L-Carnitine Halts the Aging Process and Repairs Nerve Damage
One consequence of being human is that we all age. Unlike plants and some animals as we age we are aware that we are getting older. Although aging can bring abundant wisdom, it can also cause overall fatigue, depression, and sometimes sexual dysfunction. With the recent developments in modern nutritional science, certain foods and dietary supplements can combat the negative effects of aging.
The oxidation damage theory of aging is why we consume superfruits and superfoods with high anti-oxidant levels to enable our bodies to neutralize free radicals. However, scientific research has concluded that in addition to a well balanced and healing diet our bodies need help to destroy free radical toxicity that can easily lead to disease.
Along with the supplementation of a good multivitamin and sometimes extra vitamin E,C, and B our aging bodies need some form of L-Carnitine. Carnitine helps to stop degenerative cellular aging by enhancing the mitochondrial use of fatty acids and making more energy production for cells. Therefore, carnitine repairs the mitochondrial damage that leads to aging and also positively affects the functioning of nerve growth factor which can stop debilitating nerve pain.
Depending on your condition and symptoms consult your health care specialist to see which form of L-Carnitine will benefit you the most
The prime reason cells lose their energy-producing ability is that the powerhouses of the cells-the mitochondria-become dysfunctional. Research has shown that the amino acid carnitine is critical to maintaining optimal mitochondrial function and supporting high energy production.
Carnitine is responsible for fueling the fires of energy production at the cellular level. Without this valuable nutrient, the mitochondria are unable to burn dietary fats to create the energy we need to live.
Scientists have discovered several different forms of carnitine that, in addition to bolstering energy production, produce health benefits that include protecting against neurodegenerative diseases, alleviating depression, stimulating nerve growth, and improving heart function.
Why Carnitine Supplementation Is Essential
During one’s youth, most of the body’s requirement for carnitine is met by internal production of carnitine from lysine, as well as by dietary sources such as red meat and dairy products.1 An increasing body of evidence, however, indicates that to obtain enough carnitine to secure its protective effects against aging requires supplementation in addition to dietary sources.2
While scientific studies initially focused on the simplest form of carnitine, known as L-carnitine, recent findings suggest that specialized carnitine formulations may provide more dramatic, tissue-specific benefits.3
Acetyl-L-carnitine is the most widely studied carnitine supplement. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier4 and thus confers powerful protective effects on nerve tissue and the central nervous system-enhancing mood, restoring energy, and alleviating nerve pain.
A closely related compound, acetyl-L-carnitine arginate, combines carnitine with the amino acid arginine. It appears to have the same general properties as acetyl-L-carnitine, with the additional benefit of increasing nerve cell growth, thus making it a promising agent in addressing neurodegenerative conditions and possibly trauma.
Finally, propionyl-L-carnitine is a form of carnitine that appears to have potent effects in cardiac and skeletal muscle,3 giving it a potential role in maintaining physical energy and stamina.
Because acetyl-L-carnitine is absorbed from the intestinal tract and readily crosses the blood-brain barrier,4,10,11 it has been studied extensively for its role in brain and nerve functions. Some of the most compelling data are summarized here, according to the kinds of conditions involved.
However, the very increase of electron flow associated with this more efficient use of fatty acid energy may itself lead to increased formation of reactive oxygen species.2 The solution to this dilemma, according to a research review released in 2002, is co-supplementation with lipoic acid.
Our brains require vast amounts of energy to function on a daily basis. The long-term effect of this high energy consumption is a kind of “brain rust,” or oxidative damage to mitochondria in the brain. This cellular damage is thought to be an important factor in brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.12 Protecting brain cells from oxidative damage is one of the most important ways to ensure optimal brain function.
Interestingly, scientific data suggest that acetyl-L-carnitine affects the function of nerve growth factor, a protein that promotes the growth and development of both central and peripheral nerve cells.13 Acetyl-L-carnitine prevents stress-related reductions in nerve growth factor levels, and prevents the death of brain cells in culture.13,14 These mechanisms may explain how it reduces damage to brain cells caused by the amyloid beta peptide, which is found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.15-17
Aging and disease often bring on their own unique forms of depression. Scientists now understand the particular chemistry of these types of depression, and are finding that acetyl-L-carnitine actually improves the brain’s structure and function, which can help alleviate certain forms of depression.
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints that doctors hear from their patients. Usually, doctors are at a loss as to the cause or the appropriate treatment. Because carnitine helps produce energy in brain tissue and muscle, it may well be of significant benefit for patients who suffer from fatigue.These findings suggest that both acetyl-L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine can help manage the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Furthermore, individuals may be able to manage their symptoms selectively by choosing the carnitine formulation that is best suited to their specific health concerns.
