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Centenarians on L-carnitine have more muscle and less fat

About seventy people over the age of a hundred became tired quickly even after minimal physical exertion. In an experiment by researchers at the Italian University of Catania L-carnitine gave them more muscle bulk, reduced their fat mass and gave them more stamina.

L-carnitine helps in the process of burning fat in the mitochondria. If you read what text books have to say about L-carnitine, it has to work. But when researchers examined the effects of L-carnitine in the nineties, the results were a big disappointment. That was probably because the body of an adult produces excessive amounts of L-carnitine itself, especially if you are physically active. Supplements add little.

The older you get, the more L-carnitine you have in your body until you reach about seventy. In people above the age of seventy, the concentration of the substance decreases. According to animal studies and human trials, however, there are two groups of organisms that do react positively to an L-carnitine supplement: young people, as they have not yet started to manufacture L-carnitine, and the elderly in whom production has started to decrease as a result of ageing.

In these two groups L-carnitine suppletion increases fat burning, breakdown of fatty tissue and growth of muscle fibre. In an experiment with males over the age of sixty, researchers also improved the quality of the men's sex lives by giving them an L-carnitine supplement. L-Carnitine was more effective in the experiment than a daily dose of 160 mg of testosterone undecanoate. O la la.

Centenarians on L-carnitine have more muscle and less fat

The Italian researchers mentioned here gave a group of about 30 centenarians a daily 2g dose of L-carnitine for a period of six months. The table above shows the effects of the supplement. A similar group of centenarians were given a placebo.

The ones who took L-carnitine increased their muscle mass by an average of 4 kg. The muscle mass in the placebo group increased by about one kilogram. The fat mass in the carnitine group decreased by almost 2 kg, but the fat mass in the placebo group increased by half a kilogram. The carnitine group also felt less tired and performed better in a mental test.

The condition of the carnitine group improved, the researchers observed, when they got the old people to walk for six minutes and measured how many metres they could cover. The distance covered by the carnitine group increased by four metres.

If you read the Italians' article you can't help but wonder whether L-carnitine isn't a candidate for longevity supplements. During the experiment three of the subjects in the carnitine group died.

In the placebo group the number of deaths was five.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1738-44.