Carnitine has plenty of fans in the fitness arena! With its energy-boosting power, many athletes and gym enthusiasts are taking carnitine to improve their physical performance. This amino acid has taken the world of weight loss too, because of its fat-burning capacity.
As we go through menopause, weight gain might be one of the unexpected guests we have to face. Thanks to our raging hormones, we retain more fat than usual. Carnitine may just be the help we need, so we can better manage our weight during this transition. Combined with healthy diet and exercise, carnitine benefits in menopause are simply amazing!
Excited to know what these benefits are? Let’s first take a closer look at carnitine and find out what it is all about and how it aids in weight loss. Then, as we go along the way, we’ll talk about some carnitine benefits in menopause, symptoms of carnitine deficiency and rich sources of this amazing amino acid. At the end, I’ll leave you with some friendly reminders when taking this amino acid!
What is Carnitine?
Carnitine is the only amino acid that also acts as a vitamin. It is a non-essential amino acid, which means our body naturally creates it. Carnitine is produced out of the amino acids lysine and methionine. Our liver and kidneys are our major suppliers of carnitine, with the skeletal muscles, brain and heart serving as our storage facilities.
Carnitine plays a big role in energy production by transporting fats into the mitochondria. Mitochondria is present in every cell and is considered as the energy factory, because it produces energy that cells need to function.
How Does Carnitine Help Us Take Control Our Weight?
Over the years a lot of studies have been made about carnitine and its powerful weight loss properties. This was reaffirmed by a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2016.
- Carnitine has powerful fat oxidizing effects, which means it transports more fats into our cells to be burned for energy.
- Carnitine speeds up the production of the fat-burning hormone and growth hormone. As a result, fats are synthesized to fuel our body effectively.
- Carnitine is a major building block of our thyroid glands, making them function at optimum levels so we can produce more thyroid hormones – the exact hormones we need to boost our metabolism!
- Carnitine hastens the breakdown of dietary proteins. This replenishes lost amino acids, preventing muscle wasting.
- Carnitine has the ability to regulate cholesterol levels (which are usually deposited as fats in our mid-section), helping us minimize that dreadful “menopausal muffin top”!
- Carnitine repairs damaged muscles from physical activities faster, speeding up our body’s recovery time and improving our endurance. As a result, we are able to exercise longer. Exercise without the exhaustion!
- When taken together with omega-3 and polyphenols, carnitine can stimulate the heart to pump faster (such in the case of cardio exercises) at healthy rates and increase the fat burning process. This further strengthens its weight loss properties.
- Carnitine multiplies the number of testosterone receptors within our cells, which means more testosterone is absorbed. Testosterone has shown to stimulate the growth and development of new muscles.
This amino acid may be a potent weight loss mastermind, but you’ll be surprised to know that there are other great carnitine benefits in menopause!
10 Best Carnitine Benefits in Menopause
1. Supports heart health. Although a study in 2012 explained that carnitine can increase plaque buildup in our arteries, this has been contested by a lot of scientists. One study in 2013 showed that carnitine was an effective secondary prevention treatment for heart diseases. Another research, first published in 2009, also found out that carnitine can actually help heal and repair damaged heart cells after a cardiac ischemia.
Dr. Eric Berg shares the biggest benefit of carnitine to our heart health. Watch the video [3:22].
2. Prevents stress and fatigue. Carnitine is not just an energy-generator. It also supports the production of relaxing hormones, such as norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. With the calming effects of hormones and our body’s improved energy, it’s hard to fall prey to the effects of stress.
3. Say goodbye to memory fog! Carnitine enhances brain functions by helping in the production of acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that prevents memory decline. It is also a natural energy giver, providing starved brain cells with energy and nutrients.
4. Improves mood. Carnitine helps boost the production of happy hormones serotonin and dopamine, which relaxes our nervous system and in turn, makes us feel better.
5. Keeps the skin healthy. Carnitine regulates the production of oil, making our skin well-moisturized.
6. Strengthens the immune system. This is one of the best carnitine benefits in menopause! Carnitine prevents damage to our healthy cells by getting rid of free radicals. This amino acid also fights off allergens and flu-inducing bacteria.
7. Keeps diabetes away! We still have more carnitine benefits in menopause coming! One of them is it prevents insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to diabetes over time. Carnitine has the ability to enhance our cells sensitivity to insulin, thus helping our cells absorb glucose more effectively. With regulated blood sugar level, we have more fuel to do our everyday activities!
