Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is a form of L-carnitine, an amino acid that is found in nearly all cells of the body. L-carnitine plays a critical role in producing energy from long-chain fatty acids. Simply put, it converts fat into energy. In addition, it is believed to increase the activity of certain nerve cells in the central nervous system.
L-carnitine serves an important role in energy production and metabolism by importing a substance called acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) into the mitochondria (power bank of the cells). Acetyl-CoA is like a coin that kickstarts cellular machinery, making it a key player in energy synthesis.
Having enough L-carnitine is important for muscle, heart, and brain health. Moreover, L-carnitine improves acetylcholine (neurotransmitter) levels in the brain, which may help improve memory, prevent neuronal aging, and treat weakness due to poor acetylcholine levels at the neuromuscular junctions in the body.
What are rich sources of acetyl-L-carnitine?
Although many people take supplements containing ALC for its purported benefits, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to back these claims.
Animal-based foods are good sources of carnitine.
- Beef: 81 milligrams per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Pork: 24 milligrams per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Fish: 5 milligrams per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Chicken: 3 milligrams per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Milk: 8 milligrams per 8 ounces (227 mL)
Although most diets contain enough carnitine, the human body can make its own supply through enzymatic action on the amino acid lysine.
What are the uses and benefits of acetyl-L-carnitine?
- Diabetic neuropathy: Taking ALC seems to improve symptoms in people with nerve pain caused by diabetes by improving nerve health and reinforcing nerve cell structure.
- Alzheimer's disease: L-carnitine has shown improvements or slower declines in the mental ability of people with Alzheimer's disease. ALC may slow the rate of disease progression and improve memory and some measures of mental function and behavior. It may also help with other types of dementia.
- Alcoholism: ALC may help reduce cravings in people suffering from alcoholism. Taken orally or intravenously, ALC may reduce cravings and improve symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
- Depression: ALC treatment reduces symptoms of depression in older people. Taking 1-4 grams of ALC per day may improve mood and reduce depression in some people. It seems to work better in elderly people and when taken in higher amounts.
- Fragile X syndrome: L-carnitine affects certain behaviors in boys with fragile X syndrome such as their social skills and hyperactivity.
- Male infertility: Taking ALC orally, usually along with L-carnitine and other supplements, seems to increase sperm count and sperm mobility in men with fertility problems.
- Peyronie's disease: Some studies have shown that men who took ALC daily for 3 months had less pain and curving of the penis.
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