L-carnitine is an organic molecule that plays an important role in the regulation of fatty acid and energy metabolism. It also has a role in the prevention of cellular damage and diseases. L-carnitine is only found in living or once-living cells. The presence of vitamin C is a precondition for its production.
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Sources of L-Carnitine
L-carnitine is a semi-essential molecule, which means your body synthesizes most of the L-carnitine it needs independent of its consumption. Under certain conditions, however, the demand for L-carnitine exceeds your body's capacity to produce it. The remaining L-carnitine must come from meat, poultry, fish and dairy products in your diet. L-carnitine deficiency due to inadequate dietary intake is rare, even among vegans. However, children who are still developing and pregnant women might benefit from dietary supplements.
The synthesis of L-carnitine requires the presence of six different molecules. Two of them are amino acids — the chemical building blocks of proteins. The remaining four are iron, vitamin B6, niacin and vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C contributes to the function of two important enzymes that play a role in the biosynthesis of L-carnitine. Enzymes are special types of proteins that facilitate chemical reactions. In this case, they convert the amino acid lysine into L-carnitine through a process that spans a series of "intermediate molecules" to bridge the gap.
The consumption of vitamin C is closely associated with L-carnitine production and excretion. Though vitamin C is not the only nutrient necessary for this process, its absence can greatly impair the creation of L-carnitine. For example, an early symptom of vitamin C deficiency is fatigue. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, experts think this might be related to a decrease in the synthesis of L-carnitine.
Vitamin C Intake
Major dietary sources of vitamin C include oranges, peppers, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, mango, broccoli, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and citrus fruit juices. Because of the way in which your body obtains L-carnitine, the consumption of vitamin C is ultimately more important to its production than the intake of L-carnitine from your diet. Evidence suggests that a mild deficiency of vitamin C is common, but serious problems are rare in industrialized countries.