8. Reduces the risk of osteoporosis. When our bone-strengthening hormone estrogen drops during menopause, bone demineralization takes place. As a result, we become more prone to fractures and osteoporosis. Carnitine can encourage new bone formation, improving bone density, structure and size in the process.
9. Promotes better blood flow! Carnitine maintains the elasticity of blood vessels. This enhances blood flow, corrects abnormal heart rhythms and raises oxygen levels. With good circulation, your white blood cells will be transported around the body effectively, strengthening your defense mechanism.
10. Enhances sexual desire. Carnitine benefits in menopause also include improving libido by increasing our testosterone levels. In men, carnitine has shown to raise sperm count and improve sperm quality and mobility.
Carnitine Deficiency Symptoms
Our body naturally produces carnitine, but there are certain conditions that prevent us from absorbing and storing adequate amounts of carnitine. Here are some causes:
- We lack the specific gene which transports our carnitine to our cells for proper use. This leads to systemic primary carnitine deficiency (CDSP), a rare metabolic disorder in which the body cannot properly process fats into energy.
- Inadequate intake of protein. We lose our ability to breakdown carnitine because our body doesn’t produce protein enzymes, which are responsible for synthesizing proteins.
- Liver disease which hinders carnitine production.
- Loss of the amino acid because of vomiting, diarrhea and diuresis.
- Use of the medication valproate, which is used to calm epilepsy and bipolar disorder.
The signs and symptoms of carnitine deficiency varies depending on its cause. In general, a person who lacks carnitine develops muscle wasting and has difficulty maintaining an ideal weight. In addition to these two hallmark signs, we may also experience:
- Constant muscle aches and weakness
- Confusion and memory loss
- Low blood sugar
- Stomach upset
- Low weight
For others, they may experience weak heartbeats and irregular heart rhythms. Carnitine deficiency slowly progresses so it’s essential to monitor it. If you want to know if you have carnitine deficiency, you can visit your doctor and get proper advice. Going through a series of laboratory tests called Carnitine Deficiency Workup may also help determine this condition.
Rich Sources of Carnitine
If you want to take advantage of all the carnitine benefits in menopause, consume foods rich in amino acids! They are found abundantly in plants and animals. For foods loaded with carnitine, you can never go wrong with:
- Lean beef – pick lean cuts to limit your intake of bad fats and cholesterol
- Fish – codfish has the highest amount of carnitine among fish. Seafood like shellfish, oyster and shrimps are great options too.
- Vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collard greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Poultry and eggs
- Grass-fed pork
For more information about Carnitine rich foods and their specific Carnitine content, check out NIH’s article, Carnitine: What is it?
Special Precautions for Carnitine Supplements
Experts advise using Carnitine in controlled doses because it may cause nausea and vomiting, heartburn, stomach upset as well as diarrhea and seizures. There are also a few reported cases of bad breath, and urine and sweat can have a “fishy” odor.
Carnitine is not advised for pregnant women but may possibly be safe for breastfeeding mothers. It is not recommended for people undergoing dialysis, because it causes muscle weakness and eye drooling. It’s not for those who have hypothyroidism and seizures either. Carnitine may also react to a specific medication. You can check them out at WebMD.
More about Carnitine!
Carnitine has been used along with the treatments for congestive heart failure (CHF), hyperthyroidism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), diphtheria, Lyme disease and male infertility. This powerful amino acid can also help in relieving chest discomforts, leg pains, ulcers and high cholesterol.
Different amino acids have different uses in our body. Our job is to maintain and reinforce their levels so we can reap carnitine benefits in menopause and keep our body functioning at optimum levels.
But don’t you agree that one of carnitine’s most impressive functions is its ability to stave off the extra pounds? What are your thoughts about Carnitine? Let us know what you think!
Want to know more about other helpful amino acids during menopause? Read our article, Amino Acids and What They Do during Menopause.
Gita is the founder of My Menopause Journey. Since 2014, she has been supporting midlife women by sharing hard-earned learnings from her own experience. To advance her knowledge, Gita puts a lot of her time and effort into understanding the broad spectrum of women’s health. She immerses in extensive research about the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause. Gita believes in the life-changing power of healthy, holistic living — this is where she anchors her message to all women. Learn more about her marvelous mission in About us - My Menopause Journey.