NALT / TYR
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, also known as NALT or NAT, is an easily absorbed, acetylated form of the amino acid L-Tyrosine. Acetylation allows the amino acid to become water soluble and thus used as a more bioavailable supplement. Where N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine still carries the physical benefits of standard L-Tyrosine such as offsetting physical fatigue & retention of muscle mass, in this document we will focus mainly on the cognitive performance benefits.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine improves focus, increases energy levels and gives the brain and body a performance boost, much like caffeine, minus the caffeine crash. Recent studies have continually provided evidence that TYR supplementation can improve facets of cognitive control & performance in situations with high cognitive demands and stress, as well as mental alertness, reducing mental fatigue.
Tyrosine was discovered in 1846 by a German chemist, Justus von Liebig. He was working on a study of casein protein – found in cheese – and named it after the Greek for cheese. Since its discovery over 150 years ago, Tyrosine has been researched and developed, and its acetylated form, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, is now an award-winning and highly sought-after supplement.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine has a number of benefits, which can be summed up as follows:
- Boosts Neurotransmitters For Fight or Flight Response
- Enhanced Cognitive Speed & Flexibility
- Improved Performance Under Stress
- Lowers Blood Pressure Under Stress
- Combats ADHD
Boosts Neurotransmitters For Fight or Flight Response
Once absorbed into the body, NALT reverts to L-Tyrosine and then part changes again into the neurotransmitter dopamine [source:1]. Dopamine controls the body’s movements and is essential for certain cognitive functions, such as memory, problem-solving and attention. Any unused dopamine can then modify and become norepinephrine (noradrenaline) or epinephrine (adrenaline). L-Tyrosine is therefore crucial for the healthy function of the brain, flooding it with neurotransmitters. Dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine together are known as the catecholamines.
Cognitive studies employing neuropsychological measures found that TYR loading boosts the information processing and immediate working thought-processes that are induced by demanding situational conditions such as extreme environmental pressure and cognitive load. The buffering effects of TYR on cognition may be explained by tyrosine's ability to neutralise depleted brain catecholamine levels. This evidence supports the notion that tyrosine may benefit healthy individuals exposed to demanding situational conditions such as highly attuned professional roles or elite sporting scenarios. These fight-or-flight hormones allow you to cope with acute stress, but levels can be depleted through lack of sleep or extreme temperatures. NALT can restore catecholamine levels to normal [source:2].
A Dutch study showed that as cognitive demand increases, so too does the effectiveness of L-Tyrosine. This research measured working memory through a series of tests designed to get progressively more difficult. Those with TYR supplementation performed better in the harder tests, but not in the easier ones. Researchers believe that as the stress of a difficult exam kicks in, the brain needs catecholamines in order to cope and meet the demand. As TYR boosts catecholamine levels, it appears that it can be of huge benefit during stressful situations when required to perform [source:3].
Enhanced Cognitive Speed & Flexibility
The ability to think on your feet allows you to make the best from novel situations and adapt quickly. High levels of cognitive flexibility are connected to successful & peak performances, heightened fluid intelligence, and better comprehension.
A study conducted as recently as 2015 looked at 22 adults who were assigned a task-switching procedure, so that their flexibility and response could be analysed through the evidence of proactive vs reactive control. Under a double-blind, randomised, placebo controlled design
The trial found that those taking the L-Tyrosine supplements were more cognitively flexible and responded better to the immediate changes than those in the placebo group [source:4]. Researchers concluded that TYRs ability to facilitate cognitive flexibility was mainly due to repleting those specific cognitive resources.
Improved Performance Under Stress
NALT has been shown to improve the mind and body’s response to acute stress, such as extreme sports, exams and war zones.
A University of Bedfordshire study looked at the effect of TYR on 8 football players. Their cognitive performance was measured before and after a 90 minute football exercise in 25C heat. The players were either given TYR or a placebo. The researchers found that the TYR group were more alert, vigilant and had a better reaction time, despite exercise in stressful heat levels [source:5].
Lowers Blood Pressure Under Stress
It is commonly understood that any stressful occurrence is likely to raise blood pressure in an individual. However, research in the Netherlands has demonstrated that L-Tyrosine can mitigate the effect that stress has on blood pressure, if taken prior to the event.
In the study, task performance was assessed following an episode of acute stress. Researchers found that, despite the exposure to stress, blood pressure reduced within 15 minutes of taking L-Tyrosine and normalized completely within 60 minutes. So, if a stressful event can be anticipated (for example, an exam, extreme exercise, driving), L-Tyrosine can be used to keep blood pressure lower than it might otherwise be in those circumstances [source:6].
Another beneficial effect of L-Tyrosine has been found to be in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A 1980s study found that L-Tyrosine did relieve the symptoms of ADHD, albeit only in the short-term.
A 2011 report in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment looked at the effects of using L-Tyrosine and 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) on 85 4 to 18-year-olds with ADHD. Researchers found that L-Tyrosine and 5-HTP “may be equal in efficacy to potent, pharmaceutical ADHD medications” (such as Ritalin) [source:7].
As we have seen, NALT changes into the naturally-occurring L-Tyrosine once ingested. It is considered very safe and completely non-toxic.
However, at higher doses, some people report stomach upsets and migraines, particularly amongst people who have a previous history of severe migraines.
Those with hyperthyroid conditions should not take NALT, as it can increase thyroid levels.
Further, anyone taking Selegiline, Azilect, Marplan, Nardil or medications of this nature, should not take NALT. Because they also affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain, they do not work well in conjunction with NALT, as the combination could cause an imbalance in neurotransmitter levels.
This information should be used for guidance only, please consult with a medical professional before taking any dietary supplement. Should you suffer from any ongoing medical conditions or have any concerns at all, consult your doctor in the first instance.
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Source : 1 : A, SLOMINSKI, et al. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA, Sep 2011. June 2018
Source : 2 : A, HASE, et al. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA, Jun 2015. June 2018
Source : 3 : LS, COLZATO, et al. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA, Dec 2013. June 2018
Source : 4 : L, STEENBERGEN, et al. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA, Mar 2015. June 2018
Source : 5 : NA, COULL, et al. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA, Feb 2015. June 2018
Source : 6 : JB, DEIJEN, et al. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA, 1994. June 2018
Source : 7 : M, HINZ, et al. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA, Jan 2011. June 2018