Effect of L-carnitine
In order to adequately describe the effect of L-carnitine on our body, it is necessary to differentiate between general and special effects. It is also advisable to examine the effect on the respective organs and organ systems, even before analysing the individual effect on different symptoms.
Above all, L-carnitine has a positive
impact on our skeletal muscle, cardiovascular system and immune system and affects our body as follows:
- increases strength,
- supports fat-burning,
- supports metabolism,
- develops muscle,
- prophylactic effects against muscle injuries,
- prevents muscle pain,
- regenerates muscle,
- shortens recovery phases,
- protects the nervous system,
- increases cardiac output,
- promotes blood circulation,
- lowers the heart rate (pulse) during exercise,
- detoxifies (toxic organic substances are transported out of the body),
- is an antidepressant,
- strengthens the psyche,
- regulates blood sugar levels (glucose levels),
- regulates blood lipid levels (cholesterol levels),
- strengthens cognitive performance and
- the immune system.
Effect on the following organs and organ systems:
- Cardiovascular system
- Immune system
- Endocrine system
Effect on the cardiovascular system
The heart muscle relies on the energy from fatty acids to help it function correctly and healthily. But only with carnitine can these fatty acids be used by the body as an energy source. L-carnitine acts as an energy carrier and allows the muscles, the heart and other organs to utilise the fatty acids as energy. L-carnitine strengthens the heart muscles and can thus prevent heart disease and a heart attack. In animal studies, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) in the heart muscle has reversed the degradation of phosphate transport molecules, which are essential for healthy membrane function and the resulting energy supply to the heart. In further studies, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) prevented hypoxia in the heart muscle (see ‘L-carnitine studies’). In addition, the endothelial and smooth muscle cells of our blood vessels are subject to L-carnitine-dependent metabolism, which causes L-carnitine to vasodilate, leading to many other cardiovascular and other benefits.
Effect on the blood vessels
Due to the vasodilating effect of the effect on the endothelial and smooth muscle cells of our blood vessels, there are numerous advantages due to the increased blood flow:
- improved circulation to the heart,
- lowering blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension,
- reduction of the heart rate (pulse),
- increase in the circulation of the skeletal musculature,
- increase in the oxygen absorption capacity of skeletal muscle,
- lowering of the lactate level (lactic acid levels during and after anaerobic exercise),
- reduction of muscle damage (including sore muscles symptoms),
- increase in muscle power,
- improvement of cerebral blood flow,
- reduction of headaches,
- heightened alertness,
- improved concentration,
- reduction of mental fatigue,
- improved cognitive abilities (learning retention),
- improved wound healing,
- increase in leg blood flow,
- increase in potency.
Effect on the muscles
It is no coincidence that L-carnitine is found in heart muscle, skeletal muscle and the brain. These are organs that rely heavily on from fatty acids for energy – but these can only function optimally by using L-carnitine. The muscles do not tire so fast, soreness and even significant muscle damage can be prevented, more frequent training sessions are possible and higher performance gains are achieved. In animal studies, intravenous administration of L-carnitine increased muscle strength by up to 34 %.
Effect on the brain and the central nervous system
L-carnitine improves cognitive ability, counteracts brain ageing, dementia and Alzheimer's, increases concentration and receptivity (learning ability) and accelerates cell renewal in the brain. In contrast to most antioxidants, acetyl-L-carnitine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and can promote the formation of nerve growth factor receptors, so-called NGFR, and, on the other hand, protect them.
In this way,
- acetyl-L-carnitine protects ageing nerve cells from death,
- increases the ability to concentrate,
- improves long-term memory,
- optimises the ability to learn and
- increases alertness.
Furthermore, it can act as a natural antidepressant, lightening the mood.
Effect of L-carnitine on the immune system
It is not surprising that the immune cells contain a great deal of L-carnitine, because L-carnitine is considered a natural immune stimulator; it transports the long-chain fatty acids directly into the mitochondria for ATP production. L-carnitine provides optimal protection for the cell membranes, the immune system defence cells are activated and strengthened. Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) has been shown to increase lymphocyte activity, maintain macrophage production, and increase TSH levels.
In summary, L-carnitine has the following effects on our immune system:
- increase in the production of antibodies
- increase in TNF-alpha release
- release of TNF-alpha and interleukins
- inhibition of aggregation of platelets and macrophages
- activation of white blood cells
- Inhibition of erythrocyte aggregation
- acts as an immunostimulant in infectious diseases such as tuberculosis
- activation of macrophages and monocytes
- stimulation of human T and B lymphocytes
- increase in the proliferation of lymphocytes
Effect on the hormone system
In animal experiments, acetyl-L-carnitine succeeded in stimulating the pineal gland to release more of the ‘regeneration hormone’ melatonin. Melatonin is considered one of the most important hormones in anti-ageing research, and many scientists believe that it can stop physical ageing.
