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Carnosine: Exceeding Scientific Expectations

January 2011

By Kirk Stokel

Blocking Cataract Formation

In addition to extending the quantity of life, carnosine can contribute to improved quality of life by reducing the risk and severity of cataracts in the eye.48 The lens of the eye is highly sensitive to glycation of its proteins, which render it opaque. Carnosine’s anti-glycation effects, therefore, provide prominent vision protection.49 Carnosine in different delivery systems has been show to reduce cataract formation in studies of diabetic animals, which, like diabetic humans, are prone to cataract development.50-52

Why We Need Supplemental Carnosine

Carnosine levels in the body decline with age. Muscle levels decrease 63% between ages 10 to 70, which may account for the reduction in muscle mass and function seen in aging humans.1

Carnosine acts not only as an antioxidant in muscle, but also as a pH buffer.2 In this way it keeps on protecting muscle cell membranes from oxidation under the acidic conditions of muscular exertion.

Carnosine enables the heart muscle to contract more efficiently through enhancement of calcium response in heart cells.3 Muscle levels of carnosine correlate with the maximum life span of animal species.

Carnosine has been shown to rejuvenate connective tissue cells, which may explain its beneficial effects on wound healing. Damaged proteins accumulate and cross-link in the skin, causing wrinkles and loss of elasticity. The multiplicity of pathological effects caused by protein degradation places this problem beyond the sope of simple antioxidants.4  Carnosine is the most promising broad-spectrum shield against protein degradation.

  1. Stuerenburg HJ, Kunze K. Concentrations of free carnosine (a putative membrane-protective antioxidant) in human muscle biopsies and rat muscles. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 1999.29:107-13.
  2. Burcham PC, Kerr PG, Fontaine F. The antihypertensive hydralazine is an efficient scavenger of acrolein. Redox Rep. 2000;5(1):47-9.
  3. Zaloga GP, Roberts PR, Black KW, et al. Carnosine is a novel peptide modulator of intracellular calcium and contractility in cardiac cells. Am J Physiol. 1997;272(1 Pt 2):H462-8.
  4. Wang AM, Ma C, Xie ZH, Shen F. Use of carnosine as a natural anti-senescence drug for human beings. Biochemistry (Mosc). 2000;65(7):869-71.


Growing scientific interest in longevity-boosting compounds has led to groundbreaking new research on carnosine. Highly concentrated in brain and muscle, carnosine is a natural antioxidant and glycation-fighting nutrient whose levels in the body naturally decline with age.

A 2010 study revealed that carnosine extends life span in laboratory animals, consistent with other recent findings that carnosine fights aging at multiple targets in heart, brain, skin, and other organ systems.

Carnosine’s multiple and interrelated mechanisms of action mean that carnosine can provide benefits to cells and tissues throughout the body that would otherwise succumb to the pathologic effects of aging.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

Carnosine at Work

An obvious feature of carnosine is its powerful antioxidant effect, which may prevent age-related accumulation of free radicals and their disastrous impact on tissues.53-55

Carnosine is a dipeptide—that is, a small molecule composed of two amino acids, histidine and beta alanine. It continues to work to prevent oxidant damage even after cellular molecules are attacked. It prevents destructive effects of oxidized chemicals such as malondialdehyde (MDA) that are associated with brain cell death in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.4,43

A separate and equally important feature of carnosine is its ability to interfere with protein modifications by glucose and oxygen, two events that contribute powerfully to inflammation and aging.3,56 Carnosine also directly and indirectly inhibits release of inflammatory mediators such as cytokines and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and is being closely studied for its ability to mitigate the inflammatory effects of viral infections such as influenza.57

The sum of all these intracellular biochemical events helps to explain the remarkable explosion of literature on carnosine as a possible life span extender. A central biochemical characteristic of aging is the accumulation of proteins altered by chemical reactions with oxygen, nitrogen, and glucose.58,59 Carnosine’s ability to interfere with that alteration may account for its observed ability to extend life span not only of fruit flies but also of “higher” laboratory animals and human tissue in culture.1, 2, 60-63

A close-up look at carnosine’s actions reveals a remarkable effect on telomeres, the DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that act as a sort of cellular “clock,” largely controlling the aging process. As telomeres shorten with each cellular replication, the remaining life span of the cell is diminished.64 Telomere shortening is induced by oxidative changes and other protein modifications of precisely the kind that carnosine can prevent.65 Carnosine can therefore block telomere shortening and reduce aging effects in individual tissues.66 For example, carnosine can prevent telomere shortening-induced cataracts in the lens of the eye.64,67,68


Carnosine Dosage Guidelines

Most people consume relatively small amounts of carnosine in their diet. Based on a study showing that 250 mg of ingested carnosine from 7 oz. of hamburger meat was completely cleared from the blood of study volunteers within 5-6 hours by the carnosinase enzyme,69 Life Extension recommends that individuals seeking its anti-aging effects supplement with at least 1,000 mg of carnosine daily to maintain optimal levels in the body.


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