8 Incredible L-Carnitine Benefits, Uses and Side Effects
L-carnitine is a compound naturally produced by our bodies. It is found mostly in meat and other animal products such as milk. It helps move or mobilize stored fat in body and by doing so increases energy and helps in fat burning process. L-carnitine benefits many other mechanisms in the body. Kidneys and the liver are responsible for L-carnitine production, but we also get it from food like red meat and dairy. It is not an amino acid, but it is made in the body from amino acids, methionine and lysine. Without adequate L-carnitine body can’t effectively transport most dietary fats into the mitochondria of cells and burn them for fuel. (1)
Even thought enough L-carnitine is produced in healthy body on a healthy diet, some people take it as a nutritional supplement to increase energy during exercise, improve endurance performance and even aid weight loss. L-carnitine has been found to be very effective in aid to these activities as a fat burner and performance booster. There have been numerous studies done and let’s see some of the benefits researchers have attributed to L-carnitine.
L-Carnitine Benefits, Uses and Effects
1. L-carnitine has been found to notably decrease ammonia levels in blood serum and liver in people with serious liver disease called Hepatic Encepalopathy and hepatic cirrhosis from Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or cryptogenic cirrhosis. (2)
2. A study published in The American journal of cardiology noted that L-carnitine was able to increase quality of life and aid in physical activities in overweight people with symptoms of Intermittent claudication, a disorder of blood flow that limits mobility. (3)
3. L-carnitine also reduces blood glucose. A study done on this revealed that both obese and lean individuals had their blood sugar (glucose) lowered after 14 days of taking L-carnitine. The blood sugar reduction was seen 30 minutes after consumption. Beta cells, the cells that produce insulin in pancreas have also been seen to function better after taking L-carnitine. (4)
4. L-carnitine reduces damage to muscle tissue and improves recovery after intensive exercise. Secondary to this it reduces exercise-induced oxidation, which contributes to fatigue after the exercise. By doing so it protects from skeletal muscle damage.
5. There was an interesting study published in The American journal of clinical nutrition. L-carnitine was tested on 66 eldery people (all over 100 years old) that experienced fatigue after even minimal physical activity. They received 2g of L-carnitine daily for 6 months. Severe improvements were seen as reduction in their physical and mental fatigue and increased cognitive functions. Interestingly their total fat mass was reduced and their total muscle mass was increased. L-carnitine benefits are amazing for older people that need more energy and are dealing with problems that come with old age. (5)
6. L-carnitine benefits fat mobilization or helps transporting long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells where they can be used as fuel for our body. L-carnitine does this for you both when you exercise or rest, but it is more effective when taken along with exercise. People with L-carnitine deficiency can develop a serious medical condition which leads to liver problems, muscle weakness, stunted growth and number of other complications. L-carnitine is considered “conditionally essential” nutrient and is not labeled as a vitamin but rather as a pseudovitamin, a term used for any molecule that is not an essential mineral or vitamin but is just as vital for the body.
7. L-carnitine increases blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract in response to a high-fat meal. After we eat food our body sends more blood to digestive system by mesenteric arteries to activate digestion. L-carnitine helps a lot in high-fat food digestion. Because of this effect combined with fat mobilization and increasing physical and mental performance, L-carnitine has been widely used in many weight loss supplements. More info on the study that tested how L-carnitine increases blood flow after eating high-fat is found here: (6)
8. There is another amazing effect of L-carnitine. It increases the amount of testosterone receptors inside muscle cells. The higher number of these receptors there are in cells, the more testosterone can bind to them increasing muscle growth and strength gains, therefore boosting our hormonal response to exercise. It does not effect the production of testosterone or mess up the hormonal balance in any way. This is another reason why L-carnitine boosts athletic performance and is safe to use for both men and women.
Another important thing to note is that people with certain genetic issues, vegans, vegetarians and individuals following various strict diets may not be able to obtain enough L-carnitine. People eating a lot of low quality processed food and sugar may also lack L-carnitine benefits, which would otherwise help burn the excess calories (energy) from food.
Side effects and precautions of L-carnitine supplementation
There have been many studies done on various effects of L-carnitine in different settings and also some studies directly related to L-carnitine safety and the researchers have agreed that in general, L-carnitine is very safe to use. It does not seem to be toxic in any way to the body and causes side effects only in rare cases.
Some rare cases report nausea, upset stomach, heartburn, vomiting and diarrhea. Small number of people noticed a change in smell of urine, sweat and breath.
L-carnitine is possibly safe using during pregnancy and breast-feeding in smaller amounts. However, there is not enough reliable information so experts advise against using L-carnitine during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
For children L-carnitine is possibly safe when used short term.
Symptoms of under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) may worsen when taking L-carnitine.
People who had seizures before are advised not to take L-carnitine.
All information in this article is educational. Having any concerns or doubts about taking L-carnitine supplements please consult with a doctor.
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