Why You Need to Boost Carnitine

What is carnitine?

Carnitine is a molecule derived from two amino acids called lysine and methionine. Synthesis in the body involves metabolic reactions of these two amino acids along with vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin C and iron.

Carnitine functions as a nutrient and plays a major role in the production of energy. Essentially, carnitine works like a train to deliver energy (in the form of fatty acids) into the mitochondria of our cells to produce energy. As a shuttle, carnitine also transports waste and toxic byproducts out of cells. Due to these important roles, carnitine is needed for optimal mitochondrial and cellular health.

Carnitine is found in nearly every cell in the body. However, it is heavily concentrated in cardiac muscle and skeletal muscle because it is required for creating cellular energy. The heart is more than just a pump. It is an organ that needs metabolic energy. Cardiovascular disease is a metabolic disease and L-carnitine is key for metabolic cardiac therapy.

***Heart failure patients should be on this supplement***

What foods provide carnitine?

The best food source of carnitine is animal food. A general rule of thumb is the redder the meat, the higher the concentration of carnitine.

Top 3 sources of carnitine in the diet:

  1. Grass-fed beef steak
  2. Grass-fed ground beef
  3. Grass-fed beef organ meats

Other foods that contain adequate carnitine include pasture-raised pork and fish.

Carnitine occurs in two forms: D and L. The only form found in food is L-carnitine. L-carnitine is also the only form that is active in the body and therefore the only form we are concerned with!

Health benefits of carnitine:

  • Functions as an antioxidant to fight off harmful molecules
  • Detoxes tissues and cells
  • Provides fuel for the heart to function
  • Can help to treat symptoms of angina
  • Can help to treat heart arrhythmias
  • Can help to treat cardiomyopathy
  • Can improve mitochondrial function and increase cellular energy (ATP)
  • Can reduce fatigue
  • Could help with Alzheimer’s disease 

Carnitine and heart health:

It is important to understand the vital role that carnitine plays in heart health. Adequate levels of carnitine are needed to shuttle high-energy fat fuel into the heart for energy production. The heart prefers to use high-energy fats for its main energy source. The only way for these fats to get into the mitochondria of the cells is by carnitine delivery.

The relationship between levels of carnitine in tissues and overall cardiac health has been extensively studied. A 2013 review study looked at 13 controlled trails and 3, 629 patients to analyze the benefits of L-carnitine on the heart. The study found that L-carnitine was linked to a 27% reduction in all-cause mortality, 40% reduction in angina symptoms and a 65% reduction in reduced ventricular arrhythmias.  The mechanisms for L-carnitine’s beneficial effects are attributed to its ability to stabilize heart cell membranes, increase cellular energy production and reduce ischemia.

Low carnitine levels are associated with cardiac dysfunction. A 2018 case report showed that L-carnitine treatment restored cardiac function by increasing ejection fraction and decreasing brain natriuretic peptide (BNP-marker of heart stress).

Furthermore, L-carnitine is an evidence-based treatment for heart failure (HF). A 2017 review study concluded that treatment with L-carnitine improved cardiac function, reduced HF symptoms, increased left ventricular ejection fraction and decreased levels of BNP/NT-ProBNP (markers of HF).

What causes carnitine deficiency?

There are two types of carnitine deficiencies: primary and secondary.

  1. Primary carnitine deficiency is a genetic condition whereby carnitine is unable to be taken up and utilized by the cells.

    Primary deficiency causes: abnormal genetics.

  2. Secondary carnitine deficiency is due to not enough carnitine present in the blood (this type can result from health conditions or poor nutrition).

    Secondary deficiency causes: mitochondrial disease, metabolic disorders, malnutrition, digestive disease, kidney disease, liver disease and certain medications.

What are the symptoms of a carnitine deficiency?

  • Swelling or shortness of breath, when the heart is impacted
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Decreased muscle tone and muscle weakness
  • Low blood sugar symptoms (hypoglycemia), when the liver is affected
  • Fatty liver

Note: strenuous exercise or fasting can trigger symptoms in individuals with a carnitine deficiency. 

Who is at risk for carnitine deficiency?

  • Vegans
  • Vegetarians
  • Preterm infants
  • Genetically susceptible patients
  • Anyone with liver disease, kidney disease, or other health conditions (as noted above)
  • Advancing age

How do you know if you have low carnitine levels?

You can take a blood test to check levels of carnitine in the blood. 

What populations may need to supplement based on the research?

  • Individuals with cardiomyopathy
  • Individuals with a heart arrhythmia
  • Individuals with cardiovascular disease
  • Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Individuals on certain medications (like phenobarbitol)

Overall, your carnitine levels are influenced by how much you’re getting from animal foods, how much your body is producing and the health conditions you’re facing. 

If you need to supplement due to a cardiac condition or if you fall into the high-risk population category above, check out our favorite product called Acetyl L-Carnitine. Take 1-2 caps 2-3 times per day depending on need.

If you have any health-related questions, or need help dosing Acetyl L-Carnitine, you can book a free 20 minute health coaching consult here.


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