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What is Carnitine?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 21, 2024
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Carnitine, often referred to as L-Carnitine, is an amino acid. It is considered to be invaluable in the process of metabolizing fat within the body, as well as preventing the buildup of fat deposits in the heart.

As an essential element in breaking down fat within the body, carnitine plays an important role in helping to transport fatty acids through the system, where the acids can be converted into energy. Proper levels of this amino acid in the body will help to promote overall physical fitness, as any intake of fat will be efficiently used to fuel the functions of the body. Carnitine also works hand-in-hand with other important amino acids, such as lysine. Lysine is necessary to help the body produce collagen. Carnitine also aids lysine in helping the body to absorb nutrients, in particular calcium.

Another example of an amino acid that carnitine works closely with is methionine. Methionine contains sulfur, which in proper amounts is important to the body. It aids in overall metabolic rate, as well as helping to strengthen nails, hair, and skin tissue. Working with carnitine, methionine helps to reduce fat content in the liver, and ensures that the body maintains the ability to expel toxic elements.

A variant of carnitine, often referred to as levocarnitine, is produced in the muscles and liver and is often used to treat incidences of deficiency of the amino acid. Carnitine can be obtained from a number of sources, such as various types of meat, poultry, and fish. There are trace amounts found in some dairy products as well.

Carnitine is understood to be helpful in helping the body to fight off a number of ailments, including diabetes, liver disease and Alzheimer’s disease. While most people produce the proper amount in both the liver and the muscle structure around the body, there are cases in which carnitine production drops to levels that are unsafe. Lower production of this element can weaken the body’s ability to fight off toxins, as well as allow for fatty deposits to build up in vital organs. A medical professional can determine if there is an imbalance in the body and take steps to supplement with diet and other treatments.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including All The Science, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon42334 — On Aug 20, 2009

is it safe to take carnitine when you have epilepsy?

By anon31385 — On May 04, 2009

Can carnitine alter fatty acid beta-oxidation in the central nervous system? My understanding is that the carnitine pool is primarily found in muscle tissue and long-chain fatty acids "generally" don't cross the blood-brain barrier. However, "generally" isn't the same as "never".

Does carnitine aid medium-chain fatty acids in beta-oxidation, or are those always transported to the liver and converted to ketones?

Finally, is there any evidence or other indication that carnitine can alter ketone utilization in the central nervous system?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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