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Acetylcarnosine is a naturally occurring compound that is composed of the amino acids alanine and histidine. It has an acetyl group of molecules that contain a single-bonded methyl group. Acetylcarnosine acts as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells and tissues. Clinically, acetylcarnosine is used to treat eye conditions such as cataracts. As a dietary supplement, it is used for general health and for its antioxidant properties.
This compound is a dipeptide that is found in high concentrations in the brain, skeletal tissues, skin, stomach and heart. It is produced in the human body and is present in other mammals, making it largely unavailable in vegetarian diets. Acetylcarnosine can prevent glycation, which is the bonding of a protein or lipid molecule with a sugar molecule. When glycation occurs in the body, it can accelerate the aging process.
In human health, acetylcarnosine serves as an antioxidant, inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation produces atoms that have an unpaired number of electrons, known as free radicals. In an effort to pair up, free radicals steal electrons from other atoms, causing cellular damage. Antioxidants are known as anti-aging substances because oxidative stress is associated with aging and certain disease states.
A cataract is characterized by a clouding of the lens in the eye and is generally related to aging. This clouding can interfere with normal vision, reducing sharpness and causing blurring. Oxidative stress is believed to contribute to the development of cataracts. Acetylcarnosine eye drops are used twice daily to reduce cloudiness and increase lens clarity. Treatment can last six to 12 months and generally takes several months before improvement is noticeable.
As a component of acetylcarnosine, alanine plays a role in glucose metabolism. When muscles break down amino acids to produce energy, alanine is transported from the liver to the bloodstream, where it helps absorb glucose. A stored form of glucose, known as glycogen, is then returned to the muscle for later fuel use. This is known as the glucose-alanine cycle, and it plays an important role in energy production.
Histidine, the other component of acetylcarnosine, is a semi-essential amino acid, meaning that under normal circumstances, the body produces enough to meet its needs. It is essential to the maintenance of healthy tissues throughout the body. Histidine is used in the production of a protective layer known as the myelin sheath. It also assists with immunological processes, such as allergic reaction. Reduced histidine levels are seen in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis.