Carnitine has been studied extensively because it is important to energy production and is a well-tolerated and generally safe therapeutic agent. Researchers prefer to study acetyl-L-carnitine because it is better absorbed in the small intestine than other forms, and more efficiently crosses the blood-brain barrier.
Carnitine is found in almost every last cell in your body and it plays a critical role in energy production by transporting fatty acids to mitochondria, where they’re converted to energy. Carnitine also plays a role in helping remove toxins from cells.
You mainly find dietary carnitine in meat, fish, poultry and dairy, especially red meat. For vegetarians and those who avoid red meat, along with those genetically predisposed to not using certain fats for energy, it can be easy to grow deficient in carnitine.There are also preexisting health conditions that can create cause it as well:
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease, especially with dialysis
- Digestive disease that causes poor absorption
- Mitochondrial disease
- Certain metabolic disorders
- Certain medicines, such as valproate
Ultimately, a deficiency leads to a condition where nutrients can’t reach your body’s cells, causing weakness and potentially heart and living problems.
Signs of a Carnitine Deficiency:
- Decreased or floppy muscle tone or muscle weakness
- Inability to lose body fat
L-Carnitine and Your Heart
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for 15-17% of healthcare costs. Current records estimate an annual global average of 30 million cardiac dysfunction cases, and experts anticipate that number to rise over the next 30 years.
Studies show that L-carnitine improves the transport of long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondrial matrix, triggering cardioprotective effects through reduced oxidative stress, inflammation and cell death. Carnitine deficiency results in a reduced oxidation (breakdown) of fatty acids and therefore, reduced energy (ATP) production.
“Carnitines have an essential role in the regulation of mitochondrial function and recent studies both in animal models and human subjects have emphasized the importance of mitochondrial function in regulating NO* signaling,” said researchers from the 2009 study on “Carnitine homeostasis, mitochondrial function, and cardiovascular disease.” *NO stands for nitric oxide, a key molecule for blood vessel flexibility and blood flow.
A weakened heart may not be able to pump blood as well. This can lead to symptoms such as swelling and shortness of breath. Untreated heart weakness may lead to death early in life.
Several studies have examined the effectiveness of supplemental carnitine in the management of cardiac ischemia (restriction of blood flow to the heart) and peripheral arterial disease (whose most important symptom is poor circulation in the legs, known as intermittent claudication). Because levels of carnitine are low in the failing heart muscle, supplemental amounts might counteract the toxic effects of free fatty acids and improve carbohydrate metabolism.L-Carnitine and Your Mitochondria
Mitochondria are the energy factories of every last cell in your body. If they slow down, you slow down.
A decline in mitochondrial function is thought to contribute to the aging process. Carnitine may be involved because its concentration in tissues declines with age, which deteriorates the mitochondrial membrane. Carnitines are involved in mitochondrial transport of fatty acids and are of critical importance for maintaining normal mitochondrial function.
L-Carnitine and the Rest of Your Body
Research on aged rats found supplementation with high doses of acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) and ALA (an antioxidant) reduced deterioration. The animals’ activity levels rose in the form of moving around more and improved their performance on memory challenges.
The results suggest that acetyl-L-carnitine may help with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies show improvements or slower declines in mental ability in people with Alzheimer's disease who took ALC.
Once ALC passes through the blood-brain barrier, it helps promote synthesization of a primary neurotransmitter in the brain known as acetylcholine, which primarily allows for communication between nerve cells. This in turn helps support memory health, focus and alertness, improved sleep and muscle contractions.
L-carnitine has also been shown to play a role in regulating calcium influx, making sure it stays out of your arteries and in your bones. Heart weakness is a serious possible development from an L-carnitine deficiency left unchecked.
Research also shows that people with prediabetes had some improvement in their blood sugar levels after taking ALC for two months.
Researchers from the study on “L-Carnitine and heart disease” said, “L-carnitine reduces hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperglycemia, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, obesity, etc. that enhance cardiovascular pathology.”The Best, Most Absorbable (and Most Studied) Form
There are two forms of carnitine supplementation out there, but studies show that acetyl-L-carnitine is the superior form due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This supports brain energy and function.
Optimal Health Systems’ Essential L-Carnitine utilizess ALC to provide potent nutritional tools your body needs to boost mitochondrial function, heart health, and optimal fat burn for energy and a leaner figure.