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Carnitine is a substance that is used within the body for many things.  But what exactly is it and what does it do?  Read on for more.

What is Carnitine?

Carnitine is generally classed with amino acids, even though it is not an amino acid.  This is because it is structurally similar.  Carnitine is also known as vitamin T.  It is a vitamin-like compound.
The different types of carnitine are:
• D-carnitine
• L-carnitine
• DL-carnitine
• Acetyl-L-carnitine
L-carnitine is the most popular type of carnitine and it is the type that you are most likely to find in supplement form.
It is found in foods, but carnitine can be made in the body from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine but there must be adequate amounts of vitamin B1 and vitamin B6 available, as well as iron.

What Does Carnitine Do?

In the body, carnitine is used for energy supply within the cells and muscles.  It also helps to prevent fatty build up in places like the heart, liver, and skeletal muscles.  This is because it transports fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells where they are burned to release energy, thus making carnitine something that increases the use of fat as a source of energy.
Carnitine can improve the effect of the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E.

Carnitine can help with the following health conditions:
• Diabetes – carnitine can reduce the health risks that are caused by the poor fat metabolism that is associated with diabetes.  It can also improve the metabolism of glucose in healthy people, reducing the risk of later diabetes.
• Immune system – studies have shown that carnitine can improve the endurance of people that have been weakened by disease.  It can also improve immune response.
• Heart health – carnitine is very important for the heart.  Taking it as a supplement may help to speed recovery after a heart attack, and it may also help to treat angina, arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure.  It can also lower blood fat levels.
• Alzheimer’s disease – there are studies that suggest that acetyl-L-carnitine can help to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Foods that Contain Carnitine

Carnitine is mainly found in chicken, fish, milk, and red meat, but lesser amounts of carnitine can be found in tempeh, wheat, and avocados.  Be aware that vegetables and grains contain very little amounts of carnitine.

Safe Levels of Carnitine and Carnitine Deficiency

Males generally need more carnitine than women do as they have more body mass.  If a person does not get enough carnitine, fatty acids cannot be moved to where they need to be in the body and the person will eventually feel drained and tired.
Generally speaking, a deficiency in carnitine occurs when there is a genetic defect that stops carnitine transport and synthesis.  However, you may also be at risk if you are on a low protein diet or a vegan or vegetarian diet if the diet does not include sufficient protein.  Symptoms of a carnitine deficiency may include confusion, heart pain, muscular weakness, and obesity.
There is currently no recommended daily intake (RDI) of carnitine but it is recommended that the tolerable upper limit is 400mg-3000mg.  Carnitine may become toxic at levels over 3 grams per day.  Taking more than 3 grams of carnitine a day in supplement form may cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and/or a “fish odour” syndrome.  Rarer side effects include muscle weakness in uremic people and seizures in people that suffer from seizure disorders.  Only the L-carnitine form should be used in supplementation.
Always see a nutritionist, dietitian, naturopath, doctor, or other similar professional before commencing carnitine supplementation to ensure that it is right for you.


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