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Author: Vera Tweed
Source: Better Nutrition, June 2007

What do college students, fitness enthusiasts and people who worry about getting older have in common? They-and many others-can benefit from L-carnitine, a nutrient found in many energy drinks and in dietary supplements designed to support exercise performance and a long life free of heart disease and other age-related maladies.

According to a review of research published in Alternative Medicine Review, L-carnitine may help with chronic fatigue, cardiovascular disease, hypoglycemia, male infertility, muscular dystrophy, symptoms of anorexia and Rett syndrome (a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the body’s movements). Other research has found that diabetics can also benefit.

L-carnitine is found primarily in red meat (its name comes from carnus, the Latin word for flesh) and plays a vital role in energy production. Our bodies use L-carnitine to deliver fuel in the form of fatty acids to mitochondria, the energy-generating components of cells, and to remove waste products. Without these functions, we can’t stay alive.

Different Forms Of Carnitine

L-carnitine is widely available and has been used extensively in research. Studies have shown that it can aid in recovery from a heart attack, help prevent further heart attacks and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

In recent years, two forms have been found to offer specific benefits:

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC)-This form has been found to help prevent diabetes and relieve diabetic neuropathy. An analysis of more than 1,200 diabetic patients published in Diabetes Care, found that 1000mg daily of ALC relieved pain from diabetic neuropathy and, for some patients, helped to regenerate nerve endings and improved perception of vibration. Other research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that ALC, combined with alpha-lipoic acid, can improve brain health and slow age-related decline in rats.

Shopping And Dosage Guidelines

L-carnitine is available as a stand-alone supplement and in formulas designed to provide specific health benefits. When using formulas, follow product directions. For antiaging, mental acuity and diabetes prevention, look for acetyl-L-carnitine. For heart health, exercise support and weight loss, look for L-carnitine.