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L-carnitine is frequently propogated as a potent fat burner which is thought to be beneficial only for Obese or body builders but in reality it has ample benefits that can act as a boon in disguise for all types of masses. 

Different Types

L-carnitine is the standard biologically active form of carnitine, which is found in your body, foods and most supplements.

Here are several other types of carnitine:

  • D-carnitine: This inactive form may cause a carnitine deficiency in your body by inhibiting the absorption of other, more useful forms 
  • Acetyl-L-carnitine: Famous as ALCAR, this is possibly the most effective form for your brain. Studies suggest that it may benefit people with neurodegenerative diseases 
  • Propionyl-L-carnitine: This form is well-suited for circulatory issues, such as peripheral vascular disease and high blood pressure. It may boost production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow 
  • L-carnitine L-tartrate: This is commonly added to sports supplements due to its rapid absorption rate. It may aid muscle soreness and recovery in exercise 

For most people, acetyl-L-carnitine and L-carnitine seem to be the most effective for general use. However, you should always pick the form that’s best for your personal needs and goals.

Let’s explore more about L-carnitine 

L-carnitine is the biologically active form of carnitine, an amino acid naturally found in animal protein in small amounts. This is stored 98% mainly in our skeletal muscles and heart muscles and in minute amounts in liver and other tissues. It’s major function is transporting fatty acids from fat cells in adipose tissue (where fats are stored) to mitochondria (cells that are Power of house of energy) for generating energy. 

Health benefits of L-Carnitine

  • Heart Health: Studies show that including carnitine in sufficient amounts can improve cardiac functions specifically for those experiencing cardiac issues by  decreasing left ventricle dilation 
  • Antioxidant role: L- carnitine protects the body against free radicals which are known to damage body cells and lead to lifestyle disorders ,cancers etc.
  • Blood pressure Regulation: Research showed that l-carnitine supplementation reduced diastolic blood pressure.
  • Weight loss: Since L-carnitine utilizes fats as a source of energy, it ferries the ‘ bad fat’ and converts it into energy. Analysis of nine studies — mostly in obese individuals or older adults — found that people lost an average of 2.9 pounds (1.3 kg) more weight while taking L-carnitine.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Studies show that carnitine supports insulin derived glucose utilization, helping in managing blood sugar levels. Insulin sensitivity is improved by increased utilization of fats as an energy source.
  • Exercise Performance:  It can enhance your exercise performance by increasing blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles. It also inhibits build up of lactic acid in muscles thus reducing fatigue and muscle soreness. 
  • Detox effect: Toxic wastes generated during energy production are flushed out of the energy cell (Mitochondria) to prevent them from accumulating. So carnitine not only produces energy, it cleans up after itself!  And this combination means that carnitine can be helpful after a cardiac event.

Extra credit: The carnitine-hypoglycemia story

During periods of low glucose, carnitine helps break down fatty acids into acetyl-CoA in the mitochondria and shuttles long chain fatty acids across the inner mitochondrial membrane.

Without carnitine, these changes  won’t occur and acetyl-CoA levels may drop. Thus low carnitine can lead to low levels of acetyl-CoA and effectively inhibit new glucose production.

(As a side note, glycogen phosphorylase, the enzyme necessary for converting stored glycogen into glucose, also requires vitamin B6, and thus may also play an unacknowledged role in hypoglycemia.)

In conclusion, Carnitine is a nitrogen-containing non-protein compound that can be synthesized by the body. It’s main role is to transport long chain fatty acids across the inner mitochondrial membrane to be used as a source for ATP synthesis (beta oxidation). Conventional nutritional wisdom suggests that because our body can make carnitine, we should easily have enough. But this assumes we have the necessary ingredients. To make carnitine, we need the amino acids lysine and methionine, as well as vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and oxygen. Many people lack one or more of these raw materials.

Carnitine can also be consumed in our diet, with the highest amounts occurring in red meat and pork. Some diets may be deficient. Hence supplementing with recommended dosages of L-carnitine can create a huge impact on our health.

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