Carnitine : The amino acid that reduces the health risks posed by poor fat metabolism associated with diabetes; inhibits alcohol-induced fatty liver; and lessens the risk of heart disorders.

Carnitine is really not an amino acid, but because it is structurally similar to amino acids, it is normally classed with amino acids, and is also known as vitamin T. Carnitine is used in energy supply within cells and muscles and assists in preventing fatty build-up in areas such as the heart, liver, and skeletal muscles.

Unlike true amino acids, carnitine is not used for protein synthesis or as a neurotransmitter. Its main function in the body is to help transport long-chain fatty acids, which are burned within the cells, mainly in the mitochondria, to provide energy. This is a major source of energy for the muscles. Carnitine thus increases the use of fat as an energy source. This prevents fatty buildup, especially in the heart, liver, and skeletal muscles. Carnitine may be useful in treating chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), because a disturbance in the function of the mitochondria (the site of energy production within the cells) may be a factor in fatigue. Studies have shown decreased carnitine levels in many people with CFS.

Carnitine can be manufactured by the body if sufficient amounts of iron, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and the amino acids lysine and methionine are available. The synthesis of carnitine also depends on the presence of adequate levels of vitamin C. Inadequate intake of any of these nutrients can result in a carnitine deficiency. Carnitine can also be obtained from food, primarily meats and other foods of animal origin.

Function and Benefits of Carnitine

  • Carnitine is available as D-carnitine, L-carnitine, DL-carnitine as well as acetyl-L-carnitine, but L-carnitine is the most popular type.
  • L-Carnitine is synthesized from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine, but enough vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) must be available
  • Carnitine has also been shown to improve the antioxidant effect of vitamin C and vitamin E
  • Carnitine can be manufactured by the body if iron, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and the amino acids lysine and methionine are available
  • Insufficient carnitine will not allow fatty acids to be moved to the right place and the body will eventually wear down, resulting in a person feeling drained and tired
  • Carnitine reduces the health risks posed by poor fat metabolism associated with diabetes; inhibits alcohol-induced fatty liver; and lessens the risk of heart disorders.
  • Studies have shown that damage to the heart from cardiac surgery can be reduced by treatment with carnitine. According to The American Journal of Cardiology, one study showed that proprionyl-L-carnitine, a carnitine derivative, helps to ease the severe pain of intermittent claudication, a condition in which a blocked artery in the thigh decreases the supply of blood and oxygen to leg muscles, causing pain, especially with physical activity.
  • Carnitine has the ability to lower blood triglyceride levels, aid in weight loss, improve the motility of sperm, and improve muscle strength in people with neuromuscular disorders.
  • Men normally require more carnitine than women, because of their heavier body mass
  • Related to B-Vitamins

Deficiency Symptoms of Carnitine

Many cases of carnitine deficiency have been identified as partly genetic in origin, resulting from an inherited defect in carnitine synthesis. Possible symptoms of deficiency include confusion, heart pain, muscle weakness, and obesity.

Rich Food Sources of Carnitine

  • The highest concentrations of carnitine are found in red meat and dairy products.
  • Other natural sources of carnitine include nuts and seeds (e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), legumes or pulses (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts), vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, garlic, mustard greens, okra, parsley, kale), fruits (apricots, bananas), cereals (buckwheat, corn, millet, oatmeal, rice bran, rye, whole wheat, wheat bran, wheat germ) and other “health” foods (bee pollen, brewer’s yeast, carob).

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