What is the Connection Between Lipoic Acid and Carnitine?

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  • Written By: Page Coleman
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 02 March 2020
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Lipoic acid and carnitine are two popular nutritional supplements that are often combined in nutritional supplements. Carnitine is an amino acid used in energy production, and lipoic acid is an antioxidant. When used together, lipoic acid and carnitine may enhance energy and memory while reducing the effects of oxidization, and so they are frequently combined for sports performance and anti-aging supplements.

Carnitine is an amino acid that is found in meat. It is used in fat metabolism and it works in muscle energy production by helping in fatty acid transport from cell bodies to their mitochondria, which are responsible for creating energy in the cells. Carnitine is not considered an essential amino acid because the human body can produce all it needs. As people get older, however, they tend to have lower levels of carnitine. Supplementation is believed to increase these levels, and in turn increases energy.

Bone cell production also uses carnitine in its processes, and this amino acid plays an important role in maintaining bone mass. Maintenance of bone mass is important for people as they get older, particularly for women. Thinning bone mass, also known as osteoporosis, can lead to broken bones and falls.


Though carnitine may increase energy production, energy production also increases oxidization, which may promote aging effects. To counteract the increased oxidization, lipoic acid is frequently combined with carnitine in nutritional supplements. Also called alpha lipoic acid, this antioxidant is found naturally in broccoli, spinach, and beef.

Along with having an antioxidant effect, alpha lipoic acid plays other important roles. It helps in energy production by breaking down carbohydrates. Alpha lipoic acid also aids in neural function by increasing levels of another antioxidant known as glutathione.

In studies with rats, test results of using an alpha lipoic acid and carnitine combination have been promising. The rats who were given nutritional supplements displayed more energy and better memory as they aged, compared to a control group. It should be noted that the rats received a large amount of the supplements over much of their lives. This level of supplementation may be difficult for people to maintain.

Along with the studies of rats, studies of aging race horses have also found that the alpha lipoic acid and acetyl L-carnitine combination may be helpful in enhancing performance and reducing the signs of aging. Studies involving human subjects are ongoing. Caution is advised before taking high levels of lipoic acid and carnitine supplements until more is known about their effect on humans.


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