As a matter of fact, carnitine is by no means a “normal” amino acid. In fact, it is a dipeptide made from lysine and methionine. Therefore, sometimes you may encounter the definition that carnitine is a conditionally essential amino acid.
Science knows two isomers (mirror images of each other) of this substance – L-carnitine and D-carnitine.
Both of them have an identical chemical formula and structure, although their molecular structure is different. But only the L-variant carnitine has biological activity, is contained in the human body, in animal cells and in food. D-carnitine is a synthetic amino acid analog. This isomer is not only incapable of benefiting humans, but also prevents the absorption of L-carnitine. Meanwhile, some dietary supplements, in particular from the category of sports nutrition, contain mixtures of two isomers. In such cases, a generic name for the amino acid, carnitine, usually appears on the label.
- 1 General characteristics
- 2 Daily need
- 3 Deficit: threatened
- 4 Excess: health risks
- 5 Benefits for the body
- 6 Interaction with other substances
- 7 Sources of
- 8 Interesting Facts
The name carnitine comes from the Latin carnus, which means “meat, body,” since it was first isolated from meat. By the way, since the discovery of the substance and until the day when humanity learned about its beneficial properties, almost 60 years have passed.
The role of levocarnitine for a person in large measure resembles the vitamins of group B. The body is able to independently produce carnitine, and this is usually enough to satisfy the need of a healthy person. It is concentrated mainly in the skeleton, liver and heart muscle.
An adult who adheres to a healthy and balanced diet with the availability of animal products (especially red meat) is able to provide himself with carnitine in quantities from 60 to 180 milligrams per day. Vegetarians, for obvious reasons, get a maximum of 10-12 mg of amino acid with food. The small intestine absorbs from 54 to 86 percent of the total amount of carnitine obtained from food. Excess excreted in the urine.
As a rule, healthy adults do not need additional intake of carnitine from the outside. The kidneys and liver produce enough to meet daily needs from lysine and methionine. The exception is people whose body is not able to produce carnitine. This usually happens while taking certain medications, due to genetic diseases and in premature babies. Such persons should take L-carnitine additionally.
Also, an increased need for left carnitine is experienced by persons with exhaustion and weakened muscles, who are experiencing high physical or mental stress, with cardiological diseases and disorders of brain activity. But with hypertension, cirrhosis, allergies and diabetes, the need for amino acid is somewhat reduced.
Additional daily intake usually varies within 500-2000 mg per day. But more often talk about the average rate – in 300 mg daily. Although with intense exercise or obesity, the daily norm can be increased even 10 times. In 2-5, it is possible to increase the dosage of carnitine for cardiovascular diseases, disorders of the kidneys or the liver. However, it is important to know that regular intake of more than 3 g per day causes a fishy body odor. The pediatric rate varies between 100 and 300 mg / day.
L-carnitine dosage table
|Cause||Dosage per day|
|General body strengthening||2-4 g|
|Carnitine deficiency||900 mg (2 times per day)|
|After a heart attack||2-6 g|
|Hyperthyroidism||1-2 g (2 times per day)|
|Male infertility||2 g|
|Heart failure||1 g (2 times per day)|
There are two types of carnitine deficiency:
The first type of amino acid deficiency is the result of genetic disorders, as a result of which the substance is not absorbed or produced by the body. You can diagnose a shortage by skeletal muscle weakness, hypoglycemia and cardiomyopathy.
Secondary deficiency is the result of some diseases (especially chronic renal failure), as well as the result of taking antibiotics or other drugs that reduce the absorption or production of carnitine.
Evidence of a lack of amino acids can be disorders in weight, vegetative-vascular dystonia, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and slower growth in children.
Excess: health risks
The substance is regularly excreted from the body, therefore not capable of harm. But regular intake of carnitine in large doses can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and a specific body fishy odor.
Benefits for the body
Energy production is the main “fad” of L-carnitine.
But in addition, it prevents the accumulation of toxins in the cells of the body and helps build muscle mass. Regardless of what goal you pursue in the gym: to build muscle, burn fat or just keep yourself in shape, it is easier and faster to achieve positive results this particular amino acid will help. But these are not the only beneficial properties of carnitine for the body.
The cardiovascular system
In people with cardiac diseases, the concentration of carnitine in the heart muscle decreases. Experiments in this area have shown that treatment using L-carnitine reduces mortality several times after randomization, as a result of a heart attack, angina pectoris or ventricular arrhythmia. Clinical trials have revealed that taking carnitine in parallel with drugs for angina helps to achieve better results of treatment, and the use of amino acids after a heart attack reduces the risk of recurrent heart attack.
