Oral l-tyrosine supplementation augments the vasoconstriction response to whole-body cooling in older adults

Exp Physiol. 2017 Jul 1;102(7):835-844. doi: 10.1113/EP086329. Epub 2017 Jun 1.


What is the central question of this study? Ageing is associated with altered sympathetic responses to stress, which are explained in part by reduced noradrenergic function. The impact of supplementation with oral l-tyrosine, the amino acid precursor for catecholamine synthesis, on the effector responses to cold and exercise stress has yet to be examined. What is the main finding and its importance? Oral l-tyrosine ingestion augmented the sympathetically mediated vasoconstriction response to cold exposure in aged skin. This suggests that l-tyrosine supplementation might improve thermoregulatory function in older adults. l-Tyrosine is the primary substrate for noradrenaline biosynthesis within sympathetic axon terminals. In stressful conditions requiring increased catecholamine production, the axonal l-tyrosine concentration may limit the full expression of the sympathetic effector response and this may be particularly evident in older adults. We hypothesize that oral l-tyrosine supplementation will increase the sympathetic response to whole-body cooling and muscle metaboreflex activation. In a randomized, double-blind design, 11 young (Y = 24 ± 1 years) and 11 older participants (O = 68 ± 4 years) ingested either 150 mg kg-1 of l-tyrosine or placebo before commencing 30 min of whole-body cooling to induce a gradual decline in skin temperature from 34 to 30.5°C. Laser Doppler flux (LDF) was measured at the ventral forearm, and cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) was calculated as CVC = LDF/mean arterial pressure and expressed as a percentage change from baseline (%ΔCVC). Two minutes of static hand-grip exercise (35% maximal voluntary contraction) followed by 3 min of postexercise ischaemia were implemented before and toward the end of the cooling bout. l-Tyrosine supplementation did not affect blood pressure or heart rate responses to exercise or postexercise ischaemia. However, the blunted vasoconstriction response to whole-body cooling in older adults (placebo: Y = 39 ± 5%ΔCVC and O = 16 ± 2 %ΔCVC; P < 0.05) was augmented after l-tyrosine supplementation (l-tyrosine: Y = 40 ± 4%ΔCVC and O = 32 ± 5 %ΔCVC; P < 0.05). These results suggest that l-tyrosine bioavailability might limit thermoregulatory function in an older population.

Keywords: adrenergic; handgrip exercise; metaboreflex; microdialysis; skin blood flow; temperature regulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Propranolol / pharmacology
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow / drug effects*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin Temperature / drug effects
  • Tyrosine / administration & dosage
  • Tyrosine / pharmacology*
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects*
  • Vasoconstriction / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Tyrosine
  • Propranolol
  • Norepinephrine