In addition, acetyl-L-carnitine can normalise an elevated level of cortisol.
Protective effect on the DNA
Studies have impressively shown that taking L-carnitine promotes the repair of DNA damage caused by oxygen radicals.
Effect of L-carnitine on the liver
L-carnitine regenerates the liver and cell renewal, enables a better breakdown of alcohol and other toxic substances, generally improves liver function and increases fat metabolism in the liver.
Effect on sperm/fertility
L-carnitine not only increases the quantity, i.e. the amount of ejaculate, but also ensures that the sperm are activated, increasing their number and thereby improving fertility. The probability of successful procreation increases dramatically.
Indications for the use of L-carnitine
L-carnitine is used against the following diseases and maladies:
- adrenal insufficiency
- angina pectoris
- connective tissue
- chronic muscle myopathies
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- distal ulcerative colitis
- circulatory disorders
- fertility problems
- mind, mental state
- heart attack
- heart disease in general
- heart failure
- liver disease
- Bekhterev's disease
- post-polio syndrome/poliomyelitis
- Reye's syndrome
- smoker’s leg
- sperm deficit
- sperm inactivity
- leg ulcers
- excess weight
Furthermore, L-carnitine is recommended for all people who suffer from stress as well as for smokers, competitive athletes, weight loss, pregnant women and young children >15 years (at this age, the body does not produce its own L-carnitine).
Specific effect of L-carnitine on diseases
As a substance that supplies all organs more efficiently with energy and strengthens the immune system, it is not surprising that L-carnitine has a wide-ranging effect on individual diseases.
Prof. Strack, who is considered a pioneer in L-carnitine research, divided all diseases into two groups in front of his students: those curable by L-carnitine and those which are not.
As much of a joke as it may have been, it is nevertheless a small indication of the strengthening and healing potential of L-carnitine on countless diseases. Let's take a closer look at the effect:
Effect of L-carnitine on cardiovascular diseases
Cardiovascular failure is regarded as the ‘Number One’ cause of death in the industrialised nations in concrete terms, one in two people in industrialised nations die due to cardiovascular failure. It becomes clear what is required of the heart when one realises that the heart muscle beats about 100,000 times a day, pumping up to 10,000 litres of blood.
By the age of 80, a human heart beats up to 2.5 billion times without stopping. Of course, the heart muscle needs energy sources for this incredible output – the most important of which are the fatty acids. In this case, L-carnitine is needed to transport the fatty acids directly into the mitochondria of the heart muscle cells. And the more of it the heart gets, the more
- efficiently and economically it can work,
- the more unlikely the risk is of the heart falling ill and
- the faster it can recover if it is already sick or weakened and if it has access to additional L-carnitine in the form of dietary supplements.
Effect of L-carnitine on angina pectoris
Strength increases and pain relief is achieved.
Effect of L-carnitine on heart failure
Increase the performance of the heart muscle, general strengthening of the heart.
Effect of L-carnitine on fatty acidification
It transports the excess fats and thus effectively counteracts fatty tissue.
Effect of L-carnitine on cardiac arrhythmias
L-carnitine counteracts cardiac arrhythmias antirhythmically and thus helps to prevent disorders, from cardiac arrhythmias to ventricular fibrillation.
Effect of L-carnitine on myocardiopathy
Competitive and professional athletes are especially prone to myocardiopathy; it accounts for 80 % of all cases in which athletes suffer from heart disease. L-carnitine has proven to be effective in preventing this and increasing the chances of survival in the case of acute problems.
L-carnitine successful as a heart attack prophylactic
Atherosclerosis can lead to a lack of blood and oxygen levels in the heart. The latter means that fatty acids can no longer be burned sufficiently, which further increases the problem of oxygenation and can lead to heart attack. L-carnitine can normalise the burning of fat in the heart and thus prevent heart attacks. In addition, studies have shown that the therapeutic use of L-carnitine can reduce the intensity of a heart attack and increase the survival rate.
Effect of L-carnitine on liver disease
L-carnitine has been proven to protect and build up liver cells and is used for this reason, among other things, against alcoholism. A weakened, sick liver loses the potential to adequately synthesise L-carnitine. Here, the use of L-carnitine supplements is recommended for several reasons.
Effect of L-carnitine on diabetes
L-carnitine is both prophylactic and therapeutically effective against diabetes.
Preventive: because L-carnitine contributes to the burning of free fatty acids, the effect of the body's own insulin increases, which contributes to the prevention of diabetes.
