Acetyl L-carnitine is one of the most researched brain nutrients that has been shown to quickly enhance mental focus and energy. It has a similar structure as acetylcholine, and therefore, acetyl l-carnitine can stimulate acetylcholine receptors in the brain. The acetyl group allows it to cross the blood brain barrier, which does not occur with L-carnitine.  Acetyl-l-carnitine will support the brain as well as everything else that l-carnitine can do.

Carnitine is abundant in animal muscle tissue, including red meats. Its main function is to transport fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane for fatty acid oxidation. Supplementation of carnitine has been studied in many areas including metabolism, cardiovascular disease, and sports enhancement.

According to a new review published last Wednesday in Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers demonstrated that acetyl-l-carnitine can significantly reduce depressive symptoms and an insufficiency of acetyl-L-carnitine can play a role in the risk of developing depression, suggesting dysregulation of fatty acids transport across the mitochondria.

In this study, researchers reviewed 12 random controlled trials (RCTs), 11 in which acetyl-l-carnitine was a monotherapy. In nine studies, there was a total 791 individuals, 231 treated with acetyl-l-carnitine, 216 people treated with placebo and 20 individuals with no intervention. As a result, the analysis showed that acetyl-l-carnitine significantly reduced depressive symptoms. The other 3 RCTs compared acetyl-l-carnitine vs. antidepressants. There were 162 individuals for each group. Acetyl-l-carnitine demonstrated similar effectiveness compared to antidepressants in decreasing depressive symptoms.

Most people associate acetyl L-carnitine with preventing age-related memory decline and slowing Alzheimer’s, however, it is also very effective for increasing mental focus, energy, and optimizing brain health. Acetyl-l-carnitine increases dopamine which enhances focus and motivation. Most individuals dose acetyl-l-carnitine between 500 mg and 3000 mg a day depending on the application. This is one of those nutrients individuals feel an increase in focus and energy within about 15 to 20 minutes. There are no side effects and only long term benefits on brain health and function.

Other brain supportive nutrients to consider are GPC, CDPcholine, gingko biloba, and phosphatidylserine, and fish oil. GPC and CDP-choline are water soluble forms of choline that can cross the blood brain barrier and support brain health. These help make more acetylcholine, neurotransmitters, as well as phosphatidylcholine in the cell membranes. In addition, phosphatidylserine is an essential nutrient for brain function and is not found in the diet. Research has demonstrated that phosphatidylserine improves depressive symptoms, memory, and behavior.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Veronese N, Stubbs B, et al. Acetyl-l-carnitine Supplementation and the Treatment for Depressive Symptoms: A Systemic Review and Meta-analysis. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2017 October 25.


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