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L-Carnitine Update   by Robert Crayhon, M.S., C.N.


[L-Carnitine: Still the Most Important Nutrient to Take to Lose Weight]
[Male Fertility | Sports Endurance | Drugs, Dialysis and L-Carnitine]

[How to Take L-Carnitine | L-Carnitine Safety
[Signs of Inadequate L-Carnitine Intake | References]

View information on Acetyl L-Carnitine.

New research continues to pour in to support the idea that l-carnitine should be an every day, health­supporting nutrient that we all take as regularly as vitamin C.  L-Carnitine is a water-soluble, B-vitamin-like nutrient that the body uses to turn fat into energy.  With carnitine's help, fat levels decrease in the blood and weight loss is easier.  Energy levels go up with l-carnitine.  L-Carnitine is a basic part of overall health and unless you are eating a pound of (raw) red meat per day -- the main dietary source for this nutrient -- you need to supplement.  How much?  Around 1,000 mg per day for most people, 2,000 mg or more for those trying to lose weight, promote heart health, lower cholesterol and for those wanting better sports endurance.

The heart is especially benefited by l-carnitine because it gets 70 percent of its energy from fat and l-carnitine is essential for fat burning.  Therefore, l-carnitine is wonderful for keeping the heart healthy.1,2,3,4  And because it stimulates fat burning, l-carnitine also helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels naturally.5,6

L-Carnitine: Still the Most Important Nutrient to Take to Lose Weight

Clinicians around the country are reporting to our research center in Boulder, Colorado that l-carnitine helps promote weight loss in three ways: 1) by directly increasing fat burning,7 2) by increasing energy levels so patients are more likely to exercise,8 and 3) by decreasing cravings, so patients can find it easier to stick to their eating plans.

I believe that there is a fourth way that l-carnitine can help promote weight loss.  New animal research suggests that l-carnitine can help us build muscle mass as well.9,10  While this at first may sound like bad news to the dieter, remember that mere weight loss is not the goal; fat loss and a more attractive and leaner physique are the true goals.  Even women are now loving the idea of more muscle along with less fat on their frame. We are not talking about a muscled-up look here either -- just a strong, healthy physique that burns fat better.  More muscle in your body means you are better able to burn fat on a regular basis, so make sure to mix weight training along with aerobic activity and stretching into your targeted weight loss exercise.

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Male Fertility

A group of studies now shows that l-carnitine, in doses of 2-4 grams per day, can increase male fertility.  L-Carnitine helps sperm become more active and increase in number as well. The amount of time needed for l-carnitine to have these benefits is three to six months, according to human research.11,12,13,14,15

Sports Endurance

Because l-carnitine plays a critical role in fat burning, and fat is the best fuel for endurance athletics, it should come as no surprise that l-carnitine is a great aid to increasing sports endurance.  Research shows that l-carnitine enhances aerobic performance and allows athletes to exercise longer without fatigue.16,17  L-Carnitine also prevents muscle damage during vigorous exercise and delays the onset of the lactate burn (the burning feeling during intense exercise that slows you down).18,19  While the research is still mixed about l-carnitine and sports performance, half of the studies have shown benefit.  The key is to use enough: take 2 grams or more per day for a week before expecting improved performance.

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Drugs, Dialysis and L-Carnitine

There are an increasing number of drugs that increase l-carnitine excretion, thus depleting the body of carnitine. One of them is the cancer drug cisplatin, which increases carnitine excretion tenfold.  The chemotherapy drug ifosfamide increases carnitine losses on an average of thirty­fold. These documented l-carnitine deficiencies could explain why many cancer patients feel so run down.

Renal failure patients undergoing dialysis treatment also lose a lot of l-carnitine in their urine.  All of these patients should consider carnitine supplementation but only with the guidance of their physician. Anyone with a health condition should always take all of his or her supplements with their physician's knowledge and supervision.

How to Take L-Carnitine

Start by taking two 500 mg capsules of l-carnitine before or with breakfast.

After one week the dosage can be increased, if needed, to two 500 mg capsules before breakfast and lunch. Increase your dose of l-carnitine gradually until you see a difference in weight loss, energy and overall well-being. Taking l-carnitine after 4:00 pm, may make it harder to fall asleep at night, so try not to take carnitine then. This is the only side effect of taking too much carnitine: too much energy.  When possible, use l-carnitine in the carnitine tartrate form, which is the purest available.

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L-Carnitine Safety

Non Toxic: L-Carnitine is naturally occurring in the human body and completely safe. There are reports of mild diarrhea at very high doses.  This only side effect is transient and occurs at oral doses of up to 15 g L-Carnitine.20  This side effect is not unique to L-Carnitine – the consumption of large amounts of a variety of substances will induce diarrhea because of osmotic pressure in the bowel.

LD50: Another determinant of toxicity is the LD50, the dose that kills 50% of experimental animals.  No oral LD50 could be established for L-Carnitine, demonstrating the safety of the substance: a dosage of 5 g L-Carnitine per kg body weight has shown no toxic effects in rats.  (This is equivalent to a dosage of 340 g/day for a 150 lb person.) Also, all other standard toxicological studies proved the safety of L-Carnitine and its salts.

Signs of Inadequate L-Carnitine Intake Include:

  • Fatigue

  • Progressive weight gain

  • High cholesterol and triglycerides

  • Weak heart function

  • Lack of mental focus

  • Poor overall health.

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  1. Singh, R.B. et al (1996). Postgrad. Med. J. 72:45.

  2. Jacoba, K.G.C. et al (1996). Clin. Drug. Invest. 11:90.

  3. Kosolcharoen, P. et al (1981). Curr. Therap. Res. 30:753.

  4. Davini, P. et al (1992). Drugs Exp. Clin. Res. 18:355.

  5. Pepine, C. (1991). Clin. Therapeutic. 13:2.

  6. Cacciatore, L. et al (1991). Drugs Exp. Clin. Res. 17:225.

  7. Lurz, R. and Fischer, R. (1998). Aerztezeitschrift fur Naturheilverfahren 39:12.

  8. Kaats, G.R. (1992). Cur. Ther. Res. 51:261.

  9. Owen, K. (1996) Swine Day Rep. I.

  10. Owen, K, et. Al. (1994). Swine Day. 161.

  11. Costa, M. et al (1994). Adrologia. 26:155.

  12. Vitali, G. et al. (1995). Drugs Exptl. Clin. Res. 21:157.

  13. Campaniello, E. et al (1989). Fourth Intl. Congress of Andrology, Firenze.

  14. Micic, S. et al (1998). 16th World Congress on Fertility and Sterility and 54th Annual Meeting of the Amer. Soc. Rep. Med. San Francisco

  15. Micic, S. Et al (2000) Amer. Soc. Andrology, 25th Annual Meeting Boston.

  16. Swart, I. et al (1997). Nut. Res. 17:405.

  17. Siliprandi, N. et al (1990). Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 1034:17.

  18. Sacks, T. et al (1978). J Clin Invest 61:1661.

  19. Soop, M. et al (1998). J. Appl. Physiol. 64:2394.

  20. Borum, P.R. and Fisher, K.D. (1983). Health Effects of Dietary Carnitine. Life Science Research Office, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Bethesda, MD, USA.

TOTAL HEALTH - Volume 24. NO.1

Reprinted with exclusive permission from Lonza, Inc.

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