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What are Carnitine Supplements?

S.M. Webster
S.M. Webster

Carnitine is an essential nutrient that stems from amino acids and is present in most cells of the body. It is critical for energy production, because it carries long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells in the body, allowing them to be used to create energy. After oxidation of the fatty acids, carnitine is also responsible for transporting toxins generated by the energy-making process out of the cells so they do not accumulate.

Carnitine is the generic term for many compounds, such as L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine, and propionyl-L-carnitine. In most healthy adults and children, the body produces enough carnitine to fulfill its purpose. There are some people that for various reasons, including genetic issues, require carnitine supplements to fulfill the process.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In healthy humans, the kidney and liver work together to produce enough carnitine from lysine and methionine — both amino acids — to produce energy and remove the byproducts of the process. Adding a carnitine supplement is believed to increase that level of energy. L-carnitine supplements are used as a natural weight loss method, while acetyl-L-carnitine helps to improve mental problems, and propionyl-L-carnitine has been shown to help treat cardiovascular and peripheral-arterial disease by increasing levels of carnitine necessary to counteract the toxic effects of fatty acids found in a failing heart muscle.

Carnitin supplementation does include some risks and side effects, but many agree the benefits outweigh the risks. L-Carnitine supplements come in three forms: capsules, tablets and powder. They are generally taken three times a day with food, and a dosage amount from 500 milligrams to 1000 milligrams is recommended. At this amount, most experience no side effects except occasional difficulty in falling asleep if taken late in the day. Other side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and, in more severe cases, a fever, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure.

Acetyl-L-carnitine supplements are more readily absorbable by the body than L-carnitine is because it has been acetylated. While it is beneficial in speeding up the energy-burning process in the body, it also stimulates the growth of neuritis in the brain and helps the brain to function properly. It is often suggested to those suffering from depression or other mental conditions, as well as for weight loss assistance and increased athletic performance. Any side effects are similar to those of L-carnitine and are usually only experienced at high doses. As with any supplement, always consult your primary healthcare provider before taking, especially if you have pre-existing health problems and are on prescription medication.

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