Every so often an ingredient comes into trend due to robust scientific evidence and meaningful clinical outcomes. Every so often an ingredient has legitimate credibility and is backed by more than just unsubstantiated celebrity endorsements and waves of marketing hype.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is one of those ingredients.
In my day-to-day working life I head up a product development team for a practitioner-only nutritional medicine company that sells to doctors, naturopaths, nutritionists and dieticians.
I was asked the other day what’s my favourite ingredient. It didn’t take me long to answer this question: Acetyl-L-carnitine.
Here’s why Acetyl-L-carnitine takes the title, with some of the key applications that really excite me about this ingredient.
A brief overview of Acetyl-L-carnitine
Through performing comprehensive literature reviews in multiple scientific databases I have come to find that Acetyl-L-carnitine is backed by a substantial amount of high quality human clinical trials for the below (and more) therapeutic interventions.
The focus of this brief overview is why I both get excited by – and take – Acetyl-L-carnitine.
Essentially, it’s to stay positive, alert and sharp with my mind.
Three validated uses for Acetyl-L-carnitine
1. Depression and mental health
When it comes to nutritional supplements for mood and depression, Acetyl-L-carnitine really is the heavy weight champion.
This ingredient has a demonstrated positive effect on reducing depressive symptoms, improving brain chemistry and has been shown to be comparable to common anti-depressants, only with 79% fewer side effects. 1It’s even been trialled in addition to numerous anti-depressants with no notable contraindications or interactions.
One of the key attributes though is the time taken to experience benefits. Most anti-depressants take around two weeks to notice any desired effects and many nutrients can be up to six months, but with Acetyl-L-carnitine effects can be seen almost instantly.
How much to take?
The ideal dosage for depression is 3 grams/day, however studies also use a range between 1-4 grams.
2. Brain function, cognition and mental acuity
I make my living with my brain. I need to be on my game and able to quickly, easily and confidently recall information. I can’t afford to have doubt in my decisions and I need my brain to function at its optimum.
There are a few ways that Acetyl-L-carnitine helps make this happen.
Acetyl-L-carnitine has the following key attributes when it comes to memory and brain function:
- Increases energy production in neurons. 2
- Protects neurons from toxins. 2,3
- Increases the synthesis, release and availability of acetylcholine (the memory neurotransmitter). 2–4
- Reduces the impact of age related and alcohol related memory decline and significantly improves memory functioning and constructional thinking. 5,6
How much to take?
The ideal dosage for memory function and mental acuity is 1.5 – 2 grams/day.
3. Energy and chronic fatigue
High-pressure roles require high-energy requirements and protection from burning out. My mind needs to be switched on all day, but so too does my body (they are, of course, intrinsically interconnected and in my experience not much beats meditation and mindfulness, but that’s a story for another time).
Acetyl-L-carnitine has the following key attributes when it comes to improving energy and reducing the impacts of chronic fatigue:
- Reduces symptoms of chronic fatigue (particularly mental fatigue). 7
- Plays a vital role in transferring long chain fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane for energy production. 4
- Restores mitochondrial function and facilitates the uptake of acetyl-coA for energy production. 1,8
- Reduces pain, which is closely related to both mood and fatigue. 1
How much to take?
The ideal dosage for energy and reducing the effects of chronic fatigue is 1.5 – 2 grams/day.
And there’s more…
So there you have it. Some of it, in any case.
Because there is more to it, and this overview doesn’t even start on the numerous additional and proven positive effects on insulin regulation and sperm quality, for example.
But although this is only a brief overview of Acetyl-L-carnitine and some of its diverse applications on the mind, mood and energy, hopefully it’s enough to help you understand why this ingredient is currently getting me – and others in the industry – excited.
References & further resources
- Veronese N, National I, Stubbs B, Solmi M, Ajnakina O. Acetyl-L-carnitine Supplementation and the Treatment of Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Psychosom Med. 2018;80(2):154-159. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000537.
- Mcdaniel MA, Maier SF, Einstein GO. Brain-Specific ” Nutrients : A Memory Cure ? Nutrition. 2003;19(11-12):957-975. doi:10.1016/S0899-9007(03)00024-8.
- Ferreira GC, Mckenna MC. L-carnitine and Acetyl-L-carnitine roles and neuroprotection in developing brain. Neurochem Res. 2017;42(6):1661-1675. doi:10.1007/s11064-017-2288-7.L-carnitine.
- (Globinmed) GIHOIM. Acetyl L carnitine ( ALC ). Acetyl L carnitine ( ALC ). //www.globinmed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78211&catid=640&Itemid=142. Published 2018. Accessed July 14, 2019.
- Tempesta E, Troncon R, Janiri L, et al. Role of Acetyl-L-carnitine in the treatment of cognitive deficit in chronic alcoholism. Int jounral Clin Pharmacol Res. 1990;10(1-2):101-107.
- Cipoli C, Chiari G. Effects of L-acetylcarnitine on mental deterioration in the aged: initial results. Clin Ter. 1990;132(6):479-510.
- Vermeulen R, Scholte H. Exploratory Open Label , Randomized Study of Acetyl- and Propionylcarnitine in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2004;282(18):276-282. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000116249.60477.e9.
- Rosca M, Lemieux H, Hoppel C. Mitochondria in the elderly: is acetylcarnitine a rejuvenator? Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2009;31(14):1332-1342. doi:10.1016/j.addr.2009.06.009.Mitochondria.