At present, there are several commercials of different products using L-Carnitine supplements. The claims are that it helps reduce weight and increase endurance among users. Mostly, the products are fruit juices, sports drinks, and energy drinks that use L-Carnitine as one of the ingredients. Incredibly, some products even use L-Carnitine in creams and patches. Whether the claims are true or not, is not very clear yet, as most studies are finding mixed results about its benefits.
What is L-Carnitine
L-Carnitine is short for levocarnitine. Carnitine is a nutrient that is naturally present in our body. It is a naturally occurring amino acid that metabolizes fats. In our livers and kidneys, carnitine is synthesized from two essential amino acids; lysine and methionine. However, the biosynthesis will not be successful without the presence of other nutrients like vitamin C (according to Wikipedia), niacin, iron, and vitamin B6 (according to Psychology Health, Vanderbilt University). It helps convert body fats into energy. While our liver and kidneys naturally produce carnitine, our body stores it in our muscles, heart, and brain.
Red meats and dairy products are the primary sources of L-Carnitine. Other sources include nuts, beans, fish, poultry, tempeh, wheat, and peanuts. Some vegetable sources are asparagus, broccoli, sprouts, garlic, mustards, okra, and parsley (from Wikipedia). Some fruit sources are apricots, bananas (from Wikipedia), and avocados. Most other vegetables and fruits do not have carnitine.
It is rare for people to be deficient of this nutrient, even among vegetarians. That is because our body produces carnitine on its own. However, some diseases like diabetes and cirrhosis can result in carnitine deficiency. Aside from these diseases, some people cannot properly absorb this nutrient in their body, hence, carnitine deficiency occurs. Symptoms of carnitine deficiency are fatigue, chest pain, muscle, and weakness.
L-Carnitine for Health
Fats, carbohydrates, and triglycerides are our primary energy sources. L-Carnitine aids in the release of these nutrients into the blood stream. It also transports fats to the muscles, converting them into energy, therefore boosting our body's stamina and endurance.
L-Carnitine helps reduce feelings of hunger and weakness. It can also decrease fatigue. If you have to use L-Carnitine supplements in medicine form (i.e., tablets, capsules), do not store in poor ventilated areas, heat may alter its actions.
L-Carnitine supplements may have interactions if taken with other medications. So if you are under medication, always seek the advice of your physician. High dosage of L-Carnitine may cause diarrhea, body odor, and increased appetite.
When not under medication, most people don't need L-Carnitine. When used under medication, different L-Carnitine supplements and different dosages are used for treatment.
For heart health, propionyl L-Carnitine is used. While it helps maintain a healthy heart, it was also found that people who take propionyl L-Carnitine after recovering from heart attacks are less likely to suffer from a second heart failure. It controls cholesterol and triglycerides. It also increases good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
For Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), the symptom is diminished blood flow in the legs. Propionyl L-Carnitine may improve blood flow and muscle function in PVD patients.
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALC) is found throughout our central nervous system (CNS). ALC when supplemented in food is found to give brain benefits. It helps delay mental deterioration and produces more energy. For dementia and memory impairment, acetyl L-Carnitine is the supplement used. In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, acetyl L-Carnitine had proved to delay mental deterioration. However, studies about the benefits are still conflicting. But in Down's syndrome patients, acetyl L-Carnitine improves visual memory and attention.
L-Carnitine for Health According to Commercial Claims
Although it was observed that L-Carnitine benefits the heart. It also controls cholesterol and triglycerides, decreases blood pressure, and decreases blood sugar. Even in commercial claims, L-Carnitine is not recommended for heart treatments. It does help maintain a healthy heart though. In commercial claims, L-Carnitine is not recommended for treatment for obesity. However, it does help in weight management programs.
Weight loss is the most common commercial claim of L-Carnitine. However, this study is not yet proven to be true. So scientifically, this claim still has no basis. But commercially, this had been widely supported by the companies that use the product for commercial gains.
L-Carnitine supplements give benefits in exercises, heart health, weight management, brain wellness, infant nutrition, and even male fertility.
In sports nutrition, it optimizes performance, decreases fatigue, and helps recovery after intensive workouts. This may be due to an enhanced oxygen supply to the muscles which increases blood flow.
For more information about this supplement, please go to these links:
- University of Maryland Medical Center
This page shows what the studies had revealed. Its benefits in health care. It also shows you when to avoid L-Carnitine supplements under certain medications.