I’ve been taking a carnitine supplement for years because of evidence it protects the nervous system and heart. I have read that it also supports mental ability in people who have Alzheimer’s. Now, a new study has me really excited about additional benefits of carnitine, and has established the importance of this naturally occurring chemical compound made in your liver and kidneys.
Lab tests at the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute and Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center show that taking supplements of carnitine may help boost your stamina when you work out and increase the benefits your muscles get from exercise.
The Duke scientists looked at an enzyme produced in the body called carnitine acetyltransferase (CrAT). This enzyme requires a supply of carnitine to increase the energy produced in muscle cell mitochondria. Mitochondria are the tiny structures in cells that fuel each cell’s activity.
The tests on lab animals showed that carnitine supplements improve the function of the mitochondria and increases exercise endurance.
“We were actually quite surprised that carnitine supplementation proved beneficial in young, healthy (lab animals) because our presumption was that carnitine availability was not a limiting factor under these circumstances,” says researcher Deborah Muoio.
She points out that they haven’t proven that carnitine produces the same effects in people, but she can’t imagine why it wouldn’t.
She notes that her study implies that when you take carnitine to help your muscle mitochondria function more efficiently, it should help your muscles warm up faster when you work out. When you are done exercising, it will probably also help you cool down more efficiently even though she admits that all the details of CrAT’s functions haven’t been fully explained.
In addition to carnitine supplements, animal-based foods are good sources, including:
Since carnitine plays such a crucial role in helping mitochondria work better, it makes a lot of sense that it is beneficial for every muscle in the body. Along with regular exercise, this supplement could make an easier job out of keeping your muscles in decent shape as you age — in addition to its long list of other health benefits.