Acetyl-L-Carnitine - Heart, Brain, Nerve, Eye Support, Side Effects

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The Effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine -- New Research Yields Unexpected Benefits
Reprinted by permission from Bill Faloon of The Life Extension Foundation

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is the biologically active form of the amino acid L-carnitine and has been shown to protect cells throughout the body against age-related degeneration.  Most clinical research has focused on the brain, where improved mood, memory and cognition has been observed in response to acetyl-l-carnitine administration.  By facilitating the youthful transport of fatty acids into the cell's mitochondria, acetyl-l-carnitine better enables dietary fats to be converted to energy and muscle.  The failure of doctors to suggest this natural amino acid correlates directly with the lack of drug company advertising for the product.

There is little economic motivation for drug companies to promote the benefits of carnitine to doctors when their patients can choose from hundreds of lower cost carnitine supplements available over the counter.  In addition, acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to maintain immune competence1 and reduce the formation of a cell-clogging pigment called lipofuscin2.  The most important effect of acetyl-l-carnitine, however, is to work with coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid to maintain the function of the mitochondria3.  When the mitochondria function dwindles, health problems can become an inevitable consequence.

Heart Disease

The Heart
The effects of aging were dramatically demonstrated when scientists measured cell energy activity and respiration rates in the heart mitochondria of rats.  Both cellular energy and respiration was depressed around 40% in the older rats.  When acetyl-L-carnitine was administered, their heart rates became almost completely restored to the metabolic function level of young control rats4.  This study showed that the heart mitochondrial content of cardiolipin, a key agent necessary for mitochondrial substrate transport, was markedly reduced in aged rats.  Treatment of aged rats with acetyl-L-carnitine reversed the age-associated decline in cardiolipin content.  This newly identified mechanism helps explain why acetyl-L-carnitine may be beneficial in supporting problems associated with congestion in the heart.

Brain Protection
Aging causes alterations in brain cell metabolism.  Acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to counteract several mechanisms of brain cell damage.  A new study shows that acetyl-l-carnitine helps with blood flow by maintaining the cell's energy cycle5.  Other recent studies show that acetyl-L-carnitine protects brain cells against glutamate-induced and ammonia-induced toxicity6.  As people grow older, circulation to the brain diminishes, which sets off a cascade of pathological events that results in neurological impairment.  Acetyl-L-carnitine appears to help protect against some of the known negative side effects that aging induces in the brain.

Emergency use of Acetyl-L-Carnitine
In animal stroke models, an 11-point neurologic deficit scoring system evaluated the treatment progression of acetyl-L-carnitine against a control vehicle.  Acetyl-L-carnitine was shown to support brain cells against injury and to improve neurological outcome with the treated animals being significantly improved over the controls.  This study suggests that acetyl-L-carnitine might someday be used to improve the prognosis of stroke.8

Regenerating Nerves
Acetyl-L-carnitine was shown to have a significant neuro-protective effect against the degeneration of traumatized motor-neurons.

Regenerating Nerves
Acetyl-L-carnitine may facilitate nerve regeneration after nerve injury9.  Scientists surgically severed nerves and observed the typical motor-neuron degeneration that occurred at the site of the injury.  Acetyl-L-carnitine was shown to have significant neuro-protective effect against the degeneration of traumatized motor-neurons.  These observations prompted the scientists to postulate a better hypotheses concerning motor-neuron regeneration and even the possibility of inducing neuronal proliferation.  These findings have practical applications in those who have suffered from loss of nerve function.

Another study showed that acetyl-L-carnitine helped prevent ethanol-induced brain cell alterations.10  The scientists who conducted this rat study stated that acetyl-L-carnitine might have an indirect benefit by protecting brain cells against the known neuro-toxicity side effects of alcohol.

It is well known that many anti-viral HIV-drugs contribute to peripheral neuropathy.  Doctors in London noted that treatment with acetyl-L-carnitine may assist in the treatment of drug-induced peripheral neuropathy.11

In two related studies of diabetic nerve degeneration and neuropathy, acetyl-L-carnitine was shown to support nerve regeneration after experimental injury.12  In the first study, doctors at the Hines VA Hospital in Illinois showed that diabetic rats treated with acetyl-L-carnitine maintained near normal nerve conduction velocity without any adverse effects on glucose, insulin or free fatty acid levels.  These observations led the scientists to summarize that acetyl-L-carnitine can support nerve regeneration after experimental injury.

Reports on acetyl-L-carnitine for the treatment of memory problems have been contradictory.  Some studies show encouraging degrees of efficacy, while other studies show no benefit.  A placebo-controlled study at Stanford University School of Medicine in California showed that patients under age 62 benefitted more from acetyl-L-carnitine than older patients.15  The doctors concluded that acetyl-L-carnitine may slow the progression of memory problems in younger subjects.  Though this is an important study, patients over 61 may want to still consider ALC for its other known neurological benefits, which were not evaluated in this study.

Acetyl-L-carnitine enhances energy production in every cell of the body.  Two recent studies illustrate the unique ability of acetyl-L-carnitine to increase cellular respiration in aging models.  A study from Berkeley examined liver parenchymal cells in old mice after feeding them a 1.5% solution of acetyl-L-carnitine for one month.  The results show that acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation supports the age-associated decline of mitochondrial membrane function.16  A similar second study, also from Berkelely, again supported the first study.17

Eye Lense CloudingSupports Problems Associated with Eye Lense Clouding

Glycosylation and glycation are terms used to describe the binding of sugars to proteins that form non-functioning structures (crosslinks) in the body.  Glycation-induced protein cross linking is most notable in the lense of the eye, the brain and collagen of the skin.  Protein glycation has been implicated in the development of cataracts.  Scientists recently evaluated the effects of L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine on the glycation of lens proteins.  The results show that acetyl-L-carnitine suppresses glycation by 42% but that l-carnitine has no effect. Additional evaluation shows that acetyl-L-carnitine produces a 70% reduction in one measurement of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs).  It is the formation of AGEs that makes the clouding in the lense irreversible.  This in-vitro study shows, for the first time, that acetyl-L-carnitine (not L-carnitine) may support anti-lense clouding by preventing glycation-mediated protein damage in the eye lense side effects free.

Suggested Dosage
The optimal dose range of acetyl-L-carnitine for healthy people is 1000 mg to 2000 mg day.  Those with memory problems should consider 3000 mg a day.  Synergistic nutrients that could be taken with acetyl-L-carnitine include coenzyme Q10 (100-300 mg/day) and alpha lipoic acid (250-500 mg/day).

A couple of sites that be helpful to see if any of the above supplements are helping you are http://www.brainbuilder.com/tyb_main.asp and http://www.MyBrainTrainer.com.  You can perform a set of tasks and see your score as a pre-test.  Then, take any one or a combination of any of the supplements above for at least 2 weeks and then perform a post-test.  Compare your scores and see if you improved.

Summary
A plethora of published studies on acetyl-L-carnitine has heightened our awareness of the multi-faceted benefits of this amino acid side effects free.  Published research shows acetyl-L-carnitine is critical to youthful cellular function in the brain, heart, liver, peripheral nerve and immune system.18  Supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine becomes an even greater consideration when we realize the potential effects this amino acid may produce when taken in combination with coQ10 and alpha lipoic acid.

Article:  Mental Gymnastics to Maintain the Brain | References

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