Like a car carrying wood to the braai, L-Carnitine carries long chain fatty-acids (the wood) to the mitochondria (braai) of the cells. It also carries the toxic waste (ash) away from the cells. In other words, Carnitine increases the use of fat as an energy source, and it prevents fatty build-up, especially in the heart, liver and skeletal muscles.
L-Carnitine is formed in our liver and kidneys and is found in our muscles, including the heart muscle, because these muscles use fatty acids as fuel. Carnitine is made from two essential amino acids: lysine and methionine (essential meaning that our body doesn’t make them, we need to get them from the food we eat). The name carnitine is derived from the Latin word carnus, or flesh, as the compound is isolated from meat.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Carnitine may be helpful in treating chronic fatigue syndrome because a lack of function of the mitochondria may be a factor in fatigue.
Aging: As we age, concentrations of carnitine in the tissues declines which means that there’s less to fuel the mitochondria. Supplemental carnitine may help in the management of cardiac ischemia (restriction of blood flow to the heart) and peripheral arterial disease (poor circulation in the legs).
Diabetes: Carnitine is beneficial to diabetics because it reduces the health risks posed by poor fat metabolism.
Cancer: Chemotherapy, radiation treatment and resulting poor nutrition can lead to extreme fatigue. Supplementing with carnitine may lead to less fatigue, improved mood and better-quality sleep.
General: Carnitine inhibits alcohol-induced fatty liver and can lessen the risk of heart disorders. Carnitine can aid in weight loss, improve muscle strength and improve the quality and motility of sperm.
Possible symptoms of deficiency include heart pain, muscle weakness, obesity and confusion. Vegetarians are more likely to be deficient in carnitine because it is not found in vegetable protein.
The best sources for carnitine are animal products like meat, fish, poultry and milk. The redder the meat, the higher its carnitine content. However, the consumption of too much red meat can lead to cardiovascular disease, gout, and other health issues. Dairy products contain carnitine primarily in the whey.
Excess carnitine is excreted in the urine.
I was introduced to nutrition as a small child when my mom used it to treat an ulcer. Since then I've been interested in supplements, healthy eating, reflexology, shiatsu, energy work and Traditional Chinese Medicine.