How PCOS Is Helped by L-Carnitine
L-carnitine supplements may be appropriate if you are dealing with any of these PCOS-related issues:
- Hair Loss and Re-growth
- Diabetes Prevention
- Cardiovascular disease prevention
- Fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- High cholesterol
L-Carnitine Helps You Burn Fat
Another issue faced by PCOS women is difficulty in getting rid of fat weight.
L-carnitine is necessary to transport fat into the fat-burning compartment of your cells. Thus, people refer to it as a "fat burning" nutrient. Of course, the burned fat is transformed into energy that is used to power your body.
Where does fat get burned? In your muscle cells. Muscle cells depend on adequate levels of carnitine to efficiently do their job. (2) Carnitine also contributes to better overall fat regulation and reduces insulin resistance problems. (3)
An interesting study examined how l-carnitine might affect blood flow after eating a high-fat meal. (We don't recommend eating high fat meals because they tend to clog up your circulation and mess up your hormones.) One group of people took supplemental l-carnitine for 3 weeks, the other group took a placebo. As expected, after eating a high fat meal, the blood circulation in the placebo group got worse. In contrast, the circulation in the l-carnitine group actually improved.(12)
Will L-Carnitine Prevent Hair Loss, or Improve Hair Growth?
Male-pattern hair loss of scalp hair is a serious concern for some women with PCOS. A primary reason for hair loss is an excess of male hormones called androgens. This type of hair loss is referred to as androgenic alopecia.
In a recent experiment with human hair at the University of Lubeck in Germany, L-carnitine was shown to promote hair growth.(1) Exposure to L-carnitine stimulated hair shaft elongation and reduced hair cell death.
The authors of this study conclude, "Our findings suggest that L-carnitine stimulates human scalp hair growth by up regulation of proliferation and down regulation of apoptosis in follicular keratinocytes in vitro. They further encourage one to explore topical and nutraceutical administration of l-carnitine as a well-tolerated, relatively safe adjuvant treatment in the management of androgenetic alopecia and other forms of hair loss."
L-Carnitine and Diabetes
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have a very significant increased risk of developing diabetes as well as heart disease.
L-carnitine appears to be beneficial for reducing the impact of diabetes and "Syndrome X" (metabolic syndrome). These disorders have a lot of similarities with PCOS and are associated with insulin resistance and problems with handling blood sugar.
Studies of lab animals with diabetes or metabolic syndrome have shown that L-carnitine reduces diabetic tendencies and improves ability to deal with blood sugar fluctuations (4,5)
L-carnitine also reduces a very undesirable metabolic process called "glycation".(6) Glycation is the inappropriate combining of a sugar and a protein in your body, resulting in malfunction of your cells.
If you're on a diet, l-carnitine can make that diet even more effective.
L-Carnitine and Your Cardiovascular System
It's well known that women with polycystic ovary syndrome have multiple cardiovascular risk factors and an increased prevalence of arterial dysfunction.
For example, we recently reported that these women tend to have hardening of the arteries.
Another recent study has shown that they also have a condition called "endothelial dysfunction" (7)
Endothelial dysfunction means that the cells in your artery walls are not working properly. This condition is an "early warning" sign of future, more serious cardiovascular problems such as atherosclerosis.
A report from the University of Indiana School of Medicine indicates that L-carnitine can reduce endothelial dysfunction in some people, especially if they have a weight problem.(8)
The authors of this study concluded: "Our data suggest that increasing L-carnitine levels may improve FFA-induced and obesity-associated endothelial dysfunction. This improved endothelial function may delay or prevent the development of excess cardiovascular disease."
Another study of rats at the University of Seville was also very interesting. In this study, rats with high blood pressure were given l-carnitine. The carnitine reduced their blood pressure and made their hearts healthier.(13)
Your heart is highly dependent on carnitine. L-carnitine has been used for treating angina (chest pain), arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), congestive heart failure, ischemia (lack of oxygen for heart tissue) and speeding recovery after a heart attack.
L-Carnitine Helps if You Have a Fatty Liver
Fatty liver degeneration is an under-recognized health problem that up to 50% of women with PCOS have.
Fatty liver disease, called NAFLD, is a condition where fat builds up in your liver and clogs up its operations. So what you end up with is a liver that cannot do its job. Your liver is an essential organ. If you liver is not healthy, it's impossibly for you to be healthy, plus it's much more difficult to control health issues associated with PCOS.
Research from Hanyang University School of Medicine in Korea and other research institutions has shown that when liver cells are exposed to carnitine, the toxic effect of fat is reduced, the energy-production capacity of the liver cells is preserved, and liver cell damage is reduced.(11)
The University of Catania in Italy has published a report showing the supplemental carnitine was effective in suppressing NASH and improving liver function. The patients in this study took 1 gram of carnitine twice a day for 24 weeks. (14)
Carnitine and Menopause
A very interesting study of rats was conducted by Florida State University. The rats had their ovaries removed, so as to mimic menopause. One group of rats received supplemental carnitine, the other group did not. The group taking the carnitine had significantly better bone density. In other words, the carnitine rats were less prone to developing osteoporosis.(15)
Especially if you are menopausal or have had your ovaries removed, supplemental l-carnitine is something you can seriously consider.
Does L-Carnitine Have an Anti-Aging Effect?
A medical study showed that when older rats were supplemented with l-carnitine, their metabolism improved. Their fat mass was reduced and muscle capability was increased. The researchers concluded: "These results suggest that supplementation with L-carnitine may offset some of the negative health effects associated with aging."(16)
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