The Amazing Health Benefits Associated with Carnitine
Carnitine (LC) is a type of quaternary ammonium cation, also known as a quad. It’s derived from two essential amino acids, lysine and methionine. Found in almost all cells within the body, carnitine is the generic term used to describe various compounds including acetyl-L-carnitine, L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine.
Synthesised principally within the liver and kidneys, LC plays a vital role in energy production. Long-chain fatty acids are transported by LC into the mitochondria for oxidation to generate energy. This quad also helps to prevent the accumulation of toxic by-products created during oxidation by removing the compounds from the cells. The highest concentrations of LC can be found within tissues that use fatty acids, such as the cardiac and skeletal muscles.
The Many Benefits of Carnitine
Researchers have extensively studied LC because of its vital role in energy production. It has been shown to be a safe and well-tolerated therapeutic agent, with a wide range of beneficial health applications. Below, we have outlined some of the positive influences LC can have on our health.
Carnitine supplements have been shown to offer many benefits for anyone wanting to get fit or improve athletic performance. By increasing the dietary intake of LC, its concentration can be elevated within the muscles. This leads to more available energy during exercise, ultimately increasing performance through better energy use.
In order for LC to accumulate within muscle tissue it must be complemented by high insulin concentrations. While carb loading is an option, a much healthier alternative is to take omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have a wide range of health benefits, including increasing the sensitivity of cells to insulin. Together with omega-3s, LC can help reduce fatigue during exercising, enable longer workouts, make recovery easier and faster, plus contribute to a better overall physical performance.
It’s important to note that research has shown that it can take up to six months of LC supplementation before levels are sufficient to take advantage of improved energy production1. Also, you won’t gain the full fitness potential without paring LC supplements with omega-3 supplements (or carb loading).
Another great benefit of combining LC and omega-3 supplements is weight loss. The increase in available energy and the ease of exercising promotes fat burning. Also, research has shown that LC can reduce visceral and subcutaneous fat gain2. Both these types of fat are troublesome to eliminate and can lead to atherosclerosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
One of the contributing factors to the aging process is a decline in mitochondrial function. It is thought that LC may be a contributing factor because its concentration declines within the tissues as we age and mitochondrial membrane integrity is reduced as a consequence3.
Several studies have investigated the effects of LC on old-aged rats456. Results showed that mitochondrial decay can be reduced by supplementing the rats’ diet with high doses of alph-lipoic acid (a type of antioxidant) and acetyl-L-carnitine. Furthermore, cognitive function of elderly rats was also shown to improve in conjunction with this supplementation.
While more research is necessary, results have also shown that LC can help to slow down the aging process in humans. This may have important implications for treating dementia patients and those suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s78.
Cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome, is commonly associated with diseases such as AIDs, heart disease, cancer, and lung disease. It’s characterised by progressive muscle and weight loss, impaired organ function, poor insulin health, cognitive decline, and inflammation; amongst other ailments.
Carnitine supplementation can help to repair metabolic rates in infected individuals and fight against the progression of these life-threatening illnesses. One particular study investigated the impact of LC supplements on men suffering from cachexia as a result of pancreatic cancer. The results showed that patients taking LC supplements had increased energy metabolism, their lean mass improved, and their quality of life was enhanced9. Many of these patients had reduced hospital stays and better survival rates when compared with patients that took the placebo.
Individuals that suffer from type 2 diabetes typically exhibit some level of insulin resistance. Research has identified a possible link between insulin resistance and dysfunctional fatty-acid oxidation within the muscle tissues 10.
If mitochondrial defects are a factor in developing this disease, it’s reasonable to suggest that LC supplements may help in its treatment. This idea has been supported in a number of studies that have shown an improvement in insulin sensitivity following the supplementation with intravenous L-carnitine1112.
The protection against oxidative stress offered by LC is another benefit for diabetics taking supplements. Carnitine supplements can help to reduce the risk of developing other health problems (such as cardiovascular diseases) which commonly occur in diabetics.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) leads to a reduction in the concentration of white blood cells called lymphocytes, causing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Individuals infected by HIV tend to lose fat in some areas and accumulate more fat in other areas. They also have high blood fat levels (hyperlipidemia) and develop insulin resistance, causing the lipodystrophy syndrome.
There has been a lot of research into the treatment of HIV and the role of LC. Studies have shown that LC supplementation, both orally and intravenously, in HIV infected individuals can slow the diseases’ progression through reducing the death of lymphocytes15. Nerve damage is also shown to decline16 and blood lipid levels respond favourably to LC17. Alongside conventional treatments, LC supplementation may reduce the physical side effects of the HIV virus and help patients lead a better quality of life.
