Carnitine levels decline with age. This reduced energy production leads to degenerative diseases. There is a lot of evidence from published data that carnitine can improve how sensitive someone is to insulin, how well their mitochondria function, and their cardiovascular health.
There is a lot of new technology that shows that we can slow down or even reverse the effects of aging by controlling individual cells.
One mechanism that is very promising is one that deals with our mitochondria. The mitochondria are powerhouses found in all human cells, and they control the energy that we need to stay alive.
Over time, our mitochondria become fewer in number and have less function. The result is that power is not distributed to any area of your body. Aging can be postponed by taking care of cellular powerhouses. Amino acid carnitine can help prevent and even reverse some of the common signs of aging, according to new research.
The decrease is significant in skeletal muscle and heart muscle. As we age, levels of carnitine decline in all our tissues, with a significant decrease in skeletal and heart muscle. If mitochondria become starved of energy, they will fill up with cellular waste.
A carnitine deficiency results in the destruction of mitochondria. Loss of mitochondrial function is likely to cause death. Carnitine is available as a dietary supplement in the United States without the need for a doctor’s prescription, which is not the case in some other countries.
Carnitine’s Vital Role in Energy Production
If you don’t have enough carnitine in your body, it can’t transport fatty acids into your mitochondria, and fat can build up in your muscles. Insulin resistance is a metabolic problem caused by this.
Carnitine plays an important role in the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria and their subsequent oxidation. Carnitine levels often dictate how quickly this process occurs. If the levels of carnitine in the blood are too low, then the process of fatty acids being oxidized will not take place, despite everything else being in place for it.
Carnitine is important for energy production and metabolism.
How Carnitine Helps the Body Produce Energy
In order to understand the role of carnitine in energy production, you must have a basic understanding of fatty acid oxidation.
Its primary purpose is to provide energy, although we’re most familiar with the ways it insulates and cushions the body. Fatty acids are stored in adipose tissue as triglycerides, which are three fatty acids linked together by a glycerol molecule.
Triglycerides are the main type of stored energy in the body, but they can’t be used directly for energy. The three component fatty acids that are needed to fuel physical movement, cognition, and other bodily functions are called free fatty acids. The free fatty acids are released into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body to provide energy.
The energy needed in a particular tissue is provided by oxidizing free fatty acids. In other words, they’re broken down. This process results in the conversion of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is the chemical form of energy used for cellular processes like muscle contraction and protein production. You might be familiar with ATP because it’s the primary chemical form of energy used by cells.
Where Fatty Acid Oxidation Happens
The mitochondria are the main “power plants” of your cells. There are a number of chemicals inside the mitochondria that function in an organized way to convert fatty acids and carbohydrates (in the form of glucose) to CO2. These chemicals are responsible for the production of ATP, which is the energy source for the cells. Mitochondrial functions always result in the conversion of ADP to ATP.
The potential for energy in the form of ATP to be produced comes from the oxidation of either glucose or fatty acids. This potential is created by the TCA cycle taking place in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are surrounded by a membrane, and in order to be oxidized, glucose or fatty acids must pass through the membrane and into the mitochondria.
The amount of glucose that can be oxidized by the mitochondria is limited only by the biochemical reactions that take place inside the mitochondria. Fatty acids don’t have it easy. This is where carnitine comes into play,
Carnitine is required to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria. Once inside the mitochondria, it is easy to oxidize fatty acids.
Competition among fatty acids and glucose for transport into mitochondria occurs. to be used for energy production High glucose availability prevents fatty acids from getting into the mitochondria to be used for energy production.
In the same way, low carnitine levels mean there is not enough of this essential amino acid derivative to attach to fatty acids, and the movement of fatty acids into the mitochondria becomes less frequent. As a result, fatty acid oxidation drops.
Your body uses fatty acids for energy more efficiently than other sources. The most efficient way to convert ADP to ATP is by fatty acid oxidation.
The process of fatty acid oxidation prevents the build-up of these molecules in your tissues, including muscles, which is beneficial to you overall.
Benefits of Supplementing with Carnitine
Carnitine Reduces Death Rates
The heart muscle’s primary energy source is fat. Carnitine is a compound that helps transport fat and is essential for normal heart function. The lack of carnitine over time weakens the heart muscles.
People with damage to the heart muscle from heart attacks or heart failure have very low levels of carnitine. Carnitine supplementation has been shown to be effective in reversing the effects of the drop in carnitine levels.
The study found that those who took L-carnitine had a 50 percent lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who did not. In a study of 160 heart attack survivors, those who took L-carnitine had a 50 percent lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who did not. The patients taking L-carnitine had better heart rate and blood pressure numbers, as well as improved blood lipid profiles. The most important finding was that the death rate was dramatically reduced in the group taking carnitine supplements compared to the group not taking carnitine supplements. Patients who took carnitine had a 1.2% chance of dying in the year, while control patients had a 12.5% chance of dying. The majority of deaths were caused by repeat heart attacks.
L-carnitine supplementation helps to prevent further damage to heart muscle tissue in people who already have congestive heart failure, as well as improving how well people with chest pain are able to exercise. In a study of 55% of patients, it was found that their standard heart failure classification improved.
