The naturally-occurring, chemical compound carnitine, or L-carnitine, is technically speaking, not an amino acid. It is actually a dipeptide made from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine. It is therefore often classed as a conditionally essential amino acid. Carnitine plays an important role in the energy metabolism of animal and plant cells, improves the energy supply of brain cells and helps to lower stress levels, whether physical or mental in nature.
Carnitine plays an important role in the energy exchange between animal and plant cells, improves the energy supply to the cells in the brain and leads to a higher stress resistance. It also becomes easier to cope with stresses and strains, whether they are physical or mental.
The transfer of fat to energy is one of the main functions of carnitine
Owing to its fat-burning capabilities and the optimization of fat metabolism, carnitine is familiarly known as a ‘fat-burner’. Fatty acids are transported into the cells, where they are burned to release energy by being transported to mitochondria, the power stations of the cells. The useful long branched chain fatty acid molecules can only pass through the inner mitochondrial membrane through esterification with carnitine. This is contrary to medium and short-chain fatty acids which can penetrate the membrane without this biocarrier.
In connection with regular sporting activities, carnitine can lead to a higher fat burn rate. This can be beneficial to those wishing to lose weight, as doing sport can become more enjoyable as carnitine can make physical activity last longer without fatigue, by oxidizing the amino acids in the body.1 The amount of carnitine controls the speed at which fats can be transported. The demand is different in men and women, as men naturally have more carnitine in their red blood cells than women.
Investigations have shown that obesity can lead to a carnitine deficiency. In these cases, supplementation with carnitine seems to be beneficial.2
Carnitine is a useful supplement in the treatment of diabetes
One study from 2007 showed that L-carnitine improves insulin sensitivity as part of a diabetes treatment, when taken as a supplement.Furthermore, it reduces LDL cholesterol levels in diabetics and has a positive effect on blood fats (tyglycerides).
Carnitine also protects free radicals and thus prevents oxidative stress and reduces the risk of heart, circulative, kidney and eye illnesses. Diabetics are particularly prone to such illnesses, as a higher blood sugar level attacks the blood vessels.
Carnitine is important for healthy skin
The largest human organ, the skin, requires creatine, in order to maintain its natural functions. This supports the creation of connective tissue, the skin’s metabolism and cell renewal. Creatine is made of the amino acids arginine and methionine, which is again a part of carnitine. Carnitine also indirectly plays an important role for healthy skin.
1 Müller, D.M., Seim, H., Kiess, W., Löster, H. & Richter, T. (2002) Effects of Oral l-Carnitine Supplementation on In Vivo Long-Chain Fatty Acid Oxidation in Healthy Adults Metabolism, Volume 51, issue 11, (pp. 1389-1391)
2 Evangeliou, A. & Vlassopoulos, D. (2003) Carnitine Metabolism and Deficit – When Supplementation is Necessary?, Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology,Volume 4, issue 3, (pp. 211-219)
3 Power, R.A., Hulver, M.W., Zhang, J.Y., Dubois, J., Marchand, R.M., Ilkayeva, O., Muoio, D.M. & Mynatt, R.L. (2007) Carnitine revisted: potential use asadjunctive treatment Diabetes Diabetologia, Volume 50, issue 4, (pp. 824-832)