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Carnitine: Have a Taste of Nature's Medicine
November 09, 2007

While pharmaceutical drugs flood our consciousness, it is easy to forget that there are natural substances in the midst with just as much therapeutic potential. Carnitine is one of these natural alternatives and is referred to as a nutraceutical because of its noted ability to prevent and heal medical problems.

Carnitine is produced within the liver and kidneys and works by bringing fatty acids into mitochondria while pushing out toxic metabolites. This process is oxidation, when the fatty acids are burned within the cell walls of the mitochondria, increasing the amount of oxygen to the heart, and producing energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate. In The Carnitine Miracle, author Robert Crayhon, M.S., describes the function of carnitine in the body as "a forklift, picking up fats and dropping them off where the body bums them" (1).

Although the body produces carnitine naturally, it is only in limited amounts and it is important for the body to receive supplemental amounts in order to function at an optimal level. Crayhon notes that we consume only about 50 mg of carnitine per day when we should be getting at least 250 to 500 mg in our diet daily.

Working Carnitine Into Your Diet
To increase the amount of carnitine intake, most people would have to alter their diet. A study scheduled to be published this month concludes that the highest levels of carnitine are found in proteins, particularly kangaroo and horse meat, followed by different cattle meats, and then pig and poultry as the lowest of the proteins. Dairy products have an even lesser amount, while fruits and vegetables contain the least (2).

Vegetarians are in the most danger of not consuming enough carnitine in their diet. Even those who do consume red meat usually do not take in enough to experience the real health benefits, some of which include enhanced energy production, a healthier heart, a reduction in fatigue and weight loss.

Heart Disease. Since the primary function of the nutrient is to bum fatty acids and produce energy, it is ideal for preventing and healing heart disease, which according to the National Institute of Health is the nation's number one killer.

The heart must receive a certain amount of oxygen to function. Without enough oxygen, the heart does not contract properly, which can result in cardiovascular diseases such as congestive heart failure (3). If carnitine is consumed in sufficient amounts, it increases the amount of oxygen to the blood flow ensuring that the heart contracts properly, and helping to prevent heart problems.

Sports. The more oxygen to the heart also means more energy. Carnitine often is used by athletes to enhance their endurance during exercise and games. Sports players also often include carnitine to reduce the pain that usually occurs from continuous exercise and strain to the muscles. In fact, carnitine may help people that are not in shape to exert more energy and exercise longer (4).

Weight Loss. As your body exerts more energy the metabolism speeds up as well, thus burning more fat. There are thousands of weight loss drugs on the market, but carnitine is a natural substance that is already responsible for burning the fatty acids within your body. Supplemental carnitine "helps turn fatty acids into energy and because energy is available from fat, glucose reserves in the body are spared and breakdown of amino acids for energy production is decreased" (5).

Nevertheless, carnitine should not be entirely relied upon for weight loss. It should be paired with a particular diet rich in protein, omega-3 fats, and other essential nutrients. Also, the diet should be low in carbohydrates because they inhibit carnitine activity (1).

Aging Process and Fatigue. Just as carnitine can accelerate weight loss, it can have the same effect on slowing the aging process. As people grow older, the levels of carnitine begin to decrease and the cells within the body age as well. Increased amounts of carnitine produce a higher amount of energy and slow down the aging of cells. As people age, they also become less energetic and more tired. Carnitine helps to slow down these changes as well as reduce feelings of fatigue. In contrast, coffee and other drug-like stimulants stimulate the central-nervous system function, which pushes the body further than it naturally wants to go. Using these stimulants regularly can result in wearing down the body (1).

Increasing Your Intake
Carnitine is produced within the body through the biosynthesis of the amino acids lysine and methionine, found in iron and the vitamins niacin, B6 and C. This process is difficult, however, because many foods contain either one amino acid or the other. For example, beans are rich in only lysine and rice is rich in only methionine (3).

The most efficient way to achieve the proper intake is to take a supplement of carnitine daily as you would with any other vitamin. L-carnitine hydrochloride, L-carnitine tartrate and L-carnitine fumarate are three different types of dietary supplements that are available in the form of tablet, capsule or liquid (6). WF

Note: Of the three forms of carnitine I recommend L-carnitine tartrate as studies reveal it has the highest absorption. One of the best supplements of this form is called Carnisol® produced by SOFTGEL Technolgies, Inc®. It is the pure form L-carnitine tartrate without any trace of D-carnitine which is harmful to the body in a softgel as a liquid.


References
1. R. Crayhon, The Carnitine Miracle (New York, NY, 1998).
2. S. Knuttle-Gustavsen and J. Hanneyer, "The Determination ofL-Carnitine in Several Food Samples," Food     Chem. 105 (2), 793-804 (2007).
3. S.T. Sinatra, L-Carnitine and the Heart (Keats Publishing, Chicago, IL,1999).
4. W. Lubek, L-Carnitine: The Supernutrient for Fitness (Lotus Press,Twin Lakes, WI, 2002).
5. "L-Carnitine," Research and Review, Issue 4 (Fair Lawn, NJ Lonza).
6. S.L. DeFelice, The Carnitine Defense (St. Martin's Press, New York, NY.2002).