What can reduce all-cause mortality by 27%, reduce ventricular arrhythmias by 65%, and reduce angina symptoms 40% in patients experiencing a heart attack? Statin drugs? No, not statin drugs, but rather L-carnitine, a compound found in red meat and in nutritional supplements. The Mayo Clinic performed a meta-analysis of 13 clinical controlled studies involving 3,629 individuals and found that L-carnitine provides the aforementioned benefits.
What is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is a compound that helps burn fat providing energy to the heart and skeletal muscles. It moves long-chain fatty acids into the cells. It is also an antioxidant neutralizing free-radicals that damage cells. L-carnitine has long been used by athletes to improve athletic performance at high intensity levels and to facilitate recovery following exercise. It essentially delays muscle fatigue and decreases the accumulation of lactic acid, a byproduct of glucose metabolism.
L-Carnitine and Heart Disease
Since the heart is a muscle, L-carntine provides similar benefits to it as it does skeletal muscle. This means the heart can work more efficiently and at higher demands. Low levels of L-carnitine are associated with heart failure. Italso improves blood flow and increases HDL or the good cholesterol while lowering LDL or bad cholestereol.
L-Carnitine, Weight Loss, and Diabetes
L-carnitine along with lifestyle changes can improve weight loss by enabling the body to burn more fat, and by also increasing the overall metabolic rate. A study of obese 13 to 17 year old adolescents found that individuals who took 2 grams of L-carnitine a day plus exercise and nutrition counseling lost 11 pounds after 3 months, while those who just received exercise and nutrition counseling lost only 1.5 pounds.
Two grams of L-carnitine a day for 10 days improved insulin sensitivity while 3 grams a day significantly reduced blood sugar spikes during a oral glucose tolerance test for diabetes.
The antioxdiant effects of L-carnitine protect the mitochondria (energy producing organelles of the cell) from free radicals. Mitochondria decline as we age and L-carnitine can minimize this age-related decline (see Mitochondrial Theory of Aging)
Acetyl-L-carnitine is a modified form of L-carnitine and can boost testosterone levels improving muscle and bone mass, mood, and sex drive in both men and women. Acety-L-carnitine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and facilitates the production of acetylcholine, one of the major neurotransmitters. Acetylcholine plays a vital role in memory and neurocognition. Acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to minimize mental decline associated with alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease.
Most of the health benefits of L-carnitine occur with supplementation of 2 to 3 grams a day and it’s best to split that daily dose in half so that you are taking 1 to 1.5 grams twice a day. Consider adding this important nutrient to your supplement plan.