What Is Carnitine and How Do I Increase It?

Carnitine -- also known as L-carnitine -- is a compound that is created in the body from amino acids. Amino acids are components of protein.

It occurs naturally in animals, plants and microorganisms. Generally, plants contain small amounts of carnitine compared to animals, where especially high levels may be found in heart and skeletal muscle.

The main function of L-carnitine is to help the body turn fat into energy. Carnitine is a "vitamin-like" molecule that helps to transport long-chain fatty acids from outside the mitochondria (the energy powerhouse of the cell) to inside the mitochondria, a process that is vital to energy production.

L-carnitine is also available as a nutritional supplement. Medical research suggests that L-carnitine could be beneficial for some of the symptoms that PCOS women tend to have.

How Can I Increase My Levels of Carnitine?

The highest concentrations of external carnitine are found in red meat and dairy products. Lesser amounts are found in plant foods.

However, eating a lot of red meat and dairy can create problems. For example, these foods are high in saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can force your adrenal glands to produce more male hormones. Excessive male hormones are a big reason why you have polycystic ovary syndrome.

For this and other reasons, it may be advisable to take a carnitine supplement.

Carnitine is also manufactured in the body from lysine (an essential amino acid) in the presence of methionine (an essential amino acid), vitamin C, vitamin B-6, niacin and iron. However, your body may not produce enough of it so you would need to get more from your diet or a supplement.

Is L-Carnitine Supplementation Safe -- and How Much Should I Take?

L-carnitine is safe with no significant side effects reported in human studies.

Avoid the D-form of carnitine, which interferes with the natural L-form, which can result in carnitine deficiency in heart and skeletal muscle, and in exercise intolerance in patients with chest pain.

The maximum safe dosage has not been established for pregnant or nursing women, young children or people with severe kidney or liver disease. People on hemodialysis should not use carnitine unless prescribed by their doctor.

There are no known adverse interactions with any drug or nutrient. Anti-seizure medications may increase carnitine needs.

Note about pregnancy and infant nutrition: The placenta actively transports carnitine to the fetus, where the fetus's ability to synthesize carnitine is not fully developed. Pre-term infants may benefit in weight gain and growth from extra carnitine (9,10). However, pregnant women tend to be low in serum carnitine. Carnitine in breast milk is more "bioavailable" to an infant than in infant formulas. Infants have a limited ability to fully create their own carnitine, so carnitine adequacy is something to think about if you are contemplating a pregnancy or have a baby. If you have any questions about carnitine adequacy or prenatal nutrition, consult with your doctor.

L-carnitine needs vary greatly with the individual. Some clinicians suggest a dosage of 500-1000 mg three times daily or as directed by your healthcare professional.

Where Can You Get It?

High quality L-carnitine in 500 milligram capsules is available from our online PCOS Supplements Store

See Related Articles

10 Ways L-Carnitine Helps PCOS

Your Carnitine May Be too Low!

Lo-Cal Diet + Carnitine = Better Results

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