Acetyl L-Carnitine is one of many drugs believed to have many health benefits but with no scientific evidence to support the claims. Many people use this drug to treat various conditions and boost brain performance. It’s believed to offer various cognitive-enhancing benefits making it a very appealing prospect for students and working professionals. However, there aren’t enough clinical trials showing whether it can deliver the said benefits or not. We also don’t really know how exactly it affects the brain, so it’s possible the drug has some long-term side effects that remain unknown.
The lack of clinical evidence has not scared people from using Acetyl L-Carnitine, though. In this review, we’ll try to stitch the pieces together and understand what the drug could be and the potential benefits it could have for the users. Bear in mind that this is based on very limited research.
What is Acetyl L-Carnitine?
Our bodies naturally produce Acetyl-L-Carnitine from L-Carnitine. L-Carnitine is an amino acid derivative that plays various roles in the body. One of its biggest roles is stimulating the breakdown of fat into energy. Studies show that our bodies can convert acetyl L-Carnitine into L-Carnitine. It can also convert L-Carnitine to Acetyl-L-carnitine. Therefore, theoretically, if you take Acetyl-L-Carnitine, your body can convert it into L-Carnitine, which means you can enjoy the benefits of the amino acid derivative. Unfortunately, studies do not show whether this is exactly what happens when you take the drug. We cannot tell whether the effects come from Acetyl-L-Carnitine itself or L-Carnitine. We also do not know whether the chemical processes involved produce other compounds.
The working mechanism of acetyl L-Carnitine may be a mystery, but we can’t ignore the fact that some people are using the drug and reporting several health benefits. For instance, since it gets converted into L-Carnitine, which is involved in converting fats into energy, some people believe that acetyl L-Carnitine can be used for both fat loss and boosting energy levels. There is also some anecdotal evidence suggesting it can boost cognition.
Acetyl L-Carnitine Benefits and Uses
Acetyl L-Carnitine could be beneficial in the following ways:
- Weight Loss
L-Carnitine is hugely involved in moving fatty acids into the cells where they are broken down to produce energy. On the other hand, we have evidence that acetyl L-Carnitine is easily converted into L-Carnitine when ingested. It’s reasonable to think that acetyl L-carnitine can be used as a weight-loss supplement.
Sadly, the trials on this subject have always produced mixed results. Some researchers observed weight loss in animal subjects, while others did not report any statistically significant differences. It’s fair to say that the evidence is not enough for anyone to recommend the drug for weight loss. Even if it can be of assistance, you’ll still have to make dramatic changes to your lifestyle to get the best results.
- Improving Cognition
The use of Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been linked to improved memory, learning, thinking skills, and other cognitive functions. This has been observed in elderly people with memory loss. It’s hard to tell whether Acetyl-L-Carnitine can boost cognition in younger healthy people who are taking the drug to get an advantage over their peers.
- Boosting Cardiovascular Health
L-Carnitine is believed to be very helpful in dealing with high blood pressure, coronary heart failure, coronary heart disease, and inflammation. Since acetyl L-Carnitine gets converted by the body into L-Carnitine, it is theoretically possible that it can also boost heart health.
- Treating Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Acetyl-L-Carnitine boosts several cognitive functions, including memory, thinking ability, and mental concentration, so it makes sense that the drug can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
Scientists believe that acetyl L-Carnitine may be more useful for this purpose in patients who are still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
- Treating Alcohol Use Disorder
Acetyl-L-Carnitine can be used to treat withdrawal symptoms and help the addicts stay away from alcohol. For this purpose, the drug must be administered intravenously (IV) for approximately 10 days and then orally for an additional 80 days.
A physician’s supervision is necessary when using acetyl L-Carnitine for this purpose.
- Ease Depression
Acetyl-L-Carnitine could be used in high doses to ease depression in older people. There aren’t enough clinical trials supporting this, though. Also, taking the drug in high doses could open the door for various potential side effects.
- Boost Testosterone and Fertility in Men
Acetyl-L-Carnitine can increase testosterone levels when used alongside propionyl-L-Carnitine. It can also treat the symptoms of sexual dysfunction. The downside here is you have to take the drugs for 6 months to see the changes. Also, it’s likely to be more effective in older men with testosterone deficiency (male menopause) than younger people.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine can also increase sperm count as well as sperm movement to boost your fertility.
The drug may also help treat Peyronie disease, a condition characterized by a curved, painful erection. It’s even said to be more effective for this purpose than Tamoxifen.
Other potential benefits of using Acetyl-L-Carnitine include:
- May treat diabetic neuropathy.
- Improves blood flow in the brain
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Side Effects
Acetyl-L-Carnitine can produce side effects like nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, dry mouth, restlessness, and headaches. It can also give your breath, sweat, and urine a foul odor.
The incidence rate of these side effects is very low, especially when the drug is taken orally and at the right dosages.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using this drug without a doctor’s approval. You also want to consult a physician before taking it if you have a serious preexisting medical condition.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine can be used orally or intravenously. The exact dosages will vary depending on the condition you are treating. For instance, most people take between 1500 and 2000mg orally to improve memory and other cognitive functions. To treat Alzheimer’s, researchers recommend 1500 to 300mg taken orally. For alcohol use disorder, you need to start with 1-3grams administered by IV for around 10 days, followed by 3grams taken orally for 80 days.
The best approach here is consulting a pharmacist or licensed physician to give you a clearer guideline on how you can use Acetyl-L-Carnitine for your unique situation.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a very promising drug, but the research data available is not enough to conclusively tell what it can do in the short and long-term. With that in mind, consulting a doctor is highly recommended if you still want to use it.