L-carnitine, or sometimes simply called carnitine, is an amino acid that is responsible for releasing energy from fat.1,2 It’s used on the cellular level to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria of the cell.2 The body produces L-carnitine on its own in the liver and kidneys and stores it in the muscles, brain, heart, and sperm.3 In some cases, such as during pregnancy or breastfeeding, the body needs more L-carnitine than it can produce. Because of this, it’s known as a “conditionally essential” nutrient.2
Acetyl-L-carnitine is similar to L-carnitine with the addition of an acetyl group. It performs many of the same functions but is also responsible for assisting in the production of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that’s needed for proper mental function.1
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Uses and Health Benefits
Acetyl-L-carnitine benefits are vast. Several studies have suggested that acetyl-L-carnitine benefits may help in age-related cognitive decline and decline in energy metabolism, although more research is needed on its effects on humans.1,4 It’s also been recommended for diabetic neuropathy, erectile dysfunction, liver cirrhosis, and fibromyalgia. It may even help in reducing symptoms of depression in the elderly and in improving memory and attention in individuals with Down’s syndrome.1
Some patients with macular degeneration may notice vision improvement through acetyl-L-carnitine supplements. It’s also believed to help treat male infertility and restore menstruation in some women with amenorrhea.1 Acetyl-L-carnitine is recommended in 500 mg per day doses for individuals with multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy due to its muscle-protective and antioxidant powers.5,6 Other conditions that acetyl-L-carnitine benefits include:
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Side Effects and Precautions
Acetyl-L-carnitine side effects are rare, although skin rash, agitation, and body odor may occur. Acetyl-L-carnitine side effects may also include increased appetite, nausea, and vomiting.9 It may interact with thyroid hormone and blood-thinning medications.8 Do not take acetyl-L-carnitine supplements if you have a history of seizures. Talk to your doctor before taking an acetyl-L-carnitine home remedy to ensure it’s a safe, effective option for you.