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What is the Connection Between Carnitine and Weight Loss?

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  • Written By: Matt Brady
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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Carnitine and weight loss have long been linked by those who believe that its fat-metabolizing properties make it an effective weight loss supplement and energy booster. Although scientific studies are mixed over whether carnitine — an amino acid and antioxidant the body naturally produces — could truly be called an effective weight-loss supplement, it's well understood that it does indeed aid in the conversion of fatty acids to energy. Supplemental amounts of carnitine may reduce some measure of fat content, but studies by and large indicate that a good diet and fitness routine are more proven and effective weight loss factors. Negative side effects caused by carnitine are generally mild stomach conditions, so trying it out as an exercise supplement typically isn't dangerous. Nevertheless, there can always be exceptions, so it's wise to consult a doctor before changing a diet.

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The kidneys regulate how much carnitine the body produces and uses, which may be one reason why supplemental doses might not be used by the body to great effect; the kidneys might simply flush out what they consider to be excess levels of carnitine. Individuals whose kidneys produce a deficient amount of carnitine, however, may notice greater results in combining carnitine and weight loss regimens. Those who are deficient in carnitine should likely take supplements even if they're not trying to lose weight, as a healthy amount of the amino acid is helpful to maintain a certain level of metabolism and energy, and can also decrease the risk of dangerous heart conditions.

Some exercise enthusiasts connect muscle building with carnitine and weight loss. Scientific studies haven't ruled out that carnitine can aid muscle development, but they haven’t exactly discovered results that overwhelmingly support the claim either. If carnitine does indeed help burn fat as well as build muscle, an interesting possibility is that it might cancel itself out as an effective weight loss supplement; muscle weighs more than fat, which means that swapping out fat for muscle would theoretically add pounds, not shed them. Of course, there are many who would argue that gaining weight by adding some lean muscle is perfectly healthy, but it wouldn't exactly uphold the idea that carnitine and weight loss go together.

If considering going on a carnitine and weight loss regimen, one should first consult a medical expert. There are different types of carnitine supplements, which can elicit different reactions in individuals. For example, acetyl-L-carnitine is generally used to treat mental conditions like Alzheimer's disease, whereas L-carnitine is what's generally taken as a weight loss supplement. Doctors also sometimes prescribe carnitine supplements for heart conditions. Individuals who consult their doctors may thus gain a better understanding of which carnitine supplement will best suit their needs. There generally aren't severe negative side effects caused by carnitine; the side effects that most often occur are stomach cramps, diarrhea and nausea.

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