What Is Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an amino acid which has been linked to a number of nootropic-like benefits. Our bodies naturally produce Acetyl-L-Carnitine, although many of us are nutritionally deficient. Raising Acetyl-L-Carnitine levels using a supplement can provide some powerful cognitive benefits. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is also known as Acetylcarnitine (all one word) or as ALCAR.
We typically get Acetyl-L-Carnitine from red meat. That’s why vegetarians tend to be more deficient than other groups of people. Some people are also Acetyl-L-Carnitine deficient due to genetic reasons or medication problems.
Ultimately, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is simply an acetylated form of carnitine. It’s a fatty acid that transports fatty acids to mitochondria. Those mitochondria use the fatty acids for fuel, which then creates cellular energy. This cellular energy boosts mental and physical energy and can have powerful effects on mood and memory.
Today, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is commonly used to treat Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other degenerative brain conditions. It can also be used to treat depression or age-related memory loss. Interestingly enough, some men also use Acetyl-L-Carnitine to counteract the effects of “male menopause” and boost their testosterone levels. We’ll explore all these intriguing benefits below.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine History & Research
Acetyl-L-Carnitine was first approved in the early 1980s in Europe, where it became a popular treatment for heart disease and neurological problems. The supplement didn’t arrive in the United States until 1994. Today, it’s sold as a dietary supplement across America. Overseas, it’s sold as a drug.
Despite its young history, a number of Acetyl-L-Carnitine studies have been performed over the years. Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been well-tolerated in most studies to date and its memory boosting, cognition boosting effects are well-documented.
One 1987 study tested Acetyl-L-Carnitine on 24 geriatric patients who had been hospitalized for depressive syndrome. Half the group received Acetyl-L-Carnitine and the other half received a placebo. The researchers concluded by stating that “clinical evaluation, carried out by calculation of modifications in pre- and post-treatment score percentages, provided clear evidence that acetylcarnitine was particularly effective in patients showing more serious clinical symptoms.” Another benefit was that the drug “caused no side-effects at the doses and regimens used.”
Another study from 1986 showed similar results. In that study, patients with “senile brains” were tested after being given two 500mg tablets of Acetyl-L-Carnitine per day. Patients were tested after 0, 20, and 40 days of treatment. The final conclusion was this: “Statistical analysis of results confirmed that short-term, intensive L-acetylcarnitine treatment can determine a significant improvement of the main mental parameters of the senile brain, without incidence of significant side effects.”
One of my favorite studies, however, involved young adults between the ages of 22 and 27 who took ALCAR (Acetyl-L-Carnitine) for one month. After one month, subjects were tested using a “video game maze” and demonstrated 3 to 4 times greater efficiency navigating a video game maze when compared to a control group.
There are plenty more studies that echo these results. Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been extensively studied and its results have been well-documented. Ultimately, Acetyl-L-Carnitine has demonstrated its value in numerous scientific and clinical tests.
How Does Acetyl-L-Carnitine Work?
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is simply the acetylated form of L-Carnitine. That acetylation makes it more bioavailable, which means it can more easily cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain cells.
After ingesting Acetyl-L-Carnitine orally, it travels to the brain as well as the heart. This is why Acetyl-L-Carnitine is known as both a nootropic and a heart supplement: it’s an effective tool for improving your overall health and wellness.
One of the key mechanisms within Acetyl-L-Carnitine is antioxidation. Acetyl-L-Carnitine acts as an antioxidant throughout the body, targeting free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous toxins which harmfully affect our body and contribute to mental and physical aging.
Another important mechanism of Acetyl-L-Carnitine is the “acetyl” element, which actually contributes to the production of acetylcholine. This is why Acetyl-L-Carnitine is often classified as a “cholinergic”: it directly affects the cholinergic system by raising levels of choline and acetylcholine.
One final important mechanism of Acetyl-L-Carnitine is its ability to metabolize fat, which improves the protection rating of the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath coats our nerve cells and is made mostly out of fat. The higher the fat content of the myelin sheath, the more effectively our brain cells can communicate. Weak myelin sheaths are associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis and indicate a problem with the central nervous system. Strong myelin sheaths facilitate neurotransmission across the brain.
Ultimately, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a valuable amino acid which has been linked to a number of different systems across the brain and heart. While some functions are similar to other cholinergics, other functions – like fat metabolization – make Acetyl-L-Carnitine extremely unique compared to other nootropics.
