Free Shipping on All Orders $75 Or More!

Your Trusted Brand for Over 35 Years

Life Extension Magazine

<< Back to March 2013

Carnitine Restores Cellular Function

March 2013

By Logan Bronwell

Carnitine Combats Cancer Wasting

One of the most painful and tragic consequences of many cancers is their induction of cachexia, the progressive loss of appetite, energy, and body fat, with increased muscle wasting.60,61  Cancer cachexia is induced by many factors, the most prominent of which is decreased tissue carnitine levels.60-62 Diminished appetite contributes to poor nutrition and further declines in carnitine levels.63,64

Many strong studies now demonstrate that the carnitine supplements can reduce the rate and severity of cancer cachexia.65,66 Many also show improvements in appetite, fatigue, and quality of life—especially in the form of L-propionyl carnitine.61,67,68

Exercise-Related Benefits of Carnitine
  • Carnitine reduces exercise-induced oxidative stress. Studies show that carnitine sharply reduces harmful fat oxidation byproducts in muscle tissue.72-77
  • Carnitine reduces fatigue following moderate exercise. A study of middle-aged men and women showed that 2 grams/day of L-carnitine improved recovery time after physical exertion.78 A human study done with kidney patients on hemodialysis (a group chronically plagued by fatigue) showed that a large IV dose of carnitine could increase the amount of time they were able to exercise before becoming fatigued by 22%—while also beneficially lowering heart rates.76
  • Carnitine enhances muscle performance and endurance.10,72,79 One study in animals demonstrated a 39% increase in the distance the animals were able to run before they experienced exhaustion in normal air, and an astonishing 50% increase when the animals ran under low-oxygen conditions.79
  • Carnitine increases exercise tolerance for people who experience angina with exertion.30 Patients taking 500 mg 3 times daily of propionyl-L-carnitine (a natural derivative of L-carnitine) experienced a 450% increase in the mean time they could exercise without EKG signs of ischemia.31 That result indicated improved blood flow to heart muscle cells following ischemia, an effect proven time and again in animal studies.34,35
  • Carnitine enhances the performance of trained endurance athletes. One study showed that 2 grams/day of L-carnitine reduced heart rates and lowered blood sugar levels during exercise.80 Another study demonstrated that athletes using 4.5 grams/day of glycine propionyl-L-carnitine experienced increased muscle power with decreased fatigue-inducing lactic acid accumulation.71


Loss of mitochondrial function is a major contributor to the process of aging. It deprives vital tissues in our body of the energy they need to perform normal tasks and to keep us vibrant, healthy, and young. Carnitine, a natural facilitator of energy transport in mitochondria, is essential for keeping mitochondria healthy and preventing their age-related loss.

Supplementing with carnitine can help preserve cell energy levels, reduce fatigue, enhance heart muscle strength, reduce the impact of obesity and diabetes, slow signs of brain aging, and protect heart attack victims from dying.

