Carnitine is studied extensively because of the important role it plays in fatty acid oxidation and energy production, and because it is a well-tolerated and generally safe therapeutic agent. It is proven treatment in children who have recessive defects in the carnitine transporter system and in individuals treated with pivalate containing antibiotics.
Anyone concerned with decreasing body fat will want to assure their daily level of carnitine, because carnitine helps transport fat from fat cells to the mitochondria of muscle cells so it can be burned up for energy. It is hard to imagine how a weight loss program could ever be effective with a deficiency of carnitine.
Current levels of excessive body fat in the general population indicate a high level of carnitine deficiency. Interestingly, carnitine is not part of the “essential” nutrient group because the body manufactures it. But the manufacturing process requires adequate iron, Vitamin B1, B6, and C, and the amino acids lysine and methionine (neither of these amino acids are obtainable in sufficient amounts from vegetable sources). Carnitine deficiency will result if any of those nutrients are at inadequate levels, so supplementation is absolutely essential, especially for vegetarians.
Carnitine is great nutrient for diabetes prevention since poor fat metabolism is a causative factor for the development of diabetes. It is also great for heart disease prevention because it lowers triglycerides, improves organ muscle strength and enhances the antioxidant effectiveness of Vitamins C and E. Also, studies indicate that cardiac surgery damages to the heart can be reduced with carnitine treatments.
Recent research has shown that at high doses (1,000- 3,000 mg. daily), carnitine acts as an agent to reduce blood triglycerides. ELevated triglycerides can lead to an increased risk of small vessel diseases, including poor circulation in the hands and feet as well as kidney problems.
Sources of carnitine
Dietary sources of carnitine include foods of animal origin, such as meat and dairy products.
Benefits of carnitine
Carnitine helps in the transport of medium/long-chain fatty acids across mitochondrial membranes, facilitating their oxidation with subsequent energy production
It also helps in the transport of intermediate toxic compounds out of the mitochondria preventing their accumulation.
Carnitine plays an important role in skeletal muscle bioenergetics.
Studies show that carnitine can reduce myocardial injury after ischemia and reperfusion by counteracting the toxic effects of free fatty acids and improving carbohydrate metabolism. Patients with peripheral arterial disease, who become symptomatic with claudication, have a marked impairment in exercise performance and overall functional capacity. Claudication results from temporary inadequate supply of oxygen to the muscles of the leg, and by accumulation of muscle acylcarnitine. Supplementation with L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine may improve metabolism and exercise performance of ischemic muscles.
Supplementation with L-carnitine can improve insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes, as evidenced in part by its ability to decrease intramyocellular lipid levels.
L-carnitine may also be effective in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’sdisease.
L-Carnitine also inhibits production of ceramide, which is elevated in patients with AIDS, because of a lipid imbalance in cells.
Supplementing hyperthyroid patients with carnitine resulted in an improvement in symptoms without decreasing serum thyroid hormone (TH) levels, suggesting that these effects result from carnitine acting as a peripheral antagonist of TH rather than by directly inhibiting thyroid gland function.
Supplementation with carnitine resulted in improvement of fatigue, it also helps to reduce depression, and overall improvement in the quality of life and performance status.
Deficiency symptoms of carnitine
Carnitine deficiency can result in hypoglycemia, hepatomegaly, and hyperammonaemia. Deficiency may also lead to cardiomyopathy with rapidly progressive heart failure.
Patients may experience proximal muscular weakness of varying degree, exercise intolerance, or myalgia.
Breastfed infants may experience a catabolic state shortly after birth, when the production of milk is not adequate to meet nutritional requirements. Acute metabolic decomposition with hypoketotic or nonketotic hypoglycemia usually occurs in infancy, whereas cardiac and skeletal muscle disease manifest later. Apnea, cardiac death, and sudden death have been found in infants with carnitine depletion.