Acetyl-L-Carnitine

(acetyl-L-carnitine)

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

ALC (acetyl-L-carnitine) is widely used in life-extension circles for its positive impact on cognition. Its role in stimulating mental function and slowing memory loss is normally of interest to anyone of age or aging (which I hope you are). In addition, it’s been found to increase energy availability to our cells and to support immune functioning.

Other names for ALC

acetyl-L-carnitine, acetyl-carnitine, L-acetyl-carnitine, LAC

Where to find ALC

Small amounts of ALC are found in milk and in the human body.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use ALC

ALC, the acetyl form of L-carnitine, may actually be more effective when it comes to transporting fats to muscle to be burned instead of stored. But while L-carnitine is known as a weight-loss nutrient, the popularity of ALC for its anti-aging effects far exceeds its use as a weight-loss aid. It’s been shown to be especially beneficial in fighting age-related decreases in brain functioning, such as memory loss.

Ways that ALC can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Support fat loss by transporting fats into cells to be burned for energy
Ways that ALC can enhance Mental Functioning:
  • Stimulate improved cognitive function by increasing neurotransmitter activity
Ways that ALC can enhance Longevity:
  • Combat the effects of aging by fighting free radicals

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of ALC deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for ALC

Research indicates that ALC may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Scurvy
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Herpes
  • Cardiovascular disease

DISCUSSION

More about ALC

ALC (acetyl-L-carnitine) is a naturally occurring amino-acid-like compound that is composed of acetic acid and L-carnitine bound together. It appears to be absorbed and used more efficiently by the body than its parent compound, L-carnitine.

Like L-carnitine, ALC helps shuttle fats into the mitochondria or the powerhouse of cells, so they can be metabolized or burned for energy. As such, ALC is often recommended for increasing energy levels, especially in endurance events; to help lower cholesterol levels; and to support (although not directly) fat loss. By preventing the damage caused by a lack of oxygen, like when we gulp the air as we sprint past a competitor, ALC may also aid the heart and lungs during endurance activities.

Enhance mental functioning

ALC, however, has grown in popularity mostly for its possible abilities to increase mental functioning and slow the memory loss normally associated with the aging process. These benefits are based on a pretty substantial stack of studies. One study, performed by researchers in Italy, led by Alberto Spagnoli, M.D., reported that this nutrient slowed the cognitive decline in 63 patients with Alzheimer’s. The patients improved on all outcome scores, including memory tests and physical evaluations.

Other researchers in the United States and Europe have noted similar improvements and have also reported that ALC may regularly lower depression; lift mood; and significantly improve constructional thinking, attention span, and alertness. These positive effects appear to persist even after supplementation has stopped, indicating that we do not need to use ALC at all times to benefit from it. The Life Extension Foundation, in fact, recommends supplementing with ALC for less than two months and then taking up to ten months off supplementation.

How ALC works

Researchers suggest that ALC may work by increasing blood flow to the brain and stimulating the activity of neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers in the brain, thus preventing the normal age-related changes in the brain cells. It’s also been shown to increase levels of both nerve growth factor and the brain enzyme choline acetyltransferase, which are both important for normal brain functioning, including learning and memory.

Live longer, healthier lives

Of course, memory isn’t the only thing that seems to go as we age, and ALC may be of help for a number of other important functions. For one, ALC may help prevent the normal age-related decline in immune-system functioning by helping repair damaged DNA in white blood cells. Some experts suggest our bodies’ lowered ability to repair the DNA in the white blood cells that accompanies age may play a significant role in the risk of not only Alzheimer’s but Parkinson’s disease and other nerve-damage diseases.

ALC also appears to have antioxidant actions, which means it may help minimize tissue damage. Aging is believed to be caused by the deterioration of the energy-producing parts of our cells, and ALC appears to support the cellular energy metabolism of youth. Basically, by helping our cells stay young, ALC should, at least theoretically, help us remain young.

In conclusion

ALC has many exciting benefits, especially in regard to increasing mental functioning. Research is likely to continue on this popular nutrient. And in the meantime, it appears to be a promising supplement for boosting brain power and longevity.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

There is no RDA for ALC; however, 500 mg taken 3 times per day may be effective for the above mentioned benefits.

Timing

Although some sources recommend supplementing with ALC on an empty stomach, stomach discomfort may be experienced when it is consumed without food.

Synergists of ALC

No synergists have been noted.

Safety of ALC

Has not yet been determined for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Toxicity of ALC

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Bowman, B.A., “Acetyl-Carnitine and Alzheimer’s Disease,” Nutr Rev 50.5 (1992) : 142-4.
  • Brooks, J.O., et al., “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 10.2 (1998) : 193-203.
  • Calvani, M., et al., “Action of Acetyl-L-Carnitine in Neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s Disease,” Ann N Y Acad Sci 663 (1992) : 483-6.
  • Carta, A., et al., “Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Alzheimer’s Disease: Pharmacological Considerations Beyond the Cholinergic Sphere,” Ann N Y Acad Sci 695 (1993) : 324-6.
  • Garzya, G., et al., “Evaluation of the Effects of L-Acetylcarnitine on Senile Patients Suffering from Depression,” Drugs Exp Clin Res 16.2 (1990) : 101-6.
  • Kidd, P.M., “A Review of Nutrients and Botanicals in the Integrative Management of Cognitive Dysfunction,” Altern Med Rev 4.3 (1999) : 144-61.
  • Ruggiero, F.M., et al., “Effect of Aging and Acetyl-L-Carnitine on the Lipid Composition of Rat Plasma and Erythrocytes,” Biochem Biophys Res Commun 170.2 (1990) : 621-6.
  • Martignoni, E., et al., “Acetyl-L-Carnitine Acutely Administered Raises Beta-Endorphin and Cortisol Plasma Levels in Humans,” Clin Neuropharmacol 11.5 (1988) : 472-7.
  • Spagnoli, A., et al., “Long-Term Acetyl-L-Carnitine Treatment in Alzheimer’s Disease,” Neurology 41.11 (1991) : 1726-32.