Acetyl-L-Carnitine Supplement: A Promising Treatment for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
If you were offered something cheap and well tolerated that may prevent pain, would you take it? Of course you would. The problem with that hypothetical statement is that not many doctors offer such substances even when they exist. Yes, there are supplements which might help to prevent pain. Vitamins are just one example of a cheap, well tolerated substance that can help prevent pain. Another lesser known substance, Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC), is also one of those low hanging fruits just waiting to be utilized by the right people in the right circumstances.
But first, what is Acetyl-L-Carnitine? Without getting too scientific, ALC is a form of carnitine which is involved with energy production in the human body. Carnitine is made in the liver and kidneys from the amino acids, Lysine and Methionine. Of note, this process requires Vitamin C. And as already discussed, this vitamin is linked to nerve health or the lack thereof in the case of deficiency. Getting back to ALC, some recent evidence shows that this naturally occurring substance is also linked to nerve health.
Neuroscientists are studying the ability of Acetyl-L-Carnitine to act as a nerve protector. By calling ALC a “neuroprotective” agent, they launched it into the stratosphere of secret nerve agents that have the special ability to promote nerve healing and survival. When ALC is utilized in animal models, damaged nerves regain function and nerve pain diminishes. This science is promising to millions of people who have nerves being attacked by other disease or treatment processes.
How does ALC perform in humans? Those with diabetes consistently show improvement when taking this natural supplement. Pain levels decrease as nerve function improves. And the typical lack of vibration and limb position sensation seen in peripheral neuropathy also improves. As the ability to sense where the feet are in relationship to the body improves, the risk of falling reduces. Not only is ALC showing promise in people with diabetes, ALC is also proving beneficial in those with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. In these cases, this supplement protected the nerve from chemical damage. No adverse effects were reported and everyone seemed to tolerate ALC well. Overall, the medical evidence for the use of ALC in peripheral neuropathy is very good.
How should this evidence guide clinicians and patients? The earlier Acetyl-L-Carnitine is started the better because nerve protection could prevent irreversible damage. The effective doses are high doses and should only be used by those at high risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. Based on the doses that have been effective in the research studies, recommended doses is 1000 mg three times per day. Are there more applications to high dose ALC? Probably, but no one is certain. One thing is certain, more people with diabetes and more people being treated with chemotherapy should be using this cheap, natural, well tolerated supplement, Acetyl-L-Carnitine.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.