The Effects of L-Carnitine: Science or Marketing?

Carnitine is a nonessential nutrient present in the diet that helps transport long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria for subsequent oxidation and energy production. L-Carnitine is used as a dietary supplement for athletes to obtain ergogenic nutritional support ( substances that are ingested to improve the ability to perform a certain physical work or sports performance).

In the article ” Supplementation with L-Carnitine for athletes ” we already  delved into the role of carnitine in the body, we discussed some of its effects and its recommended dose. However, this article aims to investigate the extent to which marketing can “manipulate” scientific evidence when it comes to advertising and selling a product.

How do they sell us L-Carnitine?

First of all, we are going to expose the effects attributed to L-Carnitine on those web pages (quite numerous, by the way) that are dedicated to the commercialization of this and other similar products.

Many websites (Proe Nutrition, My Protein, Fitnasio, EBM, Healthy Food, etc.) advertise and market L-Carnitine attributing properties such as the following:

  • Increase in strength by increasing muscle mass.
  • Increased stamina.
  • Increased power.
  • Anti-aging and nourishing properties.
  • Contributes to the loss of weight and body fat.
  • It can help improve mental performance.
  • Suppresses the appetite.
  • Reduce fatigue.
  • Increases the aerobic capacity of the body to help burn more calories.
  • It slows down the process of bone loss.
  • Taking L-Carnitine after a heart attack reduces the chances of suffering a subsequent one.
  • Improvement of male infertility. It helps improve both sperm count and sperm quality.
  • Taken in combination with breastfeeding, it helps new mothers to lose weight gained during pregnancy faster.
  • It helps diabetics by increasing the oxidation, storage and uptake of glucose.
  • It acts as an antioxidant, preventing damage caused to healthy cells by free radicals.
  • It protects the brain from age-related and stress-related brain damage, helping this organ to function longer and better.

The real effects of L-Carnitine

Simultaneously, a bibliographic search has been carried out in scientific articles published in journals with a high rigor in their publications. Thus, the results obtained from supplementation with L-Carnitine are as follows:

  • There is no evidence that L-Carnitine supplementation has any effect on heart rate.
  • In medium / low intensity activities (50% VOmax), long-term supplementation with L-Carnitine has been observed to reduce the use of muscle glycogen, which means better and faster recovery after exercise.
  • L-Carnitine administered in isolation does not produce significant effects compared to its joint administration with carbohydrates, since if administered in isolation it tends to be excreted via the urinary tract.
  • There is no strong scientific evidence (there is much controversy) that L-Carnitine supplementation increases fatty acid oxidation. Therefore, there is not enough evidence that it helps with weight loss.
  • With supplementation, blood lipid levels (HDL, LDL, cholesterol) are not affected.
  • Supplementation with L-Carnitine at low doses can lead to increased strength.
  • Likewise, at low doses a decrease in lactate production is also achieved, delaying the onset of muscle fatigue.

After both searches, we can verify that if we administer carnitine orally, the only notable and scientifically corroborated effect that we find is that the strength profile increases, which decreases the accumulation of lactate and reduces the use of glycogen reserves , resulting in a decrease in fatigue. However, the rest of the effects that have been found advertised on the web pages are not real and lack scientific rigor.

Thus, we can conclude that the Internet is a very useful tool but you have to know how to handle it. At our fingertips there are a multitude of web pages that are dedicated to selling ergogenic aids, giving dietary advice from inexperienced or non-professional people, etc. These pages seek to sell you a supplement without indicating its possible side effects and highlighting its “prodigious” properties, not always scientifically proven. It has also been found in the web search that, in many of the substances sold on the Internet, there is not even a description of their composition and, even if it did, we would not know with total certainty if there would be any omission of components. If so, any of the missing components could put your health at risk or be on the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) list of doping substances. Be that as it may, the acquisition of these substances via the Internet is never safe for all the issues mentioned above.

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