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


  1. Ames BN. Optimal micronutrients delay mitochondrial decay and age-associated diseases. Mech Ageing Dev. 2010 Jul-Aug;131(7-8):473-9.
  2. Noland RC, Koves TR, Seiler SE, et al. Carnitine insufficiency caused by aging and overnutrition compromises mitochondrial performance and metabolic control. J Biol Chem. 2009 Aug 21;284(34):22840-52.
  3. Abdul HM, Calabrese V, Calvani M, Butterfield DA. Acetyl-L-carnitine-induced up-regulation of heat shock proteins protects cortical neurons against amyloid-beta peptide 1-42-mediated oxidative stress and neurotoxicity: implications for Alzheimer's disease. J Neurosci Res. 2006 Aug 1;84(2):398-408.
  4. Terman A, Kurz T, Navratil M, Arriaga EA, Brunk UT. Mitochondrial turnover and aging of long-lived postmitotic cells: the mitochondrial-lysosomal axis theory of aging. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2010 Apr;12(4):503-35.
  5. Parise G, De Lisio M. Mitochondrial theory of aging in human age-related sarcopenia. Interdiscip Top Gerontol. 2010;37:142-56.
  6. Chakrabarti S, Munshi S, Banerjee K, Thakurta IG, Sinha M, Bagh MB. Mitochondrial dysfunction during brain aging: role of oxidative stress and modulation by antioxidant supplementation. Aging Dis. 2011 Jun;2(3):242-56.
  7. Dutta D, Calvani R, Bernabei R, Leeuwenburgh C, Marzetti E. Contribution of impaired mitochondrial autophagy to cardiac aging: mechanisms and therapeutic opportunities. Circ Res. 2012 Apr 13;110(8):1125-38.
  8. Maasen JA. Mitochondria, body fat and type 2 diabetes: what is the connection? Minerva Med. 2008 Jun;99(3):241-51.
  9. Wang CH, Wang CC, Wei YH. Mitochondrial dysfunction in insulin insensitivity: implication of mitochondrial role in type 2 diabetes. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Jul;1201:157-65.
  10. Bernard A, Rigault C, Mazue F, Le Borgne F, Demarquoy J. L-carnitine supplementation and physical exercise restore age-associated decline in some mitochondrial functions in the rat. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Oct;63(10):1027-33.
  11. Tanaka Y, Sasaki R, Fukui F, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation restores decreased tissue carnitine levels and impaired lipid metabolism in aged rats. J Lipid Res. 2004 Apr;45(4):729-35.
  12. Pesce V, Fracasso F, Cassano P, Lezza AM, Cantatore P, Gadaleta MN. Acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation to old rats partially reverts the age-related mitochondrial decay of soleus muscle by activating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1alpha-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis. Rejuvenation Res. 2010 Apr-Jun;13(2-3):148-51.
  13. Chao HH, Chen CH, Liu JC, Lin JW, Wong KL, Cheng TH. L-Carnitine attenuates angiotensin II-induced proliferation of cardiac fibroblasts: role of NADPH oxidase inhibition and decreased sphingosine-1-phosphate generation. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Jul;21(7):580-8.
  14. Gomez LA, Heath SH, Hagen TM. Acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation reverses the age-related decline in carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) activity in interfibrillar mitochondria without changing the L-carnitine content in the rat heart. Mech Ageing Dev. 2012 Feb-Mar;133(2-3):99-106.
  15. Kobayashi A, Masumura Y, Yamazaki N. L-carnitine treatment for congestive heart failure--experimental and clinical study. Jpn Circ J. 1992 Jan;56(1):86-94.
  16. Bartels GL, Remme WJ, den Hartog FR, Wielenga RP, Kruijssen DA. Additional antiischemic effects of long-term L-propionylcarnitine in anginal patients treated with conventional antianginal therapy. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1995 Dec;9(6):749-53.
  17. Molyneux R, Seymour AM, Bhandari S. Value of carnitine therapy in kidney dialysis patients and effects on cardiac function from human and animal studies. Curr Drug Targets. 2012 Feb;13(2):285-93.
  18. Davini P, Bigalli A, Lamanna F, Boem A. Controlled study on L-carnitine therapeutic efficacy in post-infarction. Drugs Exp Clin Res. 1992;18(8):355-65.
  19. Stasi MA, Scioli MG, Arcuri G, et al. Propionyl-L-carnitine improves postischemic blood flow recovery and arteriogenetic revascularization and reduces endothelial NADPH-oxidase 4-mediated superoxide production. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2010 Mar;30(3):426-35.
  20. Lapi D, Sabatino L, Altobelli GG, Mondola P, Cimini V, Colantuoni A. Effects of propionyl-L-carnitine on ischemia-reperfusion injury in hamster cheek pouch microcirculation. Front Physiol. 2010;1:132.