Carnitine increases concentrations of nitric oxide that help endothelial cells relax and increase blood flow, which can help lower blood pressure. Three weeks of supplementation with 2 grams of L-carnitine improved blood flow by 17% during the critical after-meal period compared to a 12% decrease in blood flow in the placebo group who were fed a high-fat meal. A daily 6-gram intravenous dose of propionyl-L-carnitine for one week improved walking distance in people with peripheral arterial disease by 28%.
Carnitine Fights Diabesity
The rising obesity rates in America are causing more people to develop type II diabetes, which is referred to as “diabesity.”
Since carnitine helps the mitochondria utilize energy more efficiently, it can help to reduce the incidence and severity of diabesity. Carnitine is important not only for helping the mitochondria burn fat as energy but also for removing waste products from them. We now recognize that the buildup of mitochondrial waste products is one of the most important contributors to insulin resistance, which further promotes high blood sugar and obesity. This is important because it helps us understand how these problems develop and how we can better treat them.
As obesity and aging increase, carnitine levels decrease, which causes poorer performance from mitochondria and more insulin resistance. This then creates a feedback loop where obesity and carnitine deficiency reinforce each other. Carnitine levels decrease as we age, which can cause a number of health problems. Restoring carnitine levels to their youthful values is an effective way to break this deadly cycle.
The changes in body composition were favorable for those who took L-carnitine 3 grams/day for 10 days. When patients supplemented their diets, they used their fat for energy, burning it 22% faster than those who did not supplement their diets. There was no increase in muscle protein breakdown. A different study that used 2 grams/day for 6 months found that people lost 4 pounds of fat mass but gained 8.4 pounds of muscle mass.
Carnitine Defends Memory
Most forms of age-related memory and cognitive decline are caused by mitochondrial dysfunction in brain tissue. That provides an opportunity for intervention with a mitochondrial enhancer such as carnitine. The majority of studies on neurodegeneration use the acetyl-L-carnitine form of carnitine.
The impact of acetyl-L-carnitine is especially important in Alzheimer’s disease, which is the leading cause of dementia and mild cognitive impairment in the United States. An early study found that taking acetyl-L-carnitine every day for a year improved the cognitive abilities of patients younger than 61, as measured by a standard Alzheimer’s disease rating scale.
More recent studies have shown that carnitine has good effects on memory, even in older patients. However, as with all forms of prevention, the earlier you start taking carnitine, the more powerful the effects will be. Acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to be several times more effective than a placebo in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease, especially those in the early stages of the disease. Improvements from acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation can be seen in as little as three months, and these improvements continue to grow over time. Carnitine has not been proven to effectively treat patients with advanced Alzheimer’s.
Carnitine Benefits Body Composition
Carnitine’s impact on how well mitochondria function can help offset age-related changes in body composition. Carnitine had the following effects on lab animals: reducing abdominal fat mass, increasing muscle strength, and lowering concentrations of leptin (a cytokine that triggers fat-induced inflammation).
Users who took L-carnitine had positive changes to their body composition. When patients take L-carnitine, they use their stored fat for energy which causes them to burn the fat 22% faster than patients who don’t take the supplement. There is no evidence that L-carnitine has any effect on muscle protein breakdown. A second study that used 2 grams per day found that participants lost a total of 4 pounds of fat mass while gaining 8.4 pounds of lean muscle mass.
Other research done on animals supports these findings and shows that propionyl-L-carnitine decreases weight gain, food intake, and the amount of fat, while also making the body more resistant to insulin.
The benefits of supplementation go well beyond memory, however. Carnitine is a compound that is often used to improve mitochondrial function. This compound is known to improve energy levels and reduce physical and mental fatigue. A few studies have found that taking L-carnitine supplements can improve depression.
How Carnitine Deficiencies Develop
So far, experts have found two different carnitine deficiencies: one that is primary and another that is secondary.
The first disorder is caused by mutations in the cellular-transporter system. The symptoms of carnitine deficiency, which can include cardiomyopathy, skeletal-muscle weakness, and hypoglycemia, normally show up by the time a child reaches five years old.
Secondary carnitine deficiency can occur at any stage in a person’s life. A deficiency in carnitine can be caused by a specific health condition, such as chronic, late-stage kidney disease. It can also be caused by factors that impact carnitine metabolism, such as the use of certain antibiotics.
There is a general consensus among scientists that carnitine supplements should be given as a treatment for primary and secondary carnitine deficiencies.
The Best Way to Increase Your Carnitine Levels
Since the body can produce carnitine from lysine and methionine, which must be obtained through the diet, and there are some direct dietary sources of carnitine, the effectiveness of carnitine supplementation will depend on how much lysine, methionine, and carnitine are consumed through your normal diet. Vegetarians are particularly at risk for carnitine deficiency.
Some people report that taking 0.5-2 grams of this drug every day produces positive results. Carnitine metabolism and production may be improved with additional lysine and methionine. Lysine supplementation will probably be effective because it is often lacking in vegetable-based protein sources.
Potential Side Effects
When taken in doses of 0.5-2 grams a day, there may be only a few minor side effects. High doses of carnitine can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you supplement your diet with carnitine and lysine (and, to a lesser extent, methionine), you can take a smaller dose of carnitine and avoid any side effects. It is best to take lysine and methionine as part of a supplement that contains all essential amino acids so that the balance of amino acids in the blood is normal.