L-carnitine offers benefits for both young and old, according to authors of a new scientific review.1 The review was conducted by Lonza Health and Nutrition (Basel, Switzerland) and published in the journal Nutrients. It discusses how L-carnitine helps boost recovery following exercise. In the review, L-carnitine was found to help attenuate post-exercise muscle soreness and oxidative stress, as well as to increase blood flow. The authors also point to growing applications for L-carnitine in elderly adults by helping mitigate age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia.
L-carnitine is a naturally occurring quaternary ammonium compound found in most mammals, plants, and some bacteria. The paper’s authors wrote that L-carnitine plays a key role in fatty acid oxidation and energy metabolism, and has been previously studied as an ergogenic aid for enhancing exercise capacity in a healthy athletic population.
Early research on L-carnitine in a healthy active population has suggested that it may help improve acute physical performance, including increasing maximum oxygen capacity and a higher power output. Other research examined L-carnitine as an ingredient for post-exercise recovery. Specifically, in those studies, L-carnitine indicated the potential to alleviate muscle injuries following exercise, as well as to reduce markers of cellular damage and free-radical formation.
Previous studies on L-carnitine supplementation in older adults, meanwhile, have shown that it may help increase muscle mass, decrease body weight, and potentially reduce mental and physical fatigue.
In the new peer-reviewed paper, researchers examined existing human clinical trials from “the last few decades” on the benefits of L-carnitine during exercise and the recovery. The team compiled existing studies on L-carnitine’s effects on exercise and recovery, excluding studies where L-carnitine was given in combination with other multi-ingredient supplements. The examined studies supported L-carnitine’s ability to help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness and increase the level of androgen receptors on muscle cells in young, active adults, thus promoting recovery following exercise. Studies conducted with both young, athletic populations, as well as in working dogs, found that L-carnitine may help to reduce muscle damage and improve blood flow and oxygen supply.
Studies in elderly adults who suffered from feelings of fatigue, meanwhile, suggest that L-carnitine may “positively affect muscle mass and revert the age-dependent decrease in muscle functioning,” the authors wrote. In addition, the authors also pointed to studies which have shown that L-carnitine supplementation may also reduce mental fatigue.
Lonza stated in a press release that the review lends further support to the idea that L-carnitine is a promising ingredient for aging adults. “With a rapidly aging global population increasingly taking part in moderate exercise,” the company said, “and given the additional challenges met by older people suffering from the age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass, strength, and overall activity, namely sarcopenia, L-carnitine has been found to exert a beneficial effect by maintaining lean muscle mass and reducing muscle degradation and fatigue.”
According to the study authors, while L-carnitine is “particularly beneficial to the healthy, young, active population,” elderly adults experiencing lean muscle mass and function decline may also benefits from supplementation with L-carnitine.
Aouatef Bellamine, PhD, senior scientific manager, consumer health and nutrition, Lonza, commented on the company’s findings in the press release. “The results of this review could therefore be taken into consideration when planning the diets of younger, active consumers, while also helping to shape the future direction of research, to explore in greater depth the role L-carnitine supplementation can play alongside exercise in mitigating age-related muscle degradation,” she said.
Lonza’s own L-carnitine ingredient, Carnipure, has been studied in more than 30 clinical trials demonstrating its “versatility and broad usage,” the company says. According to Lonza, Carnipure can be formulated into a range of functional foods and nutritional supplements for applications including weight-management, energy, infant nutrition, sports nutrition, and healthy aging.
1. Fielding R et al., “L-carnitine supplementation in recovery after exercise,” Nutrients. Published online March 13, 2018.