L-Carnitine

Carnitine helps make energy in your body. Most carnitine comes from the liver and kidneys, but you also get some from food. 

Most supplements contain one type of carnitine called L-carnitine. It's the same type that's in food.

Why do people take L-carnitine?

While carnitine is needed for good health, you probably have all that you need. People with genetic problems and some diseases -- as well as pre-term babies -- may have low levels. L-carnitine supplements may help them.

L-carnitine is a popular supplement for athletes. However, studies have not found that it helps improve sports performance, muscle adaptions, or endurance.

L-ccarnitine may help certain patients survive heart attacks, have less heart rhythm disturbances, and less chest pain.  When added to regular medication therapy, carnitine may improve health in people with peripheral artery disease, but furter research is needed.

It is thought that patients with cancer may become carnitine deficient, and so carnitine supplementation can be helpful to reduce chemotherapy side effects. We need more research to know for sure, though.

Researchers are still studying to find out if carnitine can improve memory and thinking problems in older people.

There's no standard dose of L-carnitine. Ask your health care provider for advice.

Can you get carnitine naturally from foods?

Carnitine is in many animal products. Red meat has the highest levels. A 4-ounce beef steak has an estimated 56 mg to 162 mg of carnitine. Carnitine is also found in smaller amounts in chicken, milk and dairy products, fish, beans, and avocado. Vegans tend to get less carnitine from foods, but their bodies usually produce enough anyway.

What are the risks?

Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, you must talk to your doctor before you start using L-carnitine supplements. They could interact with many drugs such as antibiotics for infections.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carmen Patrick Mohan on May 12, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Fundukian LJ ed, The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, third edition, 2009.

Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: "L-Carnitine."

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center web site: "About Herbs: Carnitine."

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine web site: "Herbs at a Glance: Carnitine."

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database web site: "Carnitine."

National Institutes of Health: "Carnitine."

Mochamat, "A systematic review on the role of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other supplements for the treatment of cachexia in cancer: a European Palliative Care Research Centre cachexia project. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle." 2017

Delaney CL, "A systematic review to evaluate the effectiveness of carnitine supplementation in improving walking performance among individuals with intermittent claudication." Atherosclerosis. 2013 

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