Acetyl-L-Carnitine: Everything you need to know


alcar

 

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) is a methylated version of the amino acid l-carnitine, which is produced naturally in the body and is found in particularly high concentrations in skeletal muscles.

It serves as a natural antioxidant that helps to protect cellular membranes from free radical damage while increasing the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism.

ALCAR has been extensively researched for its effects on cognitive function and neurological disorders. In particular, it is used for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Preliminary research suggests that supplementation with ALCAR may help to improve cognitive dysfunction and working memory deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

As a result, ALCAR has been used as an adjunct to treatments for this and other neurodegenerative disorders in clinical trials.

How it works in the brain

Cognition, including memory, is supported by the function of the brain’s neurons. The actions of numerous central nervous system (CNS) neurotransmitters and neuromodulators on these neurons create a network of synaptic connections that are critical to cognition.

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR), a compound with antioxidant activity, is found in high concentrations in nerve cells and has been proposed as a potential treatment for cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease.

One proposed mechanism of action is that ALCAR may influence neuronal energy metabolism by selectively stimulating the mitochondria and increasing the production of ATP, a key energy molecule.

This action could also increase monoamine neurotransmission.

In addition, ALCAR may also stimulate neuronal synaptogenesis or growth. These effects may promote neuronal plasticity and increase learning and long-term memory.

 

What the Science says

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) has been extensively studied in vitro and in vivo for its effects on mitochondria.

Preliminary evidence suggests that it stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and increased ATP production.

In addition, ALCAR may improve mitochondrial function in nerve cells by stabilizing the electron transport chain and increasing the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

On the other hand, ALCAR may inhibit oxidative stress through the redox regulation of protein modification and DNA transcription.

ALCAR has also been shown to reduce oxidative damage in nerve cells by decreasing lipid peroxidation.

In addition, acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) may stimulate the antioxidant response element (ARE) in the promoter regions of genes that encode antioxidant enzymes. This action could also increase monoamine neurotransmission.

 

Animal studies

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) has been used in animal models to investigate its potential effects on mitochondrial biogenesis and function as well as on redox systems.

Studies show that acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) may increase mitochondrial biogenesis and ATP production in cells.

This effect may be due to ALCAR’s ability to reduce the inhibitory actions of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase kinase and glycogen synthase kinase 3 on nuclear respiratory factor (NRF)-mediated transcription.

ALCAR also increases the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α, which is critical for regulating gene expression involved in energy metabolism.

As a result, ALCAR may reduce apoptosis by increasing antioxidant enzyme activity.

ALCAR may also have direct antioxidant effects.

Animal studies show that ALCAR protects the brain against degeneration caused by ischemia (inadequate blood flow) and excitotoxin-induced injury.

ALCAR is thought to prevent oxidative stress by stimulating the ARE pathway in the promoter regions of numerous genes that encode antioxidants and enzymes involved in energy metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis and degradation.

These actions may lead to the production of more energy and neurotransmitters. This could improve synaptic transmission and increase learning ability as well as long-term memory formation.

In a study in mice, ALCAR improved learning and memory after brain injury.

ALCAR also protected nerve cells against excitotoxicity (overactivation of neuron receptors by neurotransmitters).

In addition, ALCAR protected against degeneration caused by ischemia (inadequate blood flow) in the hippocampus and striatum (part of the basal forebrain).

 

What’s the Difference?

When it comes to carnitine, the terms “L-carnitine” and “acetyl l-carnitine” seem to abound. Yet few people understand what makes one better than the other.

Carnitine is a naturally occurring compound in the body that is capable of transporting long-chain fatty acids across cellular membranes so they can be used for energy production.

The most well-known form of carnitine is l-carnitine, which is made in the liver and kidneys, and transported to muscle cells where it attaches to long-chain fatty acids and transports them into the mitochondria, or energy furnaces, within the cells.

During this process, these long-chain fatty acids are broken down to produce energy.

There are two forms of carnitine:

  • l-carnitine
  • acetyl l-carnitine

L-Carnitine is formed in the digestive system, and acetyl l-carnitine is formed from L-carnitine in the cells.

Because acetyl l-carnitine is made in the body, it can replace the lost energy from L-carnitine as well as preventing oxidative damage to cellular components.

The acetyl group that is attached to l-carnitine in the cell can further neutralize free radicals, making it an even better anti-oxidant than L-carnitine.

From these basic differences, one can see why both forms are beneficial, but acetyl l-carnitine is a more efficient way to get the benefits of L-carnitine since it is made within the cells.

However, there are potential side effects of using this supplement such as headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

In order to avoid these unwanted effects and get the maximum benefits of this supplement, it is best to use a high quality version that contains acetyl l-carnitine.

For example, Alpha Lipoic Acid is the highest quality form of acetyl l-carnitine available on the market today.

Alpha Lipoic Acid can quickly penetrate into cells and start absorbing free radicals in the body.

In addition, this version contains a high level of acetyl l-carnitine per capsule, which will give you maximum benefits.

Alpha Lipoic Acid works with vitamin C as well as CoQ10, which helps create high energy levels and healthy mitochondria.

This supplement is great for people who want to get the benefits of carnitine in an easier way and also protect the body from oxidative stress.

What is acetyl L carnitine good for?

Acetyl L Carnitine works as a neurotransmitter because it makes it easier to transfer messages from nerve to nerve.

