Recently, a question came through an Ask The Expert query, inquiring about the differences between carnosine and carnitine. It's not the first time someone has asked, and with good reason. Although their names sound similar, the one you choose will be based on your specific health goals.
Both carnosine and carnitine are referred to as amino acids because their chemical structure is similar to amino acids, and they are made of other amino acids. However, by scientific standards, they are not pure aminos. Carnitine is produced in the body from lysine and methionine, but for this to happen, you have to have enough B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine) present. Carnosine is made from the amino acids alanine and histidine. The best dietary sources for carnitine and carnosine are meat, dairy, poultry and fish.
Carnitine is very popular in sports nutrition, but its benefits are far more reaching. It is often recommended as a weight loss supplement because it aids the transportation of fatty acids into the mitochondria of the cell, helping the body to more efficiently break down fats into energy. The other unique benefit to carnitine is that on its way out of the cell it helps remove toxins. The most significant percentage of carnitine is found in skeletal muscle, so it is often used to help remove the lactic acid produced during exercise. The brain and the heart also contain a large amount of carnitine, since they also require a large amount of energy for proper function and both require toxins to be removed from the cells. The people most at risk for carnitine deficiency are those on a low-protein diet, as well as vegans and vegetarians. Also, during the aging process, the carnitine in your cells begins to decline, causing damage to the cells, resulting in age-related illnesses and decline.
There are two forms of carnitine:
• L- carnitine
– most often used by sports enthusiasts because of muscle repair and recovery.
– generally used to improve brain function and cognition, and may help reduce both mental and physical fatigue.
Carnosine is also located in the muscle, brain and heart, and some of its benefits cross over. But as a stand-alone supplement, carnosine helps prevent and reverse some of the complications of diabetes such as nerve damage, eye disorders (cataracts), and kidney problems. Carnosine has excellent antioxidant properties and helps reduce the damage from free radicals, out-of-control lipids and sugars. For this reason, it is often recommended as part of a supplement regime for controlling metabolic syndrome. Carnosine studies show it has tremendous benefits for reducing the toxic effects of the "beta-amyloid" protein, which is the abnormal protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.
Supplementation of both carnitine and carnosine together appears to have a beneficial effect on neurodegenerative diseases. Carnitine and carnosine may also help slow the progression of age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease by enhancing memory-related proteins. They also have a role in diabetic neuropathies, a side effect of diabetes that damages the brain. All of these actions protect our brain and keep it healthy as we age. They also provide cardiovascular benefits, but in different ways. Carnosine reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and lowers cholesterol, while carnitine relieves symptoms of angina and peripheral vascular disease.
Before you taking any of these supplements, always check with your healthcare provider, particularly if you are taking medications for brain-related disorders or heart and cholesterol medications, or have other concerns with medications and interactions.
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