6 Surprising Benefits of L-Carnitine

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Using l-carnitine supplements is a common practice, but before you change your diet or supplement regime, it’s important to understand the details of this critical compound in the body.

What is L-Carnitine?

L-carnitine is a conditionally essential amino acid in the body that is naturally produced in the body and also acquired in small amounts through your diet. However, in order for your body to create this amino acid, it requires lysine and methionine. Due to the lack of these amino acids in many of the dietary choices of vegetarians and vegans, deficiencies in l-carnitine can occur, although they are rare. While the body typically produces this amino acid, a lack of this compound can result in a slowdown of the metabolism. This is because the primary function of l-carnitine is to facilitate the transport of fatty acids into cellular mitochondria, where it can be burned for essential fuel.

Many people take l-carnitine supplements to increase their rate of energy metabolism, but shifting your diet to high-carnitine foods may also suffice. If you are a bodybuilder or someone trying to rapidly lose weight, try adding foods like red meat, pork, chicken, and seafood, as well as raw dairy products. Given that list, it is understandable why vegan individuals struggle to meet their necessary intake of this amino acid on a daily basis.

Chemical formula of l-carnitine

Many people take l-carnitine supplements to increase their rate of energy metabolism. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

L-Carnitine Benefits

The most impressive benefits of l-carnitine include its impact on heart health, brain function, bodybuilding, and weight loss, among others.

Brain Function

There are numerous forms of l-carnitine, but some studies have found that this amino acid is able to prevent neurodegenerative disease by reducing the amount of beta-amyloid plaque deposition. A study reveals that the long term usage of this compound is known to reduce the attention deficits in Alzheimer’s patients. It also goes onto state that l-carnitine is therapeutic for those suffering from this condition.

Heart Health

When l-carnitine is converted into its different forms, it can have positive effects on heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Diabetes

Numerous studies have found that supplementation with this amino acid can improve insulin sensitivity and minimize the symptoms of diabetes.

Weight Loss

By improving the movement of fatty acids to your cells’ mitochondria, it can speed the metabolism of fats in the body, helping to shed pounds and fat more rapidly, thus helping with weight loss efforts.

Cognitive Performance

Even if you are not aging or at high risk of neurodegenerative diseases, using this type of amino acid supplement can help to improve concentration, memory, and retention.

Bodybuilding

This supplement is perhaps best known in connection with bodybuilding, as its ability to more effectively burn fat can be very useful for those trying to bulk up and increase muscle production. For those attempting to gain extreme muscle mass, a great deal of l-carnitine will be expended and will need to be replenished with supplements.

L-Carnitine Side Effects

While this amino acid does play certain important roles in the body, there are some side effects to consider, such as seizure complications, issues with hypothyroidism, and problems with pregnancy, among others.

  • Seizures: Consuming an excessive amount of l-carnitine supplements can make seizure conditions worse, so those with epilepsy or other nervous system disorders should not consume these supplements without speaking with a doctor.
  • Pregnancy: The lack of research on the effects of l-carnitine on pregnant women means that it is not recommended for women who are preparing to give birth. As a nursing mother, speak to your doctor about the possibility of using this supplement.
  • Hypothyroidism: Due to the blood pressure-lowering properties of this amino acid, if you are already taking hypertension medication, or if you suffer from hypotension, avoid the use of this supplement.

When it comes to dosage requirements, most experts do not recommend more than 1-2 grams per day. It is also important to understand that supplementation of this amino acid won’t improve energy metabolism or muscle production unless a person is already deficient.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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