L-Carnitine The Energy Nutrient (by Martine Packer)

The amino acid L-Carnitine plays an essential role in the efficient burning of fat, protein metabolism, muscle contraction and the maintenance of a healthy heart. It is perhaps best known for its ability to improve levels of stamina and endurance and is frequently taken by athletes as a natural means of maximising their performance.

By Lamberts Española.


L-Carnitine helps to regulate the rate at which the body burns fats by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria, the power centres of each cell, where they are oxidised to generate energy. A number of studies have shown that L-Carnitine can improve the physical performance of both trained athletes and normal people.

It can also help to ward off mental fatigue and aid concentration via its ability to transport essential fatty acids to the brain.

The most common sign of Carnitine deficiency is fatigue and recent research suggests that low Carnitine levels may be a factor in chronic fatigue syndrome. In addition, recent research has highlighted other areas where L-Carnitine has a vital role to play. These include conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes.

L-Carnitine is also known to be closely involved in the motility of sperm, an important factor in fertility.

High concentrations of Carnitine are found in the heart muscle and this nutrient is known to promote a strong and healthy heart. It prevents a build up of fats in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of developing heart disease and it protects the heart when disease is present. L-Carnitine also appears to be able to improve the balance of fats in the blood. It helps to reduce levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol while it raises the level of HDL, the beneficial cholesterol.

Finally, there is some evidence to suggest that L-Carnitine may be of benefit to people who wish to lose weight, although further research into this area is needed. Meat eaters obtain around a quarter of the Carnitine they need from their diet (lamb and beef contain high levels of the nutrient).

However, fruits and vegetables contain relatively low levels of L-Carnitine and for this reason strict vegetarians may well be Carnitine deficient. In addition, Carnitine levels decrease with age, and older people are therefore often at risk of deficiency.

For those wishing to take a supplement of L-Carnitine, a level of 250-500mg per day is recommended. Saw Palmetto in the treatment of prostrate enlargement. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (PBH) is characterised by prostate gland enlargement sufficient to cause obstruction of the urethra, leading to urinary retention. Transurethral and open surgical prostatectomy are the most widely used treatments for BPH, but they can give rise to complications such as urinary tract infection, incontinence and impotence etc. In this 3 month open trial 505 patients with mild to moderate symptoms of BPH were treated with an oral preparation of Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto), at a daily dosage of 160mg twice daily. 305 patients were available for examination and after 90 days, 88 percent of the patients and 88 percent of the physicians considered the therapy successful.

The effect of the treatment on the maximal and mean urinary flow rates was significant and was already evident after 45 days. The prostatic volume, as measured by transrectal echography was found to be significantly decreased. Importantly, the treatment did not significantly alter PSA concentrations, thus reducing the chance of masking potential prostate cancer. Side effects were reported in only five percent of the patients completing the study and were limited to gastrointestinal upset, nausea and diarrhoea. Source Braeckman, J 1994.

The extract of Serenoa repens in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: A multicenter open study Current Therapeutic Research 55: 776 – 85 Editor’s note Saw Palmetto continues to be used as a primary treatment for both short and long term treatment of BPH. Anyone who has symptoms of BPH should seek medical advice to rule out other more serious problems such as prostate cancer.

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