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Updated: Nov 23, 2022

Nancy Neithercut

What is it?

•Think of carnage, meaning the ripping and slicing of flesh.

•Carnitine, derived from an amino acid, is found in nearly all cells of the body. Its name is derived from the Latin carnus or flesh, as the compound was isolated from meat. Carnitine is the generic term for a number of compounds that include L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine, and propionyl-L-carnitine

• Your body can produce L-carnitine out of the amino acids lysine and methionine, so it need not be consumed in food. It plays a role in in the production of energy by transporting fatty acids into your cells’ mitochondria, which are the ‘engines’ of your cells. It helps to burn these fats to make energy.

•Healthy children and adults do not need to consume carnitine from food or supplements, as the liver and kidneys produce sufficient amounts from the amino acids lysine and methionine to meet daily needs

How much do we take in, is it stored? Is it legal?

•Adults eating mixed diets that include red meat and other animal products obtain about 60–180 milligrams of carnitine per day. Vegans get considerably less (about 10–12 milligrams) since they avoid animal-derived foods. Most (54–86%) dietary carnitine is absorbed in the small intestine and enters the bloodstream

•The kidneys efficiently conserve carnitine, so even carnitine-poor diets have little impact on the body’s total carnitine content. Rather than being metabolized, excess carnitine is excreted in the urine as needed via the kidneys to maintain stable blood concentrations.

•About 98% of your L-carnitine stores are contained in your muscles, along with trace amounts in your liver and blood

•Yes, it is legal, but as John McDougall says, ‘supplements are at best medicine and at worst, poison’

Is it harmful? Do we need it?

•You can see why athletes believe it will help their performance, as It plays a role in your health by contributing to energy production, and helps to remove toxic byproducts of energy production. Carnitine transports long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria so they can be oxidized (“burned”) to produce energy

•However, twenty years of research finds no consistent evidence that carnitine supplements can improve exercise or physical performance in healthy subjects—at doses ranging from 2–6 grams/day administered for 1 to 28 days.

•(Brass EP. Supplemental carnitine and exercise. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:618S-23S)

•Also, yes, it is harmful. Your gut bacteria interacts with the nutrients choline (meat and eggs) and carnitine and results in increased production of Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite which has been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

If you are a plant eater you don't have the gut bugs to make TMAO, but in a few days of consuming animal foods, some of your beneficial bacteria will turn into pathogenic gut bugs and your body will make TMAO.

(Koeth R, Wang Z, Levison B et al. “Intestinal microbiota of L-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis.” Nat Med 2013 May;19(5):576-585)

How do we make muscle if carnitine doesn’t help?

•There is no magic bullet that makes muscles.

•You must undertake resistance training, and consuming an oil free whole food plant based diet gives your body all you need.

•If you eat rhinoceros horn, you don’t grow a long hard penis.

•If you eat chicken lips you don’t form juicy model lips,

•If you want to be as strong as an ox, investigate what an ox eats.

Some more fun side effects:

•High blood pressure, fast heartbeat, fever, (Rare, seizures)

•More common

•Abdominal or stomach cramps, diarrhea, headache, nausea, vomiting

Less common side effects:

•Abdominal discomfort, body odor, depression, dizziness, impaired vision, loss of appetite or weight, swelling in hands, lower legs, and feet, tingling sensation, weakness

(sounds like the flu, doesn’t it)

My conclusion

•Supplements are not the magic bullet for enhanced athletic performance, recovery, or muscle building, as life is beautifully old fashioned. It is wonderfully simple to live a healthy life, just eat plants in the form closest to the form they grow, exercise, get in the sun, and have social relations. Your body is incredibly complex and the infinite inter-reactions of even the nutrients we know of cannot be traced. Life is a symphony, and the music is coming from every where, including your marvelous body.

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