Accompanying therapy: On average, the level of L-carnitine in diabetics is below the norm, especially if the diabetic has to use insulin. On the other hand, L-carnitine enhances the effect of insulin.
L-carnitine has a positive influence on blood sugar levels during the day and lowers high cholesterol levels. It lowers the stress hormone cortisol as well as TNF and NO, which aggravate diabetes.
The increased sugar level in diabetics damages the blood vessels and the heart muscle itself. L-carnitine has been shown to have an invigorating effect and increases the circulation of the heart muscle, so it should also be used in this aspect of therapy.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is able to prevent and partially reverse the negative consequences that arise due to an undersupply of the retina. One of the very unpleasant comorbidities in diabetes is the so-called ‘diabetic neuropathy’, a type of nerve damage that causes very insidious problems in diabetics and may even lead to the amputation of limbs. L-carnitine improves nerve signal transduction and protects its cells, which can help prevent these comorbidities of diabetes. So-called ‘peripheral neuropathy’ can lead to potency problems in male diabetics. In studies, just 1500 mg acetyl-L-carnitine per day has successfully counteracted this problem.
Effect of L-carnitine on cancer
L-carnitine exerts its effect on cancer through several mechanisms: First, it has been proven to strengthen our immune system, which always plays a primary role in the fight against cancer. In addition, it has a detoxifying effect and can therefore remove certain toxic substances from the body, which are often the causes of tumours. L-carnitine can do even more for cancer: it can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and strengthen healthy cells.
Effect of L-carnitine on renal insufficiency
Patients who are dependent on dialysis because of kidney disease run the risk of suffering from L-carnitine deficiency. This is related to the fact that dialysis uncontrollably flushes large amounts of L-carnitine out of the kidneys. The body cannot keep up the production – this threatens to cause an acute L-carnitine deficiency, with all its consequences. Here, an additional intake of high-quality L-carnitine supplements is strongly recommended.
Effect of L-carnitine on post-polio syndrome
Post-polio syndrome is characterised by muscle weakness and is accompanied by chronic pain. In studies, 1-2 g of L-carnitine per day lead to an increase in strength by 67 % and endurance by 70 % in study subjects. Fatigue also decreased by 28 % and pain decreased by 57 %.
Effect of L-carnitine on muscle atrophy
As we will read in ‘L-carnitine in sport’, L-carnitine has an anticatabolic (against muscle breakdown protective) and anabolic (muscle-building) effect. For the body to be able to produce 1 g of L-carnitine from its own reserves, it has to break down around 30 g of muscle mass. An additional intake of L-carnitine thus has a protective effect on the muscles, which explains the anticatabolic effect. L-carnitine improves the energy supply of the myofibrils, allows higher loads and counteracts premature fatigue. All in all, L-carnitine proves to be optimal for working against muscle atrophy.
Effect of L-carnitine on osteoporosis
Along with calcium and vitamin D, L-carnitine seems to strengthen the bone structure, as animal trials have clearly demonstrated. Obviously, it enhances the synthesis of bone-building cells, also called ‘osteoblasts’.
Effect of L-carnitine on smoker's leg and ulcers
Here, too, L-carnitine has a multifactorial effect, because it promotes blood circulation and cell metabolism on the one hand, on the other hand, infections are combated more efficiently. Wounds can heal better, and blood flow is optimized.
Effect of L-carnitine on mental well-being
Acetyl-L-carnitine increases the nerve sensitivity of the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine, therefore normalising the metabolism of the ‘happiness hormone’ serotonin and may serve as a healthy alternative to harmful antidepressants.
Effect of L-carnitine on fertility
L-carnitine is also recommended to boost fertility. L-carnitine can be of real help and increase the fertility of men who have too little sperm in their ejaculate or whose sperm are not sufficiently active. Studies have shown a positive effect in this regard after 3-6 months of regularly taking 1 g L-carnitine/day. It is worth noting in this context that sperm store large amounts of acetyl-L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine is the only form of energy that helps the sperm fertilise the female egg.
The same is suspected of occurring in the woman's ovum, which probably facilitates the implantation of the fertilised sperm cell into the uterus through a more efficient energy supply provided by L-carnitine. In animal experiments, an increase of fertility of 10-15 % was confirmed.
 Prof. Dr. Peter Billigmann and Dr. Stefan Siebrecht: Physiologie des L-Carnitins und seine Bedeutung für Sportler (‘Physiology of L-Carnitine and Its Importance for Athletes’), 2004, p. 53
 Maria-Elisabeth Lange-Ernst: Einfach gesund bleiben – warum L-Carnitin für Frauen so wichtig ist (‘Just Stay Healthy - Why L-Carnitine is So Important for Women’), 2nd Edition, 2005, p. 47