L-Carnitine for Weight Loss
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L-Carnitine for Weight Loss


L-carnitine is used by the body to break down fats. It is used in weight loss supplements with the intention of speeding up fat burning, but clinical trials do not support this use.

L-carnitine is commonly found in the human body and in a variety of natural food sources such as lamb and other red meats. It is used by the body to break down fat cells and release the energy stored within – for this reason, some people believe that L-carnitine supplements aid the rate at which the body burns off fat. In clinical trials, however, there is not much evidence to support this theory, as many studies have failed to prove that L-carnitine affects weight loss. There are many side effects associated with L-carnitine supplements, some of which can be hazardous to those suffering from heart conditions.

What Is L-Carnitine?

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L-carnitine is an amino acid which the body requires to function normally. It is found in a wide variety of protein-rich foods – red meat such as lamb and beef steak contains the highest concentration of L-carnitine, but it can also be found in other foods such as pork, chicken, fish, and milk, albeit in smaller doses. For vegetarians, L-carnitine can also be found in avocado, bread, and peanuts. In addition to this, the body produces a certain amount of L-carnitine naturally within the liver and the kidneys – this reduces the risk of the body suffering from a lack of L-carnitine in its food sources.

As a ‘conditionally essential’ amino acid, if the body doesn’t receive enough L-carnitine from its food, it is still able to function relatively normally. It’s known for humans to survive on lower levels of L-carnitine for a period without lasting side effects – this is typically the case when children are young and not getting adequate amounts of L-carnitine to balance out their high activity level. It’s also common for pregnant or breastfeeding women, who have a larger energy need due to the support they’re providing infants, to endure for a period with relatively low L-carnitine consumption without suffering permanent harm.

L-Carnitine’s Effect on the Body

L-carnitine has been linked to several effects with in the body. The amino acid is responsible for the way the body burns fat and uses energy. It’s also used within the body to create acetylcholine, which is used within the neural transmitters in the brain to send messages to and from the nervous system. What’s more, L-carnitine is a natural antioxidant, which means that it provides a wealth of health benefits to the body – as such, it’s often used in treatment for a variety of medical conditions.

Because of its role in the brain, L-carnitine has been linked to treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other mental illnesses that affect the memory. L-carnitine’s effect on the heart muscles and on blood pressure, as a result of its anti-oxidant qualities, mean that it’s often used to treat angina, heart disease, and other similar ailments. Finally, it’s believed by some that consuming L-carnitine supplements helps the body to lose weight at a faster rate, although evidence to support this claim is somewhat lacking.

L-Carnitine for Weight Loss

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One of L-carnitine’s primary roles within the body is to aid with the breaking down of fat cells. When the body consumes more calories than it needs at the present time, the excess is stored as fat to prevent starvation at a later date. Consuming too much over an extended period of time is what causes the body to store more fat cells without having an opportunity to burn off the excess fat stores.

L-carnitine is used within the body in the process of breaking down fat in order to convert it into energy, and as such, some members of the weight loss community believe that taking additional L-carnitine supplements beyond what the body receives naturally through its food will aid the speed with which the body breaks down fat. Essentially, the logic is that if L-carnitine helps fat burning, having more L-carnitine will mean the body can burn fat quicker.

In practice, though, this theory hasn’t received much credibility from clinical trials – attempts to prove the positive effect of L-carnitine on weight loss have often fallen short. These studies, conducted in a laboratory setting with large samples of participants, are designed to be relevant to the population as a whole, and offer more concrete proof of L-carnitine’s effects than circumstantial evidence from individual trials.

Clinical Studies

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In 2002 a study looked at the effects of L-carnitine on rats who were fed an extremely low calorie diet. Twenty-four rats were fed a diet which consisted of about half the calories that they needed in order to maintain their body weight. Half of these rats were also given regular supplements of L-carnitine over the course of 23 days, while the other half acted as a control group. The rats were regularly weighed, measured and tested throughout the trial, as well as at the end of the trial. It was found that the rats who had been given L-carnitine supplements did not experience significantly different weight loss effects than the control group, leading the study to conclude that L-carnitine does not aid the body in reducing its fat stores, and therefore does not have an effect on weight loss.

A similar trial in 2000 examined the effects of combining L-carnitine supplements with aerobic exercise in women. 36 overweight women were split into two groups, with one group receiving daily supplements of L-carnitine over the course of eight weeks, while the other group received lactose placebo supplements instead that did not contain L-carnitine. Both groups were instructed to engage in light, regular exercise by walking for thirty minutes, four times per week. Over the course of the experiment, all participants were weighed and measured regularly. At the conclusion of the trial period, it was found that neither group enjoyed a significant average weight loss from their participation in the trial, and there was no discernible difference between the results of the group who were given L-carnitine supplements when compared with the control group. These results led to the conclusion from the scientists running the experiment that L-carnitine may not have any effect over the rate of fat burning within the body.

Side effects

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There are several side effects associated with regular consumption of L-carnitine supplements. One of the more notable effects, and certainly one of the most dangerous risks connected to these supplements, is an increased risk of seizures. While seizures that are triggered by contact with L-carnitine supplements are rare, there are documented cases of this occurring, and any user who experiences severe negative effects should stop using L-carnitine supplements and consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

In addition to seizures, there are a variety of other side effects associated with L-carnitine supplements. The most common effect is a rise in blood pressure, brought on by L-carnitine’s effect on the heart – for this reason, those suffering from medical conditions relating to their blood or heart, and especially those who are taking medication for these conditions, should avoid taking L-carnitine without first talking to a medical professional. In some cases, L-carnitine supplements are also associated with triggering a fever and irregular heartbeat – any user who experiences these effects should also seek medical attention.

It’s also important to note that five of the participants of the experiment in 2000 who were given L-carnitine supplements suffered from severe nausea and diarrhoea, and were therefore unable to complete the eight-week trial period. This suggests that consuming L-carnitine supplements on a daily basis may lead to high potential rates of nausea for users.

Conclusion

L-carnitine is recommended by some members of the weight loss community as a dietary supplement because of its connection to breaking down and burning fat cells to release energy. Many believe that providing the body with more L-carnitine, it’s possible to increase the rate at which the body uses up its fat reserves. Clinical studies, however, have not produced these results, and many scientists do not believe that providing the body with additional L-carnitine does anything to increase the rate of energy consumption within the body. L-carnitine supplements are associated with a wide range of negative side effects, ranging from high blood pressure to seizures.

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