Also indexed as: Propionyl-L-Carnitine
L-carnitine is made in the body from the amino acids lysine and methionine, and is needed to release energy from fat. It transports fatty acids into mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells. In infancy, and in situations of high energy needs, such as pregnancy and breast-feeding, the need for L-carnitine can exceed production by the body. Therefore, L-carnitine is considered a "conditionally essential" nutrient.1
Dairy and red meat contain the greatest amounts of carnitine. Therefore, people who have a limited intake of meat and dairy products tend to have lower L-carnitine intakes.
L-carnitine has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
Congestive heart failure (propionyl-L-carnitine)
Intermittent claudication (propionyl-L-carnitine)
Anemia (for thalassemia)
Attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Erectile dysfunction (in combination with acetyl-L-carnitine)
Multiple sclerosis (for drug-induced fatigue)
Sickle cell anemia
Sprains and strains (for preventing exercise-related muscle injury)
Type 1 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes
Athletic performance (for ultra-endurance only)
Beta thalassemia major
Cardiomyopathy (only for children with inherited cardiomyopathy)
Mitral valve prolapse
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Carnitine deficiencies are rare, even in strict vegetarians, because the body produces carnitine relatively easily.
Rare genetic diseases can cause a carnitine deficiency. Also, deficiencies are occasionally associated with other diseases, such as diabetes and cirrhosis.2 3 Among people with diabetes, carnitine deficiency is more likely to be found in persons experiencing complications of diabetes (such as retinopathy, hyperlipidemia, or neuropathy), suggesting that carnitine deficiency may play a role in the development of these complications.4 A carnitine deficiency can also result from oxygen deprivation which can occur in some heart conditions. In Italy, L-carnitine is prescribed for heart failure, heart arrhythmias, angina, and lack of oxygen to the heart.5
Most people do not need carnitine supplements. For therapeutic use, typical amounts are 1–3 grams per day.
It remains unclear whether the propionyl-L-carnitine form of carnitine used in congestive heart failure research has greater benefits than the L-carnitine form, since limited research in both animals and humans with the more common L-carnitine has also shown very promising effects.6
L-carnitine has not been consistently linked with any toxicity.
The body needs lysine, methionine, vitamin C, iron, niacin, and vitamin B6 to produce carnitine.
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with L-carnitine. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
1. Giovannini M, Agostoni C, Salari PC. Is carnitine essential in children? J Int Med Res 1991;19:88-102.
2. Dipalma JR. Carnitine deficiency. Am Fam Physician 1988;38:243–51.
3. Kendler BS. Carnitine: an overview of its role in preventive medicine. Prev Med 1986;15:373–90.
4. Tamamogullari N, Silig Y, Icagasioglu S, Atalay A. Carnitine deficiency in diabetes mellitus complications. J Diabetes Complications 1999;13:251–3.
5. Del Favero A. Carnitine and gangliosides. Lancet 1988;2:337 [letter].
6. Kobayashi A, Masumura Y, Yamazaki N. L-carnitine treatment for congestive heart failure—experimental and clinical study. Jpn Circ J 1992;56:86–94.
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.