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All You Need to Know About L-Carnitine Supplements

L-carnitine is an amino acid-like substance produced naturally by the human body in small quantities. Its name comes from the Greek word "carnus," meaning "meat." With a name like that, it should come as no surprise that L-carnitine is abundant in red meat. It can also be found, at lower levels, in some nuts, grains and vegetables. Lately, L-carnitine has gained popularity as a supplement. But what exactly does it do? Are there any side effects to taking it in a pill? I'm glad you asked! Let's dive into the research.

The Benefits of L-Carnitine

Fat Loss

shutterstock_239760211 One of L-carnitine's main roles is transporting fat into the mitochondria of muscle cells. There, the fat is burned away and turned into fuel. Research has shown that when L-carnitine supplements are taken in conjunction with a healthy workout regimen, significantly more weight is lost than through exercise alone.

Heart Health

A study by Mayo Clinic found that L-carnitine reduces one's risk of heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States. The study involved a 3,629-strong control group. Researchers found that, when compared to a placebo, L-carnitine supplements reduced patients' risk of abnormal heart rhythm by 65%. It also reduced the risk of abnormal blood flow to the heart by 40%.

Male Fertility

shutterstock_319477082 Research suggests that L-carnitine may be one of the most successful supplements for battling male infertility. One study, published in the Urology Journal, found that men who received 25 mg of L-carnitine daily for 3 months saw their sperm count increase by 64%. The subjects also had greater semen volume and mobility.

Diabetes Prevention and Treatment

A 1999 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that L-carnitine greatly improves the way the human body handles glucose. High glucose levels are one of diabetes' main hallmarks. Another double-blind study found that in patients with existing diabetic neuropathy, L-carnitine supplementation three times daily was significantly effective at reducing symptom severity.

Healthy Immune Function

shutterstock_283968587 L-carnitine possesses antioxidant properties. Antioxidants prevent damage to cells by free radicals. This can help reduce the amount of time spent sick from a cold. It also reduces the severity of allergy symptoms. Further, research has shown that L-carnitine combats suppression of the immune system, which occurs as a result of immune system disorders and conditions like psoriasis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Brain Function

L-carnitine can get from your bloodstream into your brain quite easily. Once there, it provides a number of neurological benefits. For one, it stimulates the production of acetylcholine – a powerful neuromodulator that helps maintain attention. Certain pesticides used on produce contain chemicals that interrupt the body's natural production of acetylcholine. Supplementation of L-carnitine can treat this.


L-carnitine is considered very safe when taken orally. Side effects can include nausea, stomach upset, heartburn and diarrhea. It can also cause the urine, breath and sweat to smell fishy. Doctors do not recommend L-carnitine for anyone with a history of seizures, as the supplement tends to increase their frequency.
It's important to communicate with your doctor if you intend on taking L-carnitine, particularly if you are breastfeeding or using any other medications.

Do you have experience with L-carnitine? Has it been helpful? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: WebMD Journal of the American College of Nutrition