If you are looking for a substance that would help you quickly get rid of excess fat, L-carnitine will help. This amino acid transports triglycerides (a type of fat) into cellular mitochondria, where the lipid is converted into energy during the oxidation process. Due to the development of additional forces, fatigue is reduced, and appetite is reduced – the body loses the need for additional saturation.
L-carnitine is a favorite supplement of bodybuilders. Amino acid accelerates the process of building muscles and makes them heavier, which allows you to maintain a beautiful body relief longer. It is believed that taking 2-4 g of a substance daily can increase the efficiency and endurance of the body.
Depletion of bone tissue – the problem is not only the elderly. Carnitine is able to improve the structure of bones and slow down the loss of their tissue mass, thus preventing osteoporosis, arthritis, and frequent fractures.
The human body is able to independently synthesize carnitine. And in this process, an important role is assigned to the kidneys. In case of nephrological diseases, the production of amino acids sharply decreases, so it is important to fill the deficit of L-carnitine from food.
It has been experimentally proven that this amino acid increases the number of viable sperm and improves the quality of seminal fluid.
Diabetes 2 type
People with 2 type diabetes may also benefit from carnitine. It contributes to a more intensive course of processes with the participation of glucose. Intravenous administration of levocarnitine increases insulin sensitivity and also reduces sugar levels. But all this only says that diabetics should take the amino acid with extreme caution so as not to cause hypoglycemia. Also, this amino acid has proven itself in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
It protects against free radical attacks, which in the long term reduces the risk of developing cancer cells. Also, L-carnitine helps to quickly deal with colds and seasonal allergies. In people with immunodeficiency, carnitine slows down the death of lymphocytes, regulates blood lipids and reduces neuropathy.
Carnitine is indispensable for people in old age who want to maintain their former brain activity. The substance protects the brain from stress, reduces the effects of head injuries, slows down age-related changes in the cells.
Carnitine is an effective antidote for poisoning with valproic acid (found in anticonvulsants, antidepressants, as part of drugs for schizophrenia, migraine, epilepsy).
With age, the level of carnitine in the body is significantly reduced, which is not the best effect on the integrity of mitochondrial membranes. Experiments on rats confirmed the effectiveness of this amino acid to reduce mitochondrial decay. In particular, there is reason to believe that the amino acid improves the human mental function, memory in the elderly, and the general condition of patients with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.
Insufficient oxygen-rich blood to the limbs leads to lameness. Systematic consumption of left carnitine can improve the condition of the muscles of the legs, reduce pain when walking, and improve the speed and distance of walking.
L-carnitine will also help to overcome chronic fatigue and lack of appetite after chemotherapy or radiation sickness. Amino acid softens the effects of cancer therapy, improves sleep and mood in patients.
L-carnitine is used for:
- serious kidney disease;
- carnitine deficiency;
- angina pectoris;
- heart failure;
- cardiomyopathy (weakness of the heart muscle);
- clogged arteries;
- hyperthyroidism (elevated thyroid hormone levels);
- Multiple sclerosis;
- hepatitis C (improves response to treatment);
- non-alcoholic steatohepatitis;
- reduced brain activity;
- male infertility;
- age and chronic fatigue;
- oncological diseases (relieves fatigue);
- hair loss;
- lung diseases;
- breathing problems in babies;
- Alzheimer’s disease.
Interaction with other substances
Regular consumption of antibiotics increases the elimination of carnitine from the body. Also, the level of amino acids may be reduced while taking phenobarbital, valproic acid, phenytoin, carbamazepine. In combination with acenocumarol or warfarin (used to slow blood clotting) L-carnitine enhances the effectiveness of drugs and increases the risk of bleeding.
L-carnitine or dietary supplements containing an amino acid are available in the form of capsules, tablets, and in liquid form. If you want to replenish the supply of substances from food, you should pay attention to such products: nuts, seeds, artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, greens, okra, parsley, cabbage, garlic, apricots, bananas, brewer’s yeast, buckwheat, corn and oatmeal cereals, bran, whole wheat, rye. The best sources of amino acids are meat, fish, poultry, and milk. And it is important to remember: the redder the meat, the higher the level of carnitine in it. In dairy products, the amino acid is found primarily in whey.
- Getting rid of the unpleasant manifestations of vegetative-vascular dystonia helps receiving carnitine and coenzyme Q10.
- Older people taking carnitine are more mobile and active.
- Fat burning properties of carnitine are enhanced when combined with green tea, caffeine, taurine.
- Carnitine does not burn fat without physical exertion.
- Vegetarians can receive an adequate daily rate of amino acids only from dietary supplements.
If you have read this article to the end, then, believe me, now you know about the properties of carnitine, quite a lot, if not all. But so that this knowledge does not remain only a theory, check how rich your diet is with foods containing this useful amino acid. Maybe you should adjust your menu?