August 18, 2009
Carnitine Lowers Blood Glucose In Obese Rats

Carnitine might help reduce insulin-resistant diabetes in humans if the results with rats translate well to humans.

DURHAM, N.C. Supplementing obese rats with the nutrient carnitine helps the animals to clear the extra sugar in their blood, something they had trouble doing on their own, researchers at Duke University Medical Center report.

A team led by Deborah Muoio (Moo-ee-oo), Ph.D., of the Duke Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center, also performed tests on human muscle cells that showed supplementing with carnitine might help older people with prediabetes, diabetes, and other disorders that make glucose (sugar) metabolism difficult.

Carnitine is made in the liver and recycled by the kidney, but in some cases when this is insufficient, dietary carnitine from red meat and other animal foods can compensate for the shortfall.

After just eight weeks of supplementation with carnitine, the obese rats restored their cells' fuel- burning capacity (which was shut down by a lack of natural carnitine) and improved their glucose tolerance, a health outcome that indicates a lower risk of diabetes.

No guarantee here that carnitine will help you if you have blood glucose that is too high and possible early stage insulin-resistant adult onset diabetes. If you are obese then weight loss is a more sure way to improve your lipids, sugar levels, and other aspects of your health.

Low carnitine limits the ability of sugar to enter mitochondria and get broken down for energy.

Carnitine is a natural compound known for helping fatty acids enter the mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, where fatty acids are "burned" to give cells energy for their various tasks. Carnitine also helps move excess fuel from cells into the circulating blood, which then redistributes this energy source to needier organs or to the kidneys for removal. These processes occur through the formation of acylcarnitine molecules, energy molecules that can cross membrane barriers that encase all cells.

Researchers at Duke had observed that skeletal muscle of obese rats produced high amounts of the acylcarnitines, which requires free carnitine. As these molecules started to accumulate, the availability of free, unprocessed carnitine decreased. This imbalance was linked to fuel-burning problems, that is, impairments in the cells' combustion of both fat and glucose fuel.

So does carnitine lower blood sugar level in humans with elevated blood sugar? Does it work as well for humans who normally eat a lot of red meat (and hence normally get more carnitine in their diet)?

While I'm asking questions: Do any other compounds have similar effect to carnitine in enhancing glucose transport and lowering unhealthily elevated blood glucose?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 August 18 09:29 PM  Aging Diet Metabolism

David Govett said at August 19, 2009 12:03 AM:

Carnitine only? How about L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine?

Cody said at August 19, 2009 2:00 AM:

Not a compound per se, but Green tea shows some promise.

Joshua Allen said at August 19, 2009 10:02 AM:

Carnitine (at 1g per day) has been a standard part of the Atkins and other ketogenic diets for more than a decade. Ketogenic diets, of course, are popular for people with metabolic resistance and pre-diabetes. Anecdotally, people on ketogenic diets sometimes report that weight loss slows when they stop the carnitine supplementation.

R-ALA (not ALA; it needs to be the "r" kind), and Leucine are both currently used by bodybuilders on CKD (cyclic ketogenic diet) to control blood sugar during a carb-loading day and get back into ketosis more quickly. Leucine's impact is caused primarily by causing an insulin spike, which is possibly not a good day-to-day strategy for insulin-resistant people. I am not sure what R-ALA mechanism of function is, but many bodybuilders will swear by it for insulin sensitivity. Of course, the most hardcore will self-administer metaformin or straight insulin, but this is dangerous -- and apparently the combination of Leucine and R-ALA is nearly as effective.

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