L-Carnitine is already found naturally within the body. However, most of us are deficient in this amino acid. It makes sense that taking a supplement that offers a large dose of this amino acid at a higher bioavailability would have powerful beneficial effects on the body and mind.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect while taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine:
Improved Motivation: Acetyl-L-Carnitine raises energy levels and dopamine, which enhances focus and motivation while also improving mood.
Detoxify The Brain: Acetyl-L-Carnitine acts as an antioxidant, targeting dangerous free radicals throughout the body and mind. Free radicals are poisons and toxins that contribute to mental fog and other cognitive conditions.
Improved Memory And Learning: Like all cholinergics, Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been linked to better memory retention and learning because it increases levels of acetylcholine within the brain.
Reduce Damage From Degenerative Brain Conditions: Acetyl-L-Carnitine has demonstrated powerful cognitive benefits in a number of clinical and scientific studies. It’s been shown to treat the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia, for example, and it’s also aided the stroke recovery process.
Better Neuroprotectivity: Acetyl-L-Carnitine metabolizes fat, enhancing the myelin sheath and optimizing neurotransmission.
Interestingly enough, L-Carnitine offers considerable physical benefits, while Acetyl-L-Carnitine offers more mental benefits. L-Carnitine is popular among athletes and bodybuilders, for example, while Acetyl-L-Carnitine is more popular among the nootropic community (although both offer cross-over benefits).
How to Use Acetyl-L-Carnitine
Acetyl-L-Carnitine can be taken in two different ways: as a powder or capsule. Either way you take it, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a water-soluble supplement that should be taken with food to enhance absorption.
After your body absorbs Acetyl-L-Carnitine, it enters the blood stream and begins traveling towards the brain and heart. It crosses the blood-brain barrier relatively quickly – something that L-Carnitine doesn’t do, which is why L-Carnitine is more of a physical supplement and Acetyl-L-Carnitine is more of a mental supplement.
No matter how you take Acetyl-L-Carnitine, the recommended dose is between 500mg and 1500mg per day. If you’re a beginner, you should start at the lower end of that spectrum. If you’re a more advanced user, you can gradually work your way up to 1500mg per day.
Many users report not being able to feel nootropic benefits until they hit a dose of 1000mg per day. However, if you’re taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine for general health benefits, a lower dose should be sufficient.
Many people also stack Acetyl-L-Carnitine with other supplements. You can actually stack it with other cholinergics to enjoy powerful cognitive benefits. Acetyl-L-Carnitine enhances the production of acetylcholine, while other cholinergics like Alpha GPC and Citicoline provide the choline your brain needs to produce that acetylcholine. By stacking these supplements together, you can optimize both ends of your cholinergic system and enjoy powerful cognitive benefits and improved memory retention.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine Side Effects
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is typically safe to use. Clinical trials involving healthy adults, children, and the elderly have all been well-tolerated with no reported side effects. Since our kidneys and liver naturally produce small amounts of this compound already, our bodies can process it quite easily.
That being said, taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine in higher doses can lead to some mild side effects. Some reported side effects include nausea, vomiting, rashes, headaches, and body odor.
You can combat some of these side effects by taking an effective stack. Headaches, for example, are often caused by a lack of choline, so taking a choline supplement can mitigate your headaches.
Additionally, there have been some reported side effects among those who take the following medications: Cisplatin (for chemotherapy), Stavudine (for HIV), Didanosine, and Taxol (cancer treatment). Before taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine, you should consult a healthcare professional. This is particularly important if you’re currently taking medication or have any type of disease or illness.
Buying Acetyl-L-Carnitine Supplements Online
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is legally available over the counter throughout most of the world, including the United States and Canada. Canada only recently approved Acetyl-L-Carnitine for use as a nutritional supplement, although it’s now widely available.
Of course, you don’t have to buy Acetyl-L-Carnitine supplements to increase levels of L-Carnitine in your system. Chicken, beef, pork, bacon, and cod all have high levels of carnitine. That being said, Acetyl-L-Carnitine is typically considered to be the best source of carnitine due to the higher bioavailability, limited side effects, and increased efficiency at crossing the blood-brain barrier.
Whether you live in Australia, Europe, or North America, the internet is the best place to buy Acetyl-L-Carnitine supplements. Online, you’ll find dozens of good nootropic retailers which offer competitive prices and a varied selection. No matter where you buy Acetyl-L-Carnitine, you do not need a prescription and it’s available as an over the counter (OTC) pharmaceutical supplement.