The amino acid L-carnitine is naturally produced by the body. It has been debated as to whether the amino acid is helpful for weight loss. In addition to being a natural product of the human body, L-carnitine is found in animal products and in certain vegetables.
A variety of foods contain L-carnitine, including meat, dairy products, legumes and vegetables. Red meat (beef) contains the highest concentration of L-carnitine. Unfortunately, since meat is treated with hormones and other additives, other foods are better sources of the amino acid. Nuts, fruits, cereals, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds and greens such asparagus and broccoli all contain L-carnitine.
Although it is an important source for metabolizing fat, there are mixed results in studies regarding the L-carnitine's effectiveness in weight loss. There does seem to be consensus that L-carnitine is harmless. It is rare that people, even those who eat no meat or dairy, experience L-carnitine deficiencies. In the rare occurrence of L-carnitine deficiency, problems relate to genetic disorders. A healthy body does not require any more of the amino acid than normally produced.
L-carnitine is an amino acid that moves fatty acids inside a cell's mitochondria, where fat is burned. When L-carnitine boosts the burning of triglycerides, the body experiences increased energy. However, there is no evidence that L-carnitine supplements extend the benefits of a person's exercise regimen. Additionally, congestive heart failure impedes the body's ability to produce L-carnitine. In these cases, some patients are given L-carnitine supplements.
Athletes use L-carnitine to bulk up muscles. L-carnitine is used to treat angina, some forms of claudication and to prevent muscle atrophy. Since it is an antioxidant, L-carnitine may be helpful for people with immune-deficiency disorders. Research is being done to determine if L-carnitine is beneficial for blood sugar levels and heart health. Other avenues for research into the benefits of L-carnitine are its potential for promoting mental clarity and for anti-aging properties.
Specific areas of further interest include L-carnitine's potential to promote healthy cholesterol levels. There also may be some hope for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.