Carnitine may offer an important breakthrough in the treatment of male infertility. Research has established that sperm count and motility is directly influenced by LC18. Various studies have suggested the LC supplementation may improve the quality of sperm by increasing the sperm count and promoting forward motility1920.
These results may reflect an increase in available energy from enhanced mitochondrial activity and a reduction in sperm mortality.
You can read a detailed article on the fertility benefits of L-carnitine here.
There has been a lot of interest in examining the supplementation of LC to assist in the management of cardiovascular diseases. A failing heart muscle has low LC concentrations and it’s theorised that through LC supplementation, carbohydrate metabolism may improve and the toxic impacts of free fatty acids may be counteracted.
Results from one preliminary clinical trial in Italy found that supplemental LC decreased heart failure and mortality in patients who had already suffered a heart attack21. With further clinical trials underway, LC supplementation may become common place in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
Here is a very informative video, which both summarises and elaborates on many of the arguments explored in this articles further:
For most people, the body is able to manufacture a sufficient amount of LC to meet daily needs. However, for medical or genetic reasons, some people are unable to generate LC in the necessary quantities and dietary supplements become necessary.
The required dosage of LC supplements must be determined on an individual basis and can vary between 500mg and 5,000mg per day. For example, patients suffering from certain diseases may require a very different daily dose of LC in comparison with an athlete hoping to enhance their performance. Consulting a nutritional specialist is always a good idea before taking supplements to ensure the best results.
In any case, a diet rich in the amino acids lysine and methionine is highly recommended. These amino acids will allow the body to synthesise LC, as well as perform other important body functions.
Carnitine Rich Foods
In order to promote LC synthesis, the body must receive an adequate intake of lysine and methonine. Red meat and dairy products are the best foods to support LC production. Other natural sources include legumes, seeds (sunflower, sesame), pulses (peas, beans, peanuts, lentils), cereals, fruits (bananas, apricots) and vegetables (broccoli, collard greens, asparagus, artichokes, parsley). Many types of fish are also great for manufacturing LC and have the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods containing L-carnitine22
|Beef steak||100 g||95 mg|
|Ground beef||100 g||94 mg|
|Pork||100 g||27.7 mg|
|Bacon||100 g||23.3 mg|
|Tempeh||100 g||19.5 mg|
|Cod fish||100 g||5.6 mg|
|Chicken breast||100 g||3.9 mg|
|American cheese||100 g||3.7 mg|
|Ice cream||100 ml||3.7 mg|
|Whole milk||100 ml||3.3 mg|
|Avocado||one medium||2 mg|
|Cottage cheese||100 g||1.1 mg|
|Whole-wheat bread||100 g||0.36 mg|
|Asparagus||100 g||0.195 mg|
|White bread||100 g||0.147 mg|
|Macaroni||100 g||0.126 mg|
|Peanut butter||100 g||0.083 mg|
|Rice (cooked)||100 g||0.0449 mg|
|Eggs||100 g||0.0121 mg|
|Orange juice||100 ml||0.0019 mg|
While we would all love to eat a balanced diet rich in methonine and lysine, the reality is that for many people it isn’t always possible to get the balance right. There are a range of supplements available to help individuals boost LC concentrations.
Carnitine is a popular health supplement and is provided in manydifferent forms such as Acetyl-L-Carnitine, L-Carnitine-L-Tartrate or L-Carnitine fumarate. One particular form, Carnipure™, stands out for its pharmaceutical grade purity. It is manufactured using a patented proces and designed to help individuals that are physically stressed or LC deficient.
Carnitine clearly plays a very important role in keeping our body functioning at an optimal level. It is vital for cellular energy production and for the removal of toxins from our body. A deficiency in LC negatively impacts biochemical processes and promotes the development of serious diseases.
Consequently, it’s essential that we are able to maintain favourable concentrations of carnitine. Eating food rich in lysine and methonine, and taking supplements such as carnipure, can help to elevate LC levels. Not only will this safeguard our body against developing chronic diseases, it can also promote weight loss and advanced fitness, further protecting our body.
For those individuals that are already suffering from life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, HIV/AIDs, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, LC has proven to be beneficial across a wide range of studies. Reducing the symptoms of these diseases and improving the quality of life is something that carnitine may contribute towards.
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