  21. Gomez-Amores L, Mate A, Miguel-Carrasco JL, et al. L-carnitine attenuates oxidative stress in hypertensive rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2007 Aug;18(8):533-40.
  22. Alvarez de Sotomayor M, Bueno R, Perez-Guerrero C, Herrera MD. Effect of L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine on endothelial function of small mesenteric arteries from SHR. J Vasc Res. 2007;44(5):354-64.
  23. de Sotomayor MA, Mingorance C, Rodriguez-Rodriguez R, Marhuenda E, Herrera MD. l-carnitine and its propionate: improvement of endothelial function in SHR through superoxide dismutase-dependent mechanisms. Free Radic Res. 2007 Aug;41(8):884-91.
  24. Volek JS, Judelson DA, Silvestre R, et al. Effects of carnitine supplementation on flow-mediated dilation and vascular inflammatory responses to a high-fat meal in healthy young adults. Am J Cardiol. 2008 Nov 15;102(10):1413-7.
  25. Loffredo L, Pignatelli P, Cangemi R, et al. Imbalance between nitric oxide generation and oxidative stress in patients with peripheral arterial disease: effect of an antioxidant treatment. J Vasc Surg. 2006 Sep;44(3):525-30.
  26. Csiky B, Nyul Z, Toth G, et al. L-carnitine supplementation and adipokines in patients with end-stage renal disease on regular hemodialysis. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2010 Nov;118(10):735-40.
  27. Hakeshzadeh F, Tabibi H, Ahmadinejad M, Malakoutian T, Hedayati M. Effects of L-Carnitine supplement on plasma coagulation and anticoagulation factors in hemodialysis patients. Ren Fail. 2010;32(9):1109-14.
  28. Sakurabayashi T, Miyazaki S, Yuasa Y, et al. L-carnitine supplementation decreases the left ventricular mass in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Circ J. 2008 Jun;72(6):926-31.
  29. Keller VA, Toporoff B, Raziano RM, Pigott JD, Mills NL. Carnitine supplementation improves myocardial function in hearts from ischemic diabetic and euglycemic rats. Ann Thorac Surg. 1998 Nov;66(5):1600-3.
  30. Mingorance C, Duluc L, Chalopin M, et al. Propionyl-L-carnitine corrects metabolic and cardiovascular alterations in diet-induced obese mice and improves liver respiratory chain activity. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e34268.
  31. Mingorance C, Rodriguez-Rodriguez R, Justo ML, Herrera MD, de Sotomayor MA. Pharmacological effects and clinical applications of propionyl-L-carnitine. Nutr Rev. 2011 May;69(5):279-90.
  32. Amin KA, Nagy MA. Effect of Carnitine and herbal mixture extract on obesity induced by high fat diet in rats. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2009;1(1):17.
  33. Mangou A, Grammatikopoulou MG, Mirkopoulou D, Sailer N, Kotzamanidis C, Tsigga M. Associations between diet quality, health status and diabetic complications in patients with type 2 diabetes and comorbid obesity. Endocrinol Nutr. 2012 Feb;59(2):109-16.
  34. Mingorance C, Gonzalez del Pozo M, Dolores Herrera M, Alvarez de Sotomayor M. Oral supplementation of propionyl-l-carnitine reduces body weight and hyperinsulinaemia in obese Zucker rats. Br J Nutr. 2009 Oct;102(8):1145-53.
  35. Ringseis R, Keller J, Eder K. Role of carnitine in the regulation of glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity: evidence from in vivo and in vitro studies with carnitine supplementation and carnitine deficiency. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Feb;51(1):1-18.
  36. Wutzke KD, Lorenz H. The effect of l-carnitine on fat oxidation, protein turnover, and body composition in slightly overweight subjects. Metabolism. 2004 Aug;53(8):1002-6.
  37. Malaguarnera M, Cammalleri L, Gargante MP, Vacante M, Colonna V, Motta M. L-Carnitine treatment reduces severity of physical and mental fatigue and increases cognitive functions in centenarians: a randomized and controlled clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1738-44.
  38. Kang JS, Lee WK, Yoon WK, et al. A combination of grape extract, green tea extract and L-carnitine improves high-fat diet-induced obesity, hyperlipidemia and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in mice. Phytother Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):1789-95.
  39. Xia Y, Li Q, Zhong W, Dong J, Wang Z, Wang C. L-carnitine ameliorated fatty liver in high-calorie diet/STZ-induced type 2 diabetic mice by improving mitochondrial function. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2011;3:31.
  40. Molfino A, Cascino A, Conte C, Ramaccini C, Rossi Fanelli F, Laviano A. Caloric restriction and L-carnitine administration improves insulin sensitivity in patients with impaired glucose metabolism. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2010 May-Jun;34(3):295-9.
