyrosine, which first converts to L-dopa before converting into the actual neurotransmitter. The conversion between tyrosine and dopamine is important, because without the dopamine neurotransmitter, an individual is more likely to develop Parkinson's disease and will have a harder time finding life rewarding. When tyrosine and dopamine are not working properly within the brain, injections of tyrosine and dopamine are often given to help supply the brain with enough chemicals to make the conversion possible.

In order for an individual to feel alert, the brain must manufacture enough neurotransmitters, namely dopamine and norepinephrine. All neurotransmitters are manufactured during a conversion process from amino acids. Dopamine, which activates feel-good hormones that process rewards such as food and love, is produced by the amino acid tyrosine. The tyrosine and dopamine connection is found in everyday nutrition, as many foods contain tyrosine, such as nuts and dairy products.

Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body can produce it on its own without dietary sources, yet those suffering from a minor problem with producing this amino acid can supplement through diet. Those who have a problem converting dopamine from tyrosine often lack the ability to feel alert and awake at many hours of the day, and will have confused centers in the brain associated with rewards. This can lead to low energy and depression, and is often linked to Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease is also known as a dopamine deficiency.

Individuals suffering from a dopamine deficiency due to a lack of tyrosine, or an inability to convert to dopamine, are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This can lead to difficulties in walking and uncontrolled and involuntary movements and shaking, also known as tremors. Although the best treatment for this disease is to find ways of controlling the symptoms, sometimes medications are prescribed to help increase dopamine within the brain. For healthy individuals, increasing dopamine levels can be as easy as increasing physical activity and including foods that contain high levels of tyrosine.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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