"An amino acid-like compound that helps the body produce energy"
Carnitine is an amino acid-like compound that helps the body produce energy. While readily abundant in meats and dairy foods, some people take carnitine in supplement form to increase vitality and energy. Carnitine transports fatty acids to the "factory" portion of cells, which then convert the fat into energy that the heart, muscles, and other body tissues can use.
Without enough carnitine to move fatty acids to the right place, your body will eventually wear down, and you may feel drained and tired. The heart in particular is highly dependent on carnitine, and taking it in supplement form is currently being explored as an option for speeding recovery after a heart attack as well as for treating angina (chest pain), arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), and congestive heart failure.
Carnitine plays a critical role in metabolizing a number of other important substances as well, which helps to explain why it holds promise for so many disorders. Some studies indicate that carnitine may improve endurance in those weakened by disease, and boost an immune response in people who are HIV-infected. A form of carnitine that is produced naturally in the brain--acetyl-L-carnitine, or ALC--is currently being studied in supplement form as a possible treatment for memory loss associated with aging and Alzheimer's disease.
Studies are conflicting regarding the effectiveness of carnitine for enhancing athletic performance by improving energy and fat metabolism. A positive effect appears most pronounced for endurance-related events, such as cycling and long distance running. Carnitine supplements are particularly valuable for people with conditions that can interfere with its absorption, including various liver and kidney problems, metabolic stress, long-term alcohol use, and in some cases, a high-fat diet.
Improves energy production. Carnitine plays an important role in lipid metabolism and energy production. It is essential for normal mitochondrial function, acting as a transporter of long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria for beta-oxidation and energy production.
Supports normal memory and concentration. Carnitine may enhance memory and concentration by increasing energy production in the brain, and by increasing levels of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is an essential neurotransmitter which is reduced in people with age-related memory loss. Cerebral Carnitine levels are reduced in chronically fatigued individuals.
Protects neurological tissues. Carnitine levels are lower in people with various types of neuropathy, where there is damage to sensory neuronal membranes. Carnitine is thought to slow neuronal decline or help in the regeneration and repair of neurons. Carnitine may also lessen oxidative stress and damage in the brain and promote healthy ageing of the nervous system.
Enhances fatty acid utilization. Carnitine is essential for normal mitochondrial function, acting as a transporter of long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria to be burnt as a fuel for energy production.
Deficient in male infertility. Levels of Carnitine have been reported to be lower in semen and sperm samples with low motility, and an increase in sperm motility is seen in vitro when Carnitine is added to the sample. Preliminary research also suggests Carnitine may play a role in testosterone production.