Science builds for L-carnitine and muscle ageing

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gerontology, Muscle, Fatty acid metabolism

Supplementation with L-carnitine may restore natural losses of the nutrient that occur naturally with age, according to a new study with rats.

Researchers form the University of Dijon report that supplementation with Lonza’s Carnipure ingredient led to increases in the levels of L-carnitine in rat muscle cells, as well as improving muscle capabilities in the old animals.

According to results published in The Journal of Gerontology​, no changes in food intake were observed, while decreases in abdominal fat were observed.

L-Carnitine, a vitamin-like nutrient, occurs naturally in the human body and is essential for turning fat into energy. It is frequently used as a dietary supplement by physically active people to help with post-exercise recovery.

Lonza, which claims to be the world's largest manufacturer of L-Carnitine, has said that extensive scientific research shows the supplement promotes cardiovascular health and that other studies suggest the nutrient may be useful in weight management.

“With the world’s elderly population predicted to nearly triple by 2050, it is not surprising that the market for anti-aging foods and supplements will see increased levels of activity and opportunity for manufacturers. Carnipure may help support functions that seniors need to stay fit and healthy in both mind and body,”​ said lead researcher Professor Jean Demarquoy.

Study details

The L-carnitine levels in the muscles of young and old rats were found to be 34 per cent lower in the elderly animals.

Old rats were fed a control diet and supplemented with L-carnitine (30 mg/kg body weight) for 12 weeks. Demarquoy and his co-workers report that this led to a restoration of L-carnitine levels in muscle cells.

Furthermore, a 55 per cent improvement in the oxidative capacity in the muscles of the old rats was recorded by the Dijon-based researchers.

Normal age-related increases in body weight appeared to be limited by L-carnitine supplementation. This was suggested to be de to a limiting of fat gain by increasing fatty acid oxidation.

If the results can be repeated in future studies, including more human studies, then L-carnitine may find a role in supporting healthy ageing.

Healthy bones, too

Researchers from Florida State University reported this summer that L-carnitine supplements had may increase the bone mineral density of rats by 6.3 per cent (Phytomedicine​, Vol. 15, pp. 595-601).

However, the Florida-state researchers noted that many questions remain unanswered, particularly the nutrient’s metabolic role in bone. “How it suppresses bone turnover remains to be answered,”​ they wrote.

“Nonetheless, further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanism underlying the effect of carnitine on bone and evaluate the benefits of carnitine supplementation as an alternative/ adjunctive treatment to reduce bone turnover.”

Source: The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences​Volume 63, Pages 1027-1033 “L-Carnitine Supplementation and Physical Exercise Restore Age-Associated Decline in Some Mitochondrial Functions in the Rat”​Authors: A. Bernard, C. Rigault, F. Mazue, F. Le Borgne, J. Demarquoy

Related topics: Research, Suppliers, Healthy ageing

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