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What Is Acetyl-L Carnitine HCL?

author image Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier is a seasoned columnist and feature writer. Since 1992, her work has appeared in Mother Earth News, The Herb Quarterly, Parenting, Club Mom and in many other print and digital publications. She is also the author of five books, including "50 Simple Ways to Pamper Your Baby."
What Is Acetyl-L Carnitine HCL?
Acetyl L-carnitine HCL is used to treat several conditions, including diabetic neuropathy. Photo Credit Diabetic Tools image by painless from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Acetyl L-carnitine HCL is an amino acid naturally manufactured in the body through the conversion of L-carnitine and used by cells to produce fuel for energy. It is also involved in a variety of processes that regulate muscle movement and heart and brain function. As a dietary supplement, acetyl L-carnitine HCL is used to treat a variety of disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetic neuropathy, male infertility and depression.


Acetyl L-carnitine HCL is known by a variety of other names, including acetyl L-carnitine hydrochloride, acetyl L-carnitine and simply acetyl carnitine. It is synthesized in the liver and kidneys and stored in the heart, brain, muscle tissue and sperm. Most people produce sufficient amounts of this amino acid. However, certain medical conditions and medications may limit the body's ability to produce enough, making supervised supplementation necessary.


According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there is significant clinical evidence to show that acetyl L-carnitine therapy benefits patients with stable angina when used in conjunction with conventional treatments. There is limited evidence, however, that supplementation with this nutrient will help to prevent a heart attack or heart failure. If you have or suspect a heart condition, consult your physician before self-treating with this dietary supplement.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database monograph on acetyl L-carnitine states that this amino acid is used to treat a wide variety of cognitive disorders, including problems due to alcoholism, Lyme disease, Down's syndrome, depression and decreased blood flow to the brain following stroke.

Acetyl L-carnitine also appears to lessen pain due to nerve damage. For instance, a group of Italian researchers submitted a paper to the journal Drugs in R&D that described acetyl L-carnitine as a promising treatment for diabetic neuropathy. Another team of Italian researchers found that acetyl L-carnitine supplementation reduced sciatic pain in patients with herniated discs and decreased the need for pain medication.


According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the standard dose of acetyl L-carnitine is 1 to 3 g per day. Specific dosages vary according to age and the condition being treated.

Side Effects

High doses of acetyl L-carnitine, which is considered 5 g or more per day, may produce a skin rash, diarrhea, nausea, and increased sweating and appetite. In addition, the breath, urine and body odor may impart a fish-like smell.


If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, an under-active thyroid or a history of liver or kidney disease, do not take this supplement without the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner.

Drug Interactions

Acetyl L-carnitine may interfere with or increase the effects of certain medications, including anti-seizure drugs, the HIV/AIDS drug AZT, chemotherapy agents and the chronic acne treatment isotretinoin, also known as accutane.

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