Two natural compounds produced by our tissues, L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), are similar in that both have identical chemical core structures. However, one (ALC) contains an extra component, an acetic acid bound to the core molecule (in what is known as an ester linkage). It turns out that this extra chemical piece makes a significant difference in how this molecule behaves in our body relative to its non-acetylated cousin, L-carnitine.
L-carnitine functions as a vehicle to ferry fat constituents (fatty acids) across a membrane barrier into the cell’s energy-producing machine, the mitochondria, where the fat is converted to energy. Equally important, L-carnitine works in the reverse direction, too. It ferries toxic products produced during fat metabolism out of the mitochondria. This latter step helps maintain the mitochondria as clean-burning, energy-efficient machines.
We are all aware of the fact that as we age, our energy level diminishes. This decrease in energy parallels a decrease in the plasma level of L-carnitine. L-carnitine also decreases under conditions of stress, both psychological and physical.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is just as active as L-carnitine in transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria. However, as described below, that extra acetyl group confers additional properties to this form of L-carnitine, which make it superior to its non-acetylated cousin. Both compounds increase energy Acetyl L-Carnitine or ALC Physical Energy Fat Metabolism Brain Protection Neurotransmissio.
One of the two cousins, ALC, stands out with respect to its effects on the brain and nervous system. First, ALC is more effectively transported into the central nervous system. It more readily traverses the blood-brain barrier.
Dr. Bruce Ames, professor of molecular and cellular biology at UC Berkeley, put this idea to the test by giving rats a supplement designed to stimulate and protect mitochondria. The results so far have been very impressive.
Dr. Ames and his team fed older rats two chemicals normally found in the body's cells and available as dietary supplements: Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Lipoic Acid. The research was reported in three articles that appeared in the February 19, 2002 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Not only did the older rats do better on memory tests, they had more pep, and the energy-producing organelles in their cells worked better.
"With the two supplements together, these old rats got up and did the Macarena," said Ames. "The brain looks better, they are full of energy—everything we looked at looks more like a young animal."
Based on Ames' research, we now know that the combination of these two antioxidant dietary supplements supercharges the cells' energy production in order to maximize memory, health and longevity. This breakthrough research has even shown that the combination of these nutrients has the potential of not only slowing down aging, but of even reversing some signs of aging.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine supercharges cellular energy production
Based on dozens of studies, Acetyl-L-Carnitine has been shown to supercharge cellular energy production in order to maximize memory, health and longevity.
What does it do?
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the brain, liver and kidney. It transports fats to the mitochondria and is also available as a dietary supplement.
Over the course of 30 years of biochemical and clinical research, we've learned that ALC is a natural metabolite in our physiology and an effective treatment for age-related mental impairment.
The benefits of Acetyl-L-Carnitine supplementation
ALC has been shown to:
- Protect the brain from the effects of aging
- Improve performance in normal healthy humans (Lino, et al., 1992)
- Improve cognition by enhancing the production of acetylcholine
- Delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease and enhance overall performance in some individuals with Alzheimer's disease (Sano, et al., 1992; Bowman, 1992)
- Improve memory, attention span and alertness in people with Alzheimer's disease (Cabrero, et al., 1992; Cassat, et al., 1990)
- Improve cerebral blood flow to the brain (Postiglione, et al., 1990; Rosadini, et al., 1988)
- Counteract depression in the elderly (Bella, et al., 1990)
We've examined how it's possible to increase mitochondria function with supplementation of Acetyl-L-Carnitine. But since we know that mitochondria are also the source of free radical production, the question remaining is this:
How is it possible to re-energize the mitochondria without increasing free radical production?
Many of the damaging free radicals generated within cells are formed in the mitochondria during energy production. If you restored their energy producing capacity with ALC alone, it would cause a dramatic increase in free radical activity.
This would increase the amount of damage occurring within the cells, and would reduce any long-term benefit. Thus, while the amazing properties of ALC are truly a revolution in dietary supplements, the most desired anti-aging strategy would be to restore mitochondria function AND lower the level of free radical production coming from the mitochondria. Because the benefits of ALC slowly dissipate as increases in free radical production age the cells.
Reaping the full benefits of Acetyl-L-Carnitine
Recently, it was discovered that there are some antioxidants that could partially restore mitochondrial function in old animals and decrease free radical production at the same time. Unfortunately, most of them are synthetic chemicals that aren't safe for human consumption. All of them except one! Luckily this natural antioxidant is very well researched and safe and approved for human consumption...
What is Lipoic Acid?
Lipoic Acid is produced by the body in trace amounts. It's a vitamin-like compound, which is often called the "universal antioxidant". This is because unlike most other antioxidants that offer protection only for specific water-soluble or fat-soluble environments, Lipoic Acid offers protection in both cellular environments, providing antioxidant protection in all parts of our cells and body.
What's special about Lipoic Acid?
Lipoic Acid is invaluable in recycling or restoring other oxidized forms of antioxidants—including vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione and CoQ10— back to their active states. Lipoic Acid also crosses cell membranes and works as an antioxidant in both water and lipid parts of the body, including the brain.
Lipoic Acid's antioxidant benefits
Because of Lipoic Acid's unique abilities as a natural, broad-spectrum antioxidant, research into its effects quickly branched out. Since its development in Germany in the 1970s as a treatment for diabetic complications, it is routinely given to diabetics in Europe.
Some of the findings from this extensive research concluded that Lipoic Acid has the potential to:
- Lower body levels of toxic metals, especially mercury.
- Help prevent heart disease by protecting LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from oxidation.
- Promote brain and nerve cell health by stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).
But the most intriguing discovery was Lipoic Acid's anti-aging effects on old animals.
Lipoic Acid was also found to:
- Improve memory in aged animals by restoring age-related brain cell receptor defects.
- Protect brain cells from damage caused by toxins and chemicals.
- Recycle CoQ10 back to its antioxidant form in the body, enhancing the antioxidant protection of this important antioxidant.
- Normalize elevated lipid peroxide levels in aged animals, reducing the risk of oxidation damage, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
- Restore antioxidant protection in old animals to normal, young animal levels.
Supporting Study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
(R)-alpha-lipoic acid-supplemented old rats have improved mitochondrial function, decreased oxidative damage, and increased metabolic rate.
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
A diet supplemented with (R)-lipoic acid, a mitochondrial coenzyme, was fed to old rats to determine its efficacy in reversing the decline in metabolism seen with age. Young (3 to 5 months) and old (24 to 26 months) rats were fed an AIN-93M diet with or without (R)-lipoic acid for 2 wk, killed, and their liver parenchymal cells were isolated. Hepatocytes from untreated old rats vs. young controls had significantly lower oxygen consumption and mitochondrial membrane potential. (R)-Lipoic acid supplementation reversed the age-related decline in O2 consumption and increased mitochondrial membrane potential. Ambulatory activity, a measure of general metabolic activity, was almost threefold lower in untreated old rats vs. controls, but this decline was reversed (P<0.005) in old rats fed (R)-lipoic acid.
The increase of oxidants with age, was significantly lowered in (R)-lipoic acid supplemented old rats . Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, an indicator of lipid peroxidation, were increased fivefold with age in cells from unsupplemented rats. Feeding rats the (R)-lipoic acid diet reduced MDA levels markedly.
Both glutathione and ascorbic acid levels declined with age, but their loss was completely reversed with (R)-lipoic acid supplementation. Thus, (R)-lipoic acid supplementation improves indices of metabolic activity as well as lowers oxidative stress and damage evident in aging.
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NOTE: Consult with your Doctor or Nutritionist before starting any new supplement regimen.
~ Be Well! ♥