This supplement helps to promote more efficient metabolic reactions within the cell and prevents damage caused by free radicals.

It is especially good for people who have a tendency to experience stress and anxiety.

Carnitine can also help protect the cells from stress damage caused by free radicals, which is why it is so beneficial for people with dementia.

It also protects the neurons against damage caused by heat, making it useful for those who work in high temperatures.

Acetyl l-carnitine can even help protect against heart disease, because of its antioxidant properties.

This supplement may also offer protection against cancer because it protects the body from oxidative stress that causes cancerous cells to grow and divide faster.

If you are looking for a way to help boost your memory and prevent the potential risk of developing dementia, acetyl l-carnitine may be the right choice for you.

It can also help improve your mental performance, making it ideal for students.

 

What is it bad for?

Two of the most common side effects of taking acetyl l-carnitine are gastrointestinal problems and headache.

Those who have an ulcer should not take this supplement, because it can make symptoms worse.

It is also not recommended for people who are on a low sodium diet or those who have kidney failure.

It can also cause dizziness or even seizures in some people.

 

Is it good for weight loss?

Studies have shown that acetyl l-carnitine supplementation (2 grams per day) can help to promote weight loss.

Animal studies have found that ALCAR supplementation also helps to increase lean body mass while reducing body fat.

This supplement may cause an increase in blood pressure though, so people who already take blood pressure medication should consult with their physician first before taking this supplement.

 

When should I take L-carnitine?

L-carnitine is best taken early in the day, around 30 minutes before eating.

If you are taking this supplement for cognitive support, it can be taken in addition to taking a source of choline, such as Alpha GPC or Citicoline.

Most people can tolerate up to 5 grams of L-carnitine per day without experiencing side effects.

For people who take higher doses of L-carnitine, the following precautions are recommended: Slow introduction is typically advised when taking carnitine supplements over time to avoid unwanted symptoms like gastrointestinal problems and headache.

Is L-carnitine safe?

L-carnitine is a naturally occurring compound found in the body, which is required for healthy cellular metabolism and energy production.

It is not considered a toxic substance, unless it is taken in high doses. In most cases, when not taken in high doses it is considered to be safe to consume.

However, if you have an ulcer or gastrointestinal ulcers history or kidney disease then you should consult with your doctor before taking L-carnitine supplements.

Some people may also experience headaches or dizziness when taking L-carnitine supplements (in higher doses).

 

How much do I take?

As with all supplements, consult your doctor before you take L-carnitine. If your doctor recommends taking this supplement he or she will typically recommend that you take a safe and effective dosage.

Depending on the reason for taking L-carnitine you may be told to take certain dosages of this supplement. When taking this supplement for cognitive support it is recommended that most people should not exceed 2 grams per day of L-carnitine.

However, if you have kidney disease or are an adult on a low sodium diet it is recommended that you do not consume more than 1 gram per day of L-carnitine in supplement form.

 

In Summary

Studies show that acetyl l-carnitine may increase mitochondrial biogenesis and ATP production in cells.

This effect may be due to ALCAR’s ability to reduce the inhibitory actions of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase kinase and glycogen synthase kinase 3 on nuclear respiratory factor (NRF)-mediated transcription.

ALCAR also increases the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α, which is critical for regulating gene expression involved in energy metabolism.

As a result, ALCAR may reduce apoptosis by increasing antioxidant enzyme activity.

Animal studies also show that ALCAR may prevent cell death and improve neuronal repair after ischemic disease.

ALCAR may also have direct antioxidant effects, such as reducing lipid peroxidation, oxidative stress and free radical-induced damage to DNA.

In addition, ALCAR stimulated the ARE pathway in the promoter regions of numerous genes that encode antioxidants and enzymes involved in energy metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis and degradation.

These actions may lead to mitochondrial biogenesis and energy production within cells.

Animal studies also show that ALCAR may reverse the effects of brain ischemia or hypoxia.

ALCAR may increase blood flow and restore normal neuronal activity in the brain.

In addition, ALCAR may promote neurotransmission by protecting neurons from excitotoxicity.

Clinical studies indicate that ALCAR supplementation (4-6 g/day) may improve memory and cognition in elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Some researchers believe that ALCAR benefits MCI by increasing cholinergic activity in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

A person’s genetics affect how well they metabolize ALCAR and can affect the effectiveness of this supplement.

If you are taking any medication, including prescription, over-the-counter, and dietary supplements it is important to check with your doctor before taking it.

This is especially important if you are on any type of diuretic or compete with one.

The main difference between L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine is that Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an acetylated form of L-Carnitine.

Acetyl Carnitine is produced naturally in the body to transport fatty acids from the mitochondria into the cell cytoplasm where they can be burned for energy production.

L-Carnitine is added to this system as a co-factor to work with acetyl carnitine.

At normal levels, the body produces enough acetyl carnitine to keep the system working correctly.

When the body is stressed or under a lot of physical stress, more acetyl carnitine is produced and used by the body for energy production.

This helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and increases the energy production within cells.

Acetyl Carnitine is absorbed from the gut more easily and crosses the blood-brain barrier more quickly.

 

References:

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27100509/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10608918/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29076953/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5621476/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22549035/
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/acetylcarnitine
  • https://examine.com/supplements/l-carnitine/
  • https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2018/07/study-links-depression-to-low-blood-levels-of-acetyl-l-carnitine.html
  • https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-834/acetyl-l-carnitine

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