Dangers of L-Carnitine

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The supplement industry inundates consumers with a bevy of "must-have" products. But, before taking the plunge on the latest health-industry craze, an informed consumer should understand exactly what he is putting in his body. Along with that, he should have a fair understanding of the potential side effects. L-Carnitine, a purported fat mobilizing and energy producing supplement, has been on the market for quite a while. So what do we know about L-Carnitine? What is it, and what are the possible risks for users?

What Is L-Carnitine

Billed as a weight-loss supplement, L-Carnitine is actually a synthetic form of an essential nutrient already found within the body. The existence of L-Carnitine has been known for some time, having been discovered in the late 1920s. In the body, L-Carnitine is produced by the kidneys and liver from a combination of the amino acids methionine and lysine. L-Carnitine also exists naturally in foods such as dairy products and red meat.

What Does L-Carnitine Do?

According to L-Carnitine proponents, supplementation increases the body's natural rate of fat burning, increases available energy, and decreases cravings for food. L-Carnitine is used medically to treat some heart conditions, such as arrhythmias and angina. The recommended dose of L-Carnitine is 500-1,000mg, taken three times daily with food.

Side Effects

The most mild side effects reported from supplementing with L-Carnitine are: nausea, stuffy nose, restlessness, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. Note that these side effects were seen in individuals taking the recommended 500-1,000mg three times daily. Additionally, some individuals reported an abundance of energy when taking L-Carnitine late in the day, which made sleeping difficult.

Other Dangers

Beyond the basic side effects, L-Carnitine has other associated dangers. L-Carnitine can stilt normal action of the thyroid, so those with thyroid conditions will want to abstain from supplementation. L-Carnitine is not recommended for individuals on dialysis. L-Carnitine could potentially exacerbate the risk of dieters developing anorexia, as it reduces appetite. Finally, as a dietary supplement, there are no manufacturing controls in place by the FDA. Unscrupulous supplement companies might shortchange the consumer on product purity, so be wary of that possibility.

Further Considerations

On balance, L-Carnitine seems fairly benign. The ordinary side effects seem no more hazardous than most over-the-counter medications, and the other potential hazards only apply to a certain subset of individuals. While the potential purity issue is always a concern, reputable supplement companies do exist and should be easy to locate by examining consumer reviews carefully before purchasing.

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