L-carnitine is the biologically active form of the nonessential amino acid carnitine. Carnitine is produced in your body from the two amino acids methionine and lysine, and also is found in foods such as dairy products, meats and avocados. Supplementation with L-carnitine under medical supervision may benefit diabetic sufferers, although more research is needed to fully assess its efficacy.
L-carnitine is involved in the transport of certain fatty acids into cells where they go through a process of oxidation. As a result of this process, energy is released. Supplementation with L-carnitine improves the usage of fat as a source of energy, lowers cholesterol and trygliceride levels and may reduce the risk of health problems in diabetics, who have impaired fat metabolism. L-carnitine has a protective effect on heart muscles and function, thus diabetics may benefit again from this supplement, as diabetes increases the risk of developing heart conditions. In clinical research, L-carnitine has been found to enhance the efficacy of conventional drugs in improving glucose and lipid levels in diabetics.
A study that was published in the November 2010 issue of "Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology" evaluated the benefits of using L-carnitine in combination with the conventional drug Orlistat to improve sugar and fat levels as well as for weight management. The researchers found that the subjects who took both Orlistat and L-carnitine had better improvement in body weight, inflammatory markers, glucose and lipid profiles compared to the subjects who took the conventional drug alone.
Another study published in the April 2010 issue of “Nutrition and Metabolism" assessed the benefits of L-carnitine for various health conditions. In relation to diabetes, researchers concluded that there is increased evidence that supplementing with L-carnitine helps improve cardiovascular conditions, may help reduce obesity and improves glucose intolerance.
L-carnitine supplements are generally considered well-tolerated and safe. In rare cases, mild digestive complaints such as stomach irritation may occur.
Drug and Nutrient Interactions
According to Michael Murray, N.D., author of “The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines,” there are no known negative interactions between drugs or other nutrients and L-carnitine. In fact, L-carnitine was found to decrease heart toxicity caused by adryamicin, a chemotherapeutic agent. L-carnitine works in synergy with iron and vitamins B6 and C and niacin.
Consult an alternative health care practitioner to find out if you can benefit from supplementation with L-carnitine as well as to determine optimal daily doses of this supplement. L-carnitine does not replace standard treatment for diabetes.