Science Update

New review demonstrates acetyl L-carnitine significantly decreases depressive symptoms


Acetyl L-carnitine is one of the most researched brain nutrients and has been shown to quickly enhance mental focus and energy. Its structure is similar to acetylcholine and therefore acetyl L-carnitine can stimulate acetylcholine receptors in the brain. The acetyl group allows it to cross the blood brain barrier which does not occur with L-carnitine. Thus acetyl-L-carnitine will support the brain in addition to offering all the benefits of L-carnitine.

The only food carnitine is found in significant amounts is in animal muscle tissue mainly in dark meats (due to high concentration of mitochondria). Its main function is to transport fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane for fatty acid oxidation. Supplementation of carnitine has been studied in many areas including metabolism cardiovascular disease and sports enhancement.

According to a new review published last Wednesday in Psychosomatic Medicine researchers demonstrated that acetyl L-carnitine can significantly reduce depressive symptoms and an insufficiency of this nutrient can play a role in the risk of developing depression suggesting dysregulation of fatty acids transport across the mitochondria.

In this study researchers reviewed 12 random controlled trials (RCTs) 11 in which acetyl L-carnitine was a monotherapy. In nine of the RCTs 231 individuals were treated with acetyl L-carnitine 216 individuals with placebo and 20 with no intervention. As a result the analysis showed that acetyl L-carnitine significantly reduced depressive symptoms. The other three RCTs compared acetyl-l-carnitine to antidepressants with 162 individuals in each group. Acetyl L-carnitine demonstrated similar effectiveness compared to antidepressants in decreasing depressive symptoms.

Most people associate acetyl L-carnitine with preventing age-related memory decline and slowing Alzheimer's; however it is also very effective for increasing mental focus energy and optimizing brain health. Acetyl L-carnitine increases dopamine which enhances focus and motivation. Dosage recommendations of acetyl L-carnitine range between 500-3000mg per day depending on the application. With acetyl L-carnitine supplementation individuals may feel an increase in focus and energy within about 15 to 20 minutes. There are no side effects and only long term benefits on brain health and function.

Other brain-supportive nutrients to consider include GPC CDP-choline (citicoline) Ginkgo biloba phosphatidylserine and fish oil. GPC and CDP-choline are water-soluble forms of choline that can cross the blood brain barrier and support brain health. These help make more acetylcholine and neurotransmitters as well as phosphatidylcholine in the cell membranes. In addition phosphatidylserine is an essential nutrient for brain function and is not found in the diet. Research has demonstrated that phosphatidylserine helps to improve depressive symptoms memory and behavior.

By Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN CNS


Source: Veronese N Stubbs B et al. Acetyl-l-carnitine Supplementation and the Treatment for Depressive Symptoms: A Systemic Review and Meta-analysis. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2017 October 25.

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