Carnitine is a compound derived from two amino acids, lysine and methionine. It is produced naturally by the body. The biological form of carnitine is L-carnitine, it is also sold as a food supplement under the name L-carnitine. It is used to increase physical performance and because it is said to be a powerful fat burner. The supplements are also used by people with low levels of carnitine in the body and during pregnancy. We take stock in this article on the supposed effects and proven benefits of carnitine.
The role of L-carnitine in the body
In cells, it helps transport fatty acids into the mitochondria, where they can be burned to form energy.
5 Benefits of Carnitine
1. Carnitine and weight loss
In theory, using L-carnitine as a weight loss supplement makes sense.
Since L-carnitine helps transport fatty acids into your cells to be burned and make energy, you would think it would increase your ability to burn fat and lose weight.
In one study, 38 women were divided into two groups. One group took a supplement of L-carnitine, while the other did not. The two groups performed four weekly sports sessions for eight weeks.
The researchers found no difference in weight loss between the two groups, although five participants taking L-carnitine experienced nausea or diarrhea (24).
Another study in humans monitored the effect of L-carnitine on the amount of fat that participants burned during a 90-minute exercise session on an exercise bike.
Researchers found that taking supplements for 4 weeks did not increase the amount of fat burned by participants (28).
However, an analysis of nine studies found that participants lost an average of 1.3 kg while taking L-carnitine. Most of these studies involved obese or elderly people (29).
More research is needed to confirm the benefits of L-carnitine in a younger, more active population. It can help with weight loss in obese or elderly people, although good nutrition and exercise should be put in place in the first place.
2. Benefits for brain function
L-carnitine may have benefits for brain function.
In special cases, it can even help protect your brain from cell damage. In one study, alcoholics took 2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine daily for 90 days. They then showed significant improvements in all functions of the brain. ((38).
More research is needed to investigate the long-term benefits in healthy people who have no disease or problems with brain function.
3. Heart health
Some interesting readings:
In one study, participants took 2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine per day. This reduced systolic blood pressure, an important indicator of heart health and risk of disease (23).
A 12-month study found a reduction in heart failure and deaths in people who took L-carnitine supplements (42).
4. Sports performance
The results are mixed regarding the effects of L-carnitine on sports performance.
The benefits of L-carnitine can be indirect and take weeks or months to show up. This differs from supplements like caffeine or creatine, which can directly improve athletic performance.
L-carnitine can be effective for:
• Recovery: it can improve recovery after sport (46, 47).
• Oxygen supply: it can increase the supply of oxygen to the muscles (48).
• Endurance: it can increase blood flow and nitric oxide production, and help reduce fatigue (48).
• Muscle pain: it can reduce muscle pain after sport (49).
• Production of red blood cells: it can increase the production of red blood cells, which transmit oxygen throughout the body and muscles (50, 51).
5. Type 2 diabetes and insulin sensitivity
In a study in patients with type 2 diabetes, L-carnitine improved the glycemic response to a high-carbohydrate meal. This glycemic response is an important indicator of the risk of diabetes (55).
It can also fight diabetes by increasing a key enzyme called AMPK, which improves the body’s ability to use carbohydrates (56).
The main food sources of carnitine
The best sources of L-carnitine are:
• Beef: 81 mg for 85 grams.
• Pork: 24 mg for 85 grams.
• Fish: 5 mg for 85 grams.
• Chicken: 3 mg for 85 grams.
• Milk: 8 mg for 227 ml
For L-carnitine deficiencies in adults: 990 mg two to three times daily in tablets or oral solution.
To prevent side effects caused by valproic acid (Dépakine, Dépakote): 50 to 100 mg / kg / day in three or four divided doses, up to 3 grams per day.
For chest pain and congestive heart failure (CHF): 1 gram twice a day.
After heart attack: 2 to 6 grams per day.
For the symptoms of overactive thyroid: 1-2 grams twice a day.
For male infertility: 2 grams of L-carnitine plus 1 gram of acetyl-L-carnitine per day.
Carnitine: Side effects
L-carnitine is generally safe for most people when taken orally and when used as an injection with the approval of a healthcare practitioner.
This can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, heartburn, diarrhea and seizures. It can also cause a person to smell fishy.
Carnitine: Special precautions and warnings:
Pregnancy and breast feeding: There is not enough reliable information on the use of L-carnitine during pregnancy. Avoid using it.
Taking L-carnitine is normally safe in breastfeeding women when taken orally in the recommended amounts. Small amounts of L-carnitine have been given to infants in breast milk and no side effects have been reported. The effects of taking a large amount while breastfeeding are still unknown.
Children: L-carnitine is probably safe when used appropriately by mouth or intravenously in the short term.
Hypothyroidism: taking L-carnitine may make symptoms of hypothyroidism worse.
Renal failure: The use of DL-carnitine has caused symptoms such as muscle weakness and ptosis when given intravenously after dialysis. L-carnitine does not seem to have this effect.
Epileptic crisis: L-carnitine seems to increase the risk of crisis, in people who have already had it. If you have ever had an attack, do not use L-carnitine.
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