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.
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.
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.
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.