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Carnitine is an amino acid-like substance that is synthesised in the body from the amino acid lysine. Carnitine is important in the metabolism of fat and energy production within the body and promotes normal heart, skeletal muscle and liver function. Carnitine improves athletic ability. Some carnitine may be obtained from dietary sources, primarily meat, since vegetables and fruit contain relatively little carnitine. Athletes are most at risk from carnitine deficiency; vegetarians may also be at risk of carnitine deficiency if their diet contains low levels of lysine. Carnitine supplements are available in several chemical forms - only the L-form of carnitine is biologically active (the D-form is inactive). Carnitine levels are reduced by a high-fat diet, certain drugs (e.g. valproic acid antibiotics), metabolic stress and disease.

What does Carnitine do?

Carnitine is responsible for the transport of long-chain fatty acids into mitochondria, where energy is produced within cells. Carnitine acts in synergy with coenzyme Q10 in the metabolism of fatty acids during energy production. Carnitine is required for the normal function of heart and skeletal muscle since these tissues depend in particular on fatty acid oxidation as a source of energy. Carnitine enhances tolerance to physical exercise and inhibits the formation of fatty deposits within the liver.

What evidence is there for the efficacy of Carnitine?

Heart disease:

In patients with ischaemic heart disease, supplementation with carnitine reduced the incidence of anginal episodes and reduced levels of blood cholesterol.

It has been reported that treatment with carnitine improves exercise tolerance in patients with severe ischaemic cardiac insufficiency and chronic angina.

Muscle pain:

Individuals taking carnitine supplements are less likely to experience muscle soreness after exercise

A recent clinical trial showed that supplementation with carnitine reduced symptoms of muscle pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

Chronic fatigue syndrome:

Reduced levels of carnitine have been reported in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Clinical trials have shown supplementation with carnitine improved the clinical status of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

Exercise tolerance:

It has been reported that a clinical trial of carnitine supplementation increased recovery from intense physical exercise.

Are there adverse effects from taking Carnitine?

Human studies have shown L-carnitine to be extremely safe and well-tolerated, with no significant side-effects. There are no known adverse drug interactions.

How much Carnitine should you take?

The dosage generally recommended for L-carnitine is 1500 to 4000mg/day. Carnitine deficiency results in skeletal muscle weakness, and lipid accumulation in heart, skeletal muscle and liver tissue.

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