We are less than 24 hours away from the official ship date of my brand new Essential Diet For Fatty Liver book, my 11th print publication, and I really wanted to end this promotional cycle off on a high note by discussing the topic of L-Carnitine.
Specifically what role L-Carnitine plays for liver health in the context of those living with NAFLD.
Before I get to the good stuff, here’s a friendly reminder to be sure to grab your copy of the book (or leave to leave a review if you already have one!) by clicking the image below.
Back to L-Carnitine.
Which, by the way, is a naturally occurring compound in the human body that has an important role to play in fat metabolism and also happens to be widely available in supplemental form.
It hasalso garnered a good deal of recent scientific interest as an emerging low-risk, low-cost supplement that could assist with the management of fatty liver disease.
Allow me to explain the reasons why:
1. L-Carnitine Is Made In The Liver: Which means, in theory, a liver that is compromised in some regard (as in fatty liver disease) may have a reduced ability to produce L-Carnitine.
It has been suggested that those with fatty liver disease may have lower circulating levels of L-carnitine for this, or other, reasons
2. L-Carnitine Plays An Important Role In Fat Metabolism: Fatty liver disease is, on some level, a disease of fat metabolism since the condition is characterized by storage of fat where it shouldn’t be – on the liver.
L-Carnitine also plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism, meaning it may be linked with insulin resistance – another characteristics feature of NAFLD.
More on this under point #3
3. L-Carnitine Interacts With The Mitochondria: In my previous post on saturated fat and fatty liver disease, I alluded to an emerging scientific theory that high saturated fat intakes worsen fatty liver disease by interfering with the proper functioning of the mitochondria.
As a refresher, the mitochondria are parts of cells responsible for carbohydrate and fat metabolism – in other words for turning fat/carbs into energy that our bodies can use.
L-Carnitine is actually a transport molecule responsible for transporting fatty acids to the mitochondria to be metabolized, which theoretically means a reduction in its bodily levels could compromise the body’s ability to metabolize fatty acids – perhaps increasing the likelihood they end up stored on the liver.
You could see then, from this admittedly gross over simplification, why L-carnitine has garnered some scientific interest in NAFLD management.
But does an L-carnitine supplement actually improve liver health as per the best available scientific evidence?
It’s Hard To Say Right Now
The totality of human evidence looking at L-carnitine supplementation in people living with NAFLD is very limited.
What we do have for L-Carnitine, however, is intriguing.
A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis of 5 experimental studies found that L-carnitine supplementation had the potential to reduce liver enzyme levels, liver fat levels and insulin resistance in those living with NAFLD.
The L-Carnitine dosage in these studies ranged quite widely between 750 mg – 2,000 mg per day and generally was supplied over a 12-24 week period.
My review of the available research seems to indicate that L-carnitine is considered a safe, affordable option but that, clearly, there is not a large or consistent enough body of evidence to make a strong claim for people living with NAFLD to consider this supplement “a must”.
Given the widespread prevalence of fatty liver disease, I expect more research in the years to come.
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