Heart Disease - Do you need to supplement L-Carnitine?
This is probably a supplement you've never heard of, but when supplemented along with coenzyme Q10 substantial benefits have been seen in individuals with heart disease.
What is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is a compound produced by the liver and kidneys from the biosynthesis of the amino acids lysine and methionine. To form L-carnitine you also need adequate levels of vitamin C, B6, niacin, and iron.
How L-Carntine Works
The powerhouse of your cells is the mitochondria and produces the energy your heart needs to function. L-carnitine is responsible for transporting fatty acids to the mitochondria for energy production. The heart typically gets 60% of its energy from fat sources. If this process is slowed due to a lack of L-carnitine heart function is affected, especially compounding problems for individuals with heart disease. Those with moderate to severe atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to inflammation and cholesterol deposits) and congestive heart failure are most affected by a deficiency of L-carnitine. Too make matters worse, damaged heart tissue has a hard time "holding on" to L-carnitine resulting in a deficiency.
When to supplement L-Carnitine
If you remember back to the information I shared on Coenzyme Q10, Coenzyme Q10 directly affects energy production in the mitochondria. When Coenzyme Q10 levels are low, cells are unable to produce energy, meaning the heart lacks the fuel it needs to pump blood.
About 85% of individuals with heart disease respond positively to coenzyme Q10 supplementation and significant improvements to their heart health. However, ~10-15% do not see any improvements from the addition of coenzyme Q10. Researchers have learned the "missing link" for these individuals is L-carnitine. The combination of L-carnitine with Coenzyme Q10 is needed for some individuals to experience the additional energy boost and improved heart function.
Signs of improvements many individuals see from a combination of L-carnitine and Coenzyme Q10 include better color, easier breathing, and less difficulty with exertion activities.
Let me see if I can make all of this easier to understand. In order for the heart to pump blood it needs fuel. This fuel is produced in the mitochondria of your cells. The hearts preferred energy source is fatty acids. Coenzyme Q10 is needed for the production of ATP (fuel) within the mitochondria. L-carnitine is needed for the transport of fatty acids to the mitochondria. Most people with heart disease are deficient of coenzyme Q10 and benefit from supplementation. Some individuals with heart disease are also deficient in L-carnitine and will only see improvements if Coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine are supplemented together.
Even though your body can produce L-carnitine deficiencies do occur. A deficiency can be caused by aging, vegetarian diets, diet deficient in iron, diets low in the vitamins B6, niacin, and vitamin C, liver disease, kidney disease, and certain medications (such as anti-convulsant drugs). As I mentioned above, a damaged heart also promotes an L-carnitine deficiency.
Combined supplementation of L-Carnitine and coenzyme Q10 have improved many cardiovascular situations:
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Renal insufficiency
- Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides)
- Leg Cramps
Mutton, lamb, beef (red meat), pork
There are two forms of L-carnitine available at health food stores - fumarate and tartrate. So far, L-carnitine tartrate has been found to be more efficient for individuals with heart disease. New forms of L-carnitine are being researched and may become available, also.
A leading cardiologist - Dr. Stephen T. Sinatra - recommends supplementing 250 mg to 750 mg of L-carnitine daily for prevention.
While there are no known side effects from supplementing L-carnitine, always consult your physician regarding any and all supplements you currently take and/or would like to supplement.
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