By John H. Biggs BSc, NCP - Owner Optimum Health Vitamins
For all of you who have sent in letters to Health Canada or your MPs saying that “since L-Carnitine is safe enough to be added to every new-born baby formula on the market, and safe enough for pregnant women and their fetuses, then it is obviously safe enough to be used by adults, and should be available for purchase in Canada”….well, congratulations! Putting the issue into the spotlight has played at least a partial role in its approval for sale. (On the other hand, a recent court case where it was argued that given carnitine’s safety level, Health Canada could not legally enforce their own regulations on it also helped a lot.)
Put simply, L-carnitine is essential for your cellular furnaces, called mitochondria, to burn fat as a source of fuel. Without carnitine, you can’t get fat into the furnace. If your levels are low, supplementing L-carnitine is like tipping-up the fat conveyor belt going into the mitochondria, allowing you to more preferentially use fat as fuel. And remember, fat is an excellent source of energy, yielding more than twice as much as carbohydrate or protein.
Improved energy metabolism is only one in a long list of potential benefits from L-carnitine. The subject of tens of thousands of studies, some of the other applications of L-carnitine, (and/or its cousin called Acetyl-L-carnitine) include a long list of heart and cardiac conditions, high blood fats and cholesterol, insulin resistance and diabetes, improved mental alertness and mood, preservation of brain function and memory, better exercise endurance, fatty liver and hepatitis, kidney failure and dialysis, improving male sperm count and better sperm motility, and much more.
Many medications and drugs deplete the body’s carnitine stores, where the people using them may get benefit from supplementation. As for cautions, people taking blood-thinners should avoid high doses, and need to monitor their INR carefully if taking carnitine. And in doses of 3 grams per day or more, carnitine appears to inhibit peripheral thyroid sensitivity, and has been shown to be helpful for an overactive thyroid. It may therefore theoretically interact with thyroid hormone medication.
(Refer to the sources below, and/or stay tuned to our newsletter for an upcoming fully referenced and extensive article on L-carnitine and Acetyl-L-carnitine).
Though a normally healthy body does produce carnitine, (and requires nutrients such as lysine, methionine, magnesium, vits. B3 & B6, vit. C, and iron to do so), like so many other semi-essential nutrients, there is a big difference between what your body needs to survive, versus what it requires to thrive.
As for which form of carnitine to look for, my preference is the tartrate form due to its high stability. (Other forms such as fumerate tend to absorb moisture and develop odors more readily than carnitine tartrate, which has a longer shelf life). Poor stablity is also an issue with liquid forms. Also, be clear on how much actual carnitine a product is supplying, i.e. is the milligram (mg) weight listed referring to the isolated weight of just the carnitine or to the weight of the whole complex. (500mg of carnitine fumerate does not contain 500mg of carnitine. Part of the weight is accounted for by the fumerate.)
As many of you who have talked to me over the years know, I consider robust mitochondrial function and energy production to be the “heart of health”, and L-carnitine is one of the absolute central players in this unfolding story. This is why we have lobbied so hard and long to create free access for Canadians.
Stay tuned for more info on this exciting development, and let’s keep the pressure for Health Freedom going!
- L-Carnitine Monograph: Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 10, #1, March 2005, p. 42-50
- Acety-L-Carnitine Monograph: Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 4, #6, 1999, p438-441
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 2009. p 9-13, and 981-986
- The Carnitine Miracle: The Supernutrient Program that Promotes High Energy, Fat Burning, Heart Health, Brain Wellbeing, and Longevity; book: Robert Crayhon : M Evans and Company; 1998