EFSA health claim opinion

Veteran L-carnitine prof: Rejected dossier literature is 'out of date'

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Rejected L-carnitine dossier missed key data, says abject researcher
Rejected L-carnitine dossier missed key data, says abject researcher

Related tags Carnitine Metabolism Glycogen

A highly peeved, 30-year veteran L-carnitine researcher has written to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) calling on the agency to alter its rejection yesterday of an L-carnitine, article 13 health claim dossier that apparently was loaded with “out of date” studies.

Professor Paul Greenhaff, from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Nottingham Medical School, fired off the missive to EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) after assessing the reference list in the negative opinion.

“I am writing to make you aware that you have missed important literature concerning L-Carnitine supplements,”​ professor Greenhaff began.

“Whilst it is correct to state that L-carnitine supplementation per se will not impact upon a number of facets of health and well being, it is clear from the literature that cardiac tissue is sensitive to carnitine availability.”

“Furthermore, and probably more important in the context of your report, we have published a series of papers over the past decade demonstrating that increasing muscle carnitine content in humans, via insulin mediated stimulation of muscle carnitine transport, has clear effects on tissue carnitine content, muscle metabolism concerned with the regulation of fat and carbohydrate oxidation (at rest and during exercise) and exercise performance.”

After pointing the Panel to a number of ‘missing papers’, the professor concluded:

“I would be grateful if you could amend your document as soon as possible to take into account these research findings because at present its conclusions are incorrect and misleading. The literature sourced is also, in the main, out of date.”


Swiss L-carnitine supplier Lonza would said it had been involved in the 2007 submission of the general function dossier.

Spokesperson Adriana Williams told NutraIngredients: “Yes, in 2007 we submitted different health claims backed by the available scientific research at the time.”

But she said the company did not wish to add further comment on the situation, “at this time.”

Clear metabolic effects

Professor Greenhaff emailed this publication to add:

It’s important to recognise that from the perspective of muscle where 95% of the body carnitine store is located, ingesting L-carnitine ​per se will have no impact on tissue stores and therefore some of the points raised are the report are indeed correct.”

“What is frustrating however, from my own perspective, is that the panel have completely missed a whole series of papers from my laboratory showing that if you can actually get carnitine to enter muscle (via insulin mediated stimulation of its transport) it can have a clear metabolic effects.”

The NDA opinion found L-carnitine does not aid faster recovery from muscle fatigue after exercise; does not assist skeletal muscle tissue repair, increase endurance capacity, maintain normal blood LDL-cholesterol concentrations, contribute to normal spermatogenesis, increase L-carnitine concentrations and/or decrease free fatty acids in blood during pregnancy.

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Not EFSA's role

Posted by Dr Mark Laing,

Professor Greenhaff does not appear to understand the process, the people who 'missed' his research were those who submitted the 13.1 claim not the EFSA whose role was to evaluate data submitted to them. I am no fan of the whole process but for once we cannot blame EFSA for getting it wrong.

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So why no 13.5 claim?

Posted by Dr Mark J. Tallon, PhD,

You hear this all the time from academics and industry - that there is so much more evidence since 2007, yet none of these companies wish to take the risk or investment with a 13.5 submission. A great example is whey protein.

I am not one to stand up for EFSA but it is not their role to search out new data and it’s been clear since the first batch of health claim opinions what was going to happen with 13.1 claims i.e. a large number of rejections simply because of the lack of information industry was provided at the time and also inability to tailor dossiers to the individual ingredient-based nature of a specific exclusion/inclusion criteria.

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