Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become an increasing epidemic. It is the most common cause of elevated liver enzymes and is associated with diabetes and obesity with advanced liver disease.

There are few guidelines for diagnostic and follow up methods and limited proven treatment options. Previous research of pharmacological agents to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease were performed with poor results.

A few studies have shown a beneficial effects of carnitine supplementation in liver diseases, however, these results have been inconsistent. This may be due to study design, dosage, or form of carnitine administered.

According to a review published last week in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, researchers examined the effects of carnitine supplementation on clinical characteristics of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

This review included a total of 5 randomized placebo-controlled studies including 334 patients that investigated the effects of carnitine supplementation on liver function, body mass index (BMI), lipid profile, body weight, and HOMA-IR. These studies included a sample size between 48 and 80 individuals supplementing with a dosage of carnitine between 300 mg and 2000 mg per day over a 3 to 6-month period.

As a result, carnitine supplementation significantly decreased the HOMA-IR, AST, ALT, and triglyceride levels. On the other hand, it did not have an effect on BMI, body weight, HDL, LDL, or total cholesterol levels. Previous research has demonstrated carnitine supplementation provides a protective effect by preventing lipid peroxidation and can affect liver function by decreasing insulin resistance.

These individuals are in a chronic disease state and have increased demands then what could be obtained from the diet alone and therefore, dietary supplements should be considered to help prevent the progression as well as improve liver function. Other nutrients to consider include delta and gamma tocotrienols, phosphatidylcholine, fiber or resistant starch, n-acetylcysteine, fish oil, and probiotics.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Abolfathi M, Mohd-Yusof BN, et al. The effects of carnitine supplementation on clinical characteristics of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Jan;48:102273.

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