  41. Lohninger A, Radler U, Jinniate S, et al. Relationship between carnitine, fatty acids and insulin resistance. Gynakol Geburtshilfliche Rundsch. 2009;49(4):230-5.
  42. Galloway SD, Craig TP, Cleland SJ. Effects of oral L-carnitine supplementation on insulin sensitivity indices in response to glucose feeding in lean and overweight/obese males. Amino Acids. 2011 Jul;41(2):507-15.
  43. Brooks JO, 3rd, Yesavage JA, Carta A, Bravi D. Acetyl L-carnitine slows decline in younger patients with Alzheimer's disease: a reanalysis of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study using the trilinear approach. Int Psychogeriatr. 1998 Jun;10(2):193-203.
  44. Gavrilova SI, Kalyn Ia B, Kolykhalov IV, Roshchina IF, Selezneva ND. Acetyl-L-carnitine (carnicetine) in the treatment of early stages of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova. 2011;111(9):16-22.
  45. Montgomery SA, Thal LJ, Amrein R. Meta-analysis of double blind randomized controlled clinical trials of acetyl-L-carnitine versus placebo in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003 Mar;18(2):61-71.
  46. Bianchetti A, Rozzini R, Trabucchi M. Effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in Alzheimer's disease patients unresponsive to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Curr Med Res Opin. 2003;19(4):350-3.
  47. Zhou P, Chen Z, Zhao N, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine attenuates homocysteine-induced Alzheimer-like histopathological and behavioral abnormalities. Rejuvenation Res. 2011 Dec;14(6):669-79.
  48. Yin YY, Liu H, Cong XB, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine attenuates okadaic acid induced tau hyperphosphorylation and spatial memory impairment in rats. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;19(2):735-46.
  49. Jiang X, Tian Q, Wang Y, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine ameliorates spatial memory deficits induced by inhibition of phosphoinositol-3 kinase and protein kinase C. J Neurochem. 2011 Sep;118(5):864-78.
  50. Salvioli G, Neri M. L-acetylcarnitine treatment of mental decline in the elderly. Drugs Exp Clin Res. 1994;20(4):169-76.
  51. Ames BN, Liu J. Delaying the mitochondrial decay of aging with acetylcarnitine. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Nov;1033:108-16.
  52. Cha YS. Effects of L-carnitine on obesity, diabetes, and as an ergogenic aid. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:306-8.
  53. Malaguarnera M, Gargante MP, Cristaldi E, et al. Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) treatment in elderly patients with fatigue. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2008 Mar-Apr;46(2):181-90.
  54. Soczynska JK, Kennedy SH, Chow CS, Woldeyohannes HO, Konarski JZ, McIntyre RS. Acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid: possible neurotherapeutic agents for mood disorders? Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2008 Jun;17(6):827-43.
  55. Geier DA, Kern JK, Davis G, et al. A prospective double-blind, randomized clinical trial of levocarnitine to treat autism spectrum disorders. Med Sci Monit. 2011 Jun;17(6):PI15-23.
  56. Tuyama AC, Chang CY. Non alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Diabetes. 2012 May 4.
  57. Malaguarnera M, Vacante M, Giordano M, et al. Oral acetyl-L-carnitine therapy reduces fatigue in overt hepatic encephalopathy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Apr;93(4):799-808.
  58. Malaguarnera M, Vacante M, Motta M, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine improves cognitive functions in severe hepatic encephalopathy: a randomized and controlled clinical trial. Metab Brain Dis. 2011 Dec;26(4):281-9.
  59. Malaguarnera M, Bella R, Vacante M, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine reduces depression and improves quality of life in patients with minimal hepatic encephalopathy. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jun;46(6):750-9.
  60. Vinci E, Rampello E, Zanoli L, Oreste G, Pistone G, Malaguarnera M. Serum carnitine levels in patients with tumoral cachexia. Eur J Intern Med. 2005 Oct;16(6):419-23.
  61. Silverio R, Laviano A, Rossi Fanelli F, Seelaender M. l-carnitine and cancer cachexia: Clinical and experimental aspects. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2011 Mar;2(1):37-44.
  62. Szefel J, Kruszewski WJ, Ciesielski M, et al. L-carnitine and cancer cachexia. I. L-carnitine distribution and metabolic disorders in cancer cachexia. Oncol Rep. 2012 Jul;28(1):319-23.