Damaged nerve cells contribute to a condition known as neuropathy, which can include symptoms such as pain, numbness, altered sensation, and muscle weakness. Neuropathy can be caused by various drugs,27,28 certain infectious agents, and metabolic conditions such as diabetes. Acetyl-L-carnitine appears to protect against development of neuropathy from many causes, and may even improve symptoms of these painful, debilitating conditions.
Drugs that are used to treat HIV/AIDS disrupt mitochondrial DNA synthesis, which may be one of the mechanisms behind the neuropathy associated with their use. Because carnitine levels are known to be low in patients receiving these drugs, scientists sought to determine whether supplements would offset these effects.32 In a 2004 study, acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation produced improvement in an impressive 76% of patients suffering from neuropathy related to HIV/AIDS medications.32
Diabetic neuropathy plagues thousands of older adults. In addition to being painful, it can also result in tissue damage to the extremities, which may result in amputation. Since its numerous causes include decreased carnitine levels and high production of free radicals in nerve cells,34 scientists have investigated managing diabetic neuropathy with carnitine supplementation.
In a long-term, randomized, controlled trial in patients with diabetic neuropathy in 2002, acetyl-L-carnitine treatment (daily injections of 1 gram for 10 days, followed by 2 grams per day taken orally for one year) produced notable improvements in nerve conduction velocity and pain compared to placebo.35 Another recent study found that in addition to pain relief among 1,257 patients receiving acetyl-L-carnitine, significant improvements were recorded in nerve fiber numbers and regenerating nerve fiber clusters in people with chronic diabetic neuropathy.36 These exciting results suggest that diabetic neuropathy and other forms of nerve injury may not be as irreversible as they have long been thought to be.
Additional benefits of acetyl-L-carnitine continue to be documented as scientists find new applications for this nutrient. One recent study found that acetyl-L-carnitine treatment helped to prevent nerve cell death, even in traumatically damaged nerve fibers.37 In another promising study, acetyl-L-carnitine improved the function of the specialized nerve cells that make up the retina, the part of the eye involved in visual perception. Individuals with age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss, received a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine, vitamin E, and other antioxidants, which led to improved function of the retinal nerve cells and slight improvements in visual function.38
This impressive animal data prompted researchers to explore propionyl-L-carnitine’s potential benefits in managing heart disease in humans.48 An early study demonstrated that intravenous administration of propionyl-L-carnitine in a small group of patients with chronic ischemic heart disease improved the heart’s left ventricular function by enhancing cardiac muscle efficiency.49 In a separate study, propionyl-L-carnitine greatly improved exercise tolerance in those with stable chest pain, without contributing to changes in heart rate or blood pressure.50Because of the increased vulnerability of diabetics’ hearts to injury, researchers in 2005 examined the effects of propionyl-L-carnitine on chemical markers of heart muscle blood flow during coronary surgery.51 The study authors concluded that propionyl-L-carnitine improved multiple aspects of heart function during surgery, through mechanisms affecting metabolism and blood vessel function. These findings have important implications for protecting heart health in at-risk groups, such as people who have diabetes or require cardiac surgery.
Both propionyl-L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine can help men with sexual dysfunction. In one study, scientists looked at a group of diabetic men suffering from erectile dysfunction. They found that men who took propionyl-L-carnitine plus Viagra® showed significant measurable improvements compared to men who took only Viagra®.55Acetyl-L-carnitine arginate-which is simply acetyl-L-carnitine with an additional molecule of arginine attached-may be the most important of all forms of carnitine in preventing age-related disease. This addition of arginine appears to give the molecule privileged access to nerve cells, priming them for the effects of nerve growth factor and other factors important in the development and function of nerve cells.58,59
Acetyl-L-carnitine alone is known to be neuroprotective, reducing the rate of nerve cell death in cultured cells exposed to some of the neurotoxic agents that are important in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.16 The observation that acetyl-L-carnitine makes cultured nerve cells much more sensitive to the effects of nerve growth factor,60,61 thereby rescuing them from the effects of aging, led scientists to seek out other compounds with this remarkable capability. What they found was that acetyl-L-carnitine arginate produced rapid differentiation of early brain cells into mature neurons, while increasing the cells’ content of GABA, an important neurotransmitter.62
The discovery of carnitine’s ability to maximize cellular fuel efficiency while minimizing the wear and tear on delicate cellular machinery has led to a revolution in the way scientists think about some of the most troubling age-related conditions.
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