5 Benefits of Carnitine Proven by Science (+ Role, Food Sources, Side Effects …)

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

The main role of L-carnitine in the body is related to the function of mitochondria and energy production (3, 14, 15).

In cells, it helps transport fatty acids into the mitochondria, where they can be burned to form energy.

About 98% of the body’s L-carnitine stores are in your muscles, as well as tiny amounts in the liver and blood (16, 17).

This benefits the function of the mitochondria and can help increase their growth, which plays a key role in disease and allows healthy aging (18, 19, 20, 21).

More recent research has shown the potential benefits of different forms of carnitine, which can be used for diseases such as heart and brain disease (22, 23).

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.

However, the human body is extremely complex and the results of studies in humans and animals are mixed (24, 25, 26, 27).

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.

Some animal studies suggest that the acetylated form, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR), may help prevent age-related mental decline and improve markers of learning (30, 31).

In human studies, taking acetyl-L-carnitine daily has helped reverse the decline in brain function associated with Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases (32, 33, 34).

Similar benefits have been found for general brain function in the elderly who did not have Alzheimer’s disease or other brain conditions (35, 36, 37).

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 studies have shown a potential benefit for reducing blood pressure and the inflammatory process associated with heart disease (23, 39).

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).

L-carnitine has also resulted in improvements in patients with severe heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease and chronic heart failure (40, 41).

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.

However, several studies have shown slight benefits when participants take L-carnitine supplements in larger doses, or for longer periods (43, 44, 45).

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

L-carnitine has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and associated risk factors (52, 53, 54).

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

You can get small amounts of L-carnitine from your diet by eating meat and fish (4, 5).

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

Carnitine: Dosage

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.

Photo credit: pxhere.com

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