Author: Al Sears, M.D.
Source: The Doctor’s Heart Cure
L-Carnitine plays an essential role in the healthy functioning of the body. Every form of life, from the simplest single-cell organism to the unfathomably complex human body, depends on carnitine for energy production within the cells.
Carnitine shuttles fat (or long-chain fatty acids, to be more precise) into the energy centers or mitochondria of the cells, where the fat can be burned to produce energy. Without enough carnitine, the cells furnace cannot work at peak efficiency and its energy-production system slows down or stalls. When the body has sufficient carnitine reserves, the cells can burn more fat and generate more energy.
In addition to generating energy, fat burning creates even more health benefits. For example, carnitine-enhanced fat burning prevents the accumulation of excess fat in the heart, liver, and muscles. If allowed to build up, this fat contributes to a number of different health problems, such. as heart disease, diabetes, and high triglyceride levels. Carnitine is present in greatest concentrations in the heart, brain, muscles, and testicles, all of which require lots of energy.
Carnitine is often referred to as “the energy vitamin,” but it is not really a vitamin at all. A vitamin is a substance that cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through food. Because the body can synthesize carnitine from the amino acids lysine and methionine, carnitine is not a true vitamin. Other people classify carnitine as an amino acid, but it isn’t a true amino acid, either. While carnitine has a chemical structure similar to many amino acids, technically it is a nitrogen-containing, short-chain carboxylic acid. In simple terms, carnitine is a water-soluble, vitamin-like compound similar to the B-complex groups of vitamins.
More than 20 placebo-controlled studies support L-carnitine’s role in protecting your heart.1 Carnitine reduces arterial plaque, lowers LDL cholesterol, and increases HDL levels. These benefits appear in healthy subjects as well, as in patients with heart disease.
You obtain carnitine from red meat and dairy. In fact, when scientists first isolated it from the muscle tissue of several animals, they named it carnitine, using the Latin root carn; meaning flesh or meat. Unless you eat a diet high in red meat and dairy, it can be difficult to obtain optimal amounts of carnitine from dietary sources alone.
1. Borum RP and Bennett SG. Carnitine as an essential nutrient. Journal of American College of Nutrition. 1986; 5(2):177-182.