  63. Malaguarnera M, Risino C, Gargante MP, et al. Decrease of serum carnitine levels in patients with or without gastrointestinal cancer cachexia. World J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jul 28;12(28):4541-5.
  64. Szefel J, Kruszewski WJ, Ciesielski M, et al. L-carnitine and cancer cachexia. II. Effects of lipid emulsion used in total parenteral nutrition on parameters of hemostasis and inflammatory state in L-carnitine deficiency in myocytes. Oncol Rep. 2012 Jul;28(1):324-9.
  65. Liu S, Wu HJ, Zhang ZQ, et al. L-carnitine ameliorates cancer cachexia in mice by regulating the expression and activity of carnitine palmityl transferase. Cancer Biol Ther. 2011 Jul 15;12(2):125-30.
  66. Busquets S, Serpe R, Toledo M, et al. l-Carnitine: An adequate supplement for a multi-targeted anti-wasting therapy in cancer. Clin Nutr. 2012 May 18.
  67. Maccio A, Madeddu C, Gramignano G, et al. A randomized phase III clinical trial of a combined treatment for cachexia in patients with gynecological cancers: evaluating the impact on metabolic and inflammatory profiles and quality of life. Gynecol Oncol. 2012 Mar;124(3):417-25.
  68. Laviano A, Molfino A, Seelaender M, et al. Carnitine administration reduces cytokine levels, improves food intake, and ameliorates body composition in tumor-bearing rats. Cancer Invest. 2011 Dec;29(10):696-700.
  69. Scafidi S, Fiskum G, Lindauer SL, et al. Metabolism of acetyl-L-carnitine for energy and neurotransmitter synthesis in the immature rat brain. J Neurochem. 2010 Aug;114(3):820-31.
  70. Taglialatela G, Navarra D, Olivi A, et al. Neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells stimulated by acetyl-L-carnitine arginine amide. Neurochem Res. 1995 Jan;20(1):1-9.
  71. Jacobs PL, Goldstein ER, Blackburn W, Orem I, Hughes JJ. Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine produces enhanced anaerobic work capacity with reduced lactate accumulation in resistance trained males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009;6:9.
  72. Brass EP, Adler S, Sietsema KE, Hiatt WR, Orlando AM, Amato A. Intravenous L-carnitine increases plasma carnitine, reduces fatigue, and may preserve exercise capacity in hemodialysis patients. Am J Kidney Dis. 2001 May;37(5):1018-28.
  73. Sachan DS, Hongu N, Johnsen M. Decreasing oxidative stress with choline and carnitine in women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun;24(3):172-6.
  74. Dutta A, Ray K, Singh VK, Vats P, Singh SN, Singh SB. L-carnitine supplementation attenuates intermittent hypoxia-induced oxidative stress and delays muscle fatigue in rats. Exp Physiol. 2008 Oct;93(10):1139-46.
  75. Bloomer RJ, Smith WA. Oxidative stress in response to aerobic and anaerobic power testing: influence of exercise training and carnitine supplementation. Res Sports Med. 2009 Jan-Mar;17(1):1-16.
  76. Fatouros IG, Douroudos I, Panagoutsos S, et al. Effects of L-carnitine on oxidative stress responses in patients with renal disease. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Oct;42(10):1809-18.
  77. Siktar E, Ekinci D, Beydemir S, Gulcin I, Gunay M. Protective role of L-carnitine supplementation against exhaustive exercise induced oxidative stress in rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 Oct 15;668(3):407-13.
  78. Ho JY, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, et al. l-Carnitine l-tartrate supplementation favorably affects biochemical markers of recovery from physical exertion in middle-aged men and women. Metabolism. 2010 Aug;59(8):1190-9.
  79. Panjwani U, Thakur L, Anand JP, et al. Effect of L-carnitine supplementation on endurance exercise in normobaric/normoxic and hypobaric/hypoxic conditions. Wilderness Environ Med. 2007 Fall;18(3):169-76.
  80. Broad EM, Maughan RJ, Galloway SD. Effects of exercise intensity and altered substrate availability on cardiovascular and metabolic responses to exercise after oral carnitine supplementation in athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011 Oct;21(5):385-97.
  81. Eder K, Felgner J, Becker K, Kluge H. Free and total carnitine concentrations in pig plasma after oral ingestion of various Lcarnitine compounds. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2005 Jan;75(1):3-9.
  82. Ho JY, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS,et al. l-Carnitine l-tartrate supplementation favorably affects biochemical markers of recovery from physical exertion in middle-aged men and women. Metabolism. 2010 Aug;59(8):1190-9.