Carnitine - What It is and What It is Good For

Diabetes, Heart, Weight loss, Pregnancy | April 17, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

heart, pregnancy, diabetes, weight loss

Carnitine - What It is and What It is Good For

Carnitine is an amino acid that is found in nearly all cells of the body and is involved in cellular energy production, function and integrity. It transports long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells, so they can be oxidised to produce energy. Also considered an antioxidant compound, carnitine transports the toxic compounds generated out of this cellular organelle to prevent their accumulation.

I guess you’re wondering how this superstar supplement can help you?

Carnitine can assist in fatigue, cognition, muscular support, heart health, diabetes, weight loss and fertility.

What is carnitine?

What is carnitine?Carnitine is the generic term for a number of compounds that include L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine, and propionyl-L-carnitine. Its name is derived from the Latin carnus or flesh, as the compound was first isolated from meat.

Derived from our diet, carnitine is found in high concentrations in red meat and in lower amounts in fish, chicken and even human breastmilk.

Vegetarian sources include whole wheat bread, asparagus, avocado and tempeh.
Carnitine is also manufactured in our liver and kidneys from the amino acids methionine and lysine.

L-carnitine vs. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

These are two different forms of the same amino acid. Depending on what you want to achieve, one version may be more indicated than the other.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine has the ability to pass the blood brain barrier and is useful in:

  • depression
  • cognition
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • fatigue

L-carnitine is the form most commonly used. It is used for: 

  • muscular support
  • endurance
  • weight loss
  • cardiovascular support
  • fertility

Who is  at Risk

L-carnitine vs. Acetyl-L-CarnitinePeople at highest risk of deficiency include vegans, vegetarians, infants receiving a carnitine-free formula, and those with an inherited functional defect.

Secondary deficiency can occur if there are chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, Alzheimer’s, liver disease, kidney failure or as a side-effect of certain medications.

Deficiency signs and symptoms

L-carnitine deficiency leads to an accumulation of free fatty acids within the cell. This produces a toxic effect and disturbs fatty acid use for energy production. Elevated triglycerides may also occur due to the role of carnitine in free fatty acid metabolism.

Deficiency of carnitine may result in the following:

  • Low muscle tone
  • Low blood sugars
  • Fatigue
  • Progressive myasthenia gravis (a weakness and rapid fatigue of muscles under voluntary control)
  • Cardiomyopathy (a group of diseases that affect the heart muscle)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Encephalopathy (a broad term for any brain disease that alters brain function or structure)
  • Hepatomegaly (enlarged liver)
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Failure to thrive in infants
  • Muscle fatigue and cramps

What carnitine can do for you

Boost endurance

Because carnitine plays a crucial role in energy production, it can be taken to boost energy and enhance athletic performance. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that 3 or 4 g of L-carnitine taken before physical exercise prolonged exhaustion in professional footballers. For this reason, it may especially benefit other endurance athletes such as long-distance runners, swimmers or cyclists.

Weight loss

Supplementing with L-carnitine is a way to lose weight fast—especially when combined with diet and exercise.

What carnitine can do for youA meta-analysis evaluating the efficacy of L-carnitine in weight loss found that subjects who received carnitine lost significantly more weight and had a lower body mass index.

The reason why carnitine is so effective for shedding those extra kilograms is because it enhances fat burning and increases energy expenditure during physical activity.

Heart health

Our heart is the most important muscle in the body. Studies on L-carnitine have found that this supplement can increase exercise tolerance and reduces frequency of angina attacks in patients with chronic stable angina. In patients experiencing an acute heart attack, L-carnitine is associated with a 27% reduction in all-cause mortality, a 65% reduction in ventricular arrhythmias, and a 40% reduction in anginal symptoms.

A dose of 4g per day of L-carnitine over 12 months in patients who experienced a heart attack enjoyed a better quality of life and an increase in life expectancy. This included an improvement in heart rate, blood pressure, decrease in anginal attacks and an improved lipid profile. 

Improve brain health

Looking for ways to improve cognition and mood? Acetyl-L-carnitine supplemented in elderly patients over 100 years old helped decrease fatigue and boosted cognitive function. Other studies have even found that in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, L-carnitine reversed cognitive decline and improved memory.

Fertility

As rates of infertility are increasing in both males and females—many people are turning to alternatives to boost reproductive health.

L-carnitine vs. Acetyl-L-CarnitineIn males, L-Carnitine is a necessary nutrient for sperm cells to function normally.

In studies supplementing with L-Carnitine has shown to boost sperm health by increasing sperm quality and motility. 

There is also some new and interesting research on the horizon that is very promising in female infertility.

It shows that L-Carnitine can help in improving age related infertility in women. L-Carnitine is usually used by women who are undergoing IVF or other assisted reproductive technologies.

Regulates blood sugar

Some promising research has uncovered that carnitine could aid in maintaining normal blood sugar levels and fight insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone responsible for moving sugar from our bloodstream into cells where it can be used as fuel. Too much insulin can result in insulin resistance, decreasing its effectiveness and resulting in high blood sugar.

Precautions

When taken as directed, carnitine is a safe supplement with minimal risk of side-effects. Mild gastrointestinal symptoms including stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may occur. People with chronic liver disease or epilepsy should use carnitine with caution.

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References

Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements: An evidence-based guide vol. 2. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Carnitine-HealthProfessional/

Orer GEGuzel NA. The effects of acute L-carnitine supplementation on endurance performance of athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Feb;28(2):514-9

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24263659

Pooyandjoo M, et al. The effect of (L-)carnitine on weight loss in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2016 Oct;17(10):970-6

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27335245

DiNicolantonio JJ, et al. L-carnitine in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2013 Jun;88(6):544-51

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23597877

Kitano Y, et al. Oral administration of l-carnitine improves the clinical outcome of fertility in patients with IVF treatment. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2018 Jan 29:1-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29378447

Malaguarnera M. Carnitine derivatives: clinical usefulness. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2012 Mar;28(2):166-76

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22333562

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