Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Cognitive Function
Amino acids are the body’s building blocks for protein, and L-carnitine isone that is made naturally in the liver and kidneys and is important forproduction of energy. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter which is essentialfor healthy mental function, and when this is combined with L-carnitine,Acetyl-L-carnitine or ALCAR is formed. In recent years, ALCAR supplements havebecome popular as a method for improved cognitive function.
Some L-carnitine can be converted to acetyl-L-carnitine in the body, but withhigh bioavailability, supplemental ALCAR is said to be better for the brain.Supplemental ALCAR has been used in the treatment of dementia, for improvedvisual memory and attention in the treatment of downs syndrome patients and forreduction in the severity of depressive symptoms in the elderly.
ALCAR is said to enhance spatial and temporal memory and to reduce oxidativedamage in the hippocampus area of the brain which impacts memory. It has alsobeen used as a treatment for thinking problems related to alcoholism and Lymedisease and to improve circulation within the brain.
Many studies have examined the effects of Acetyl-L-carnitine on cognitivefunction. One Italian study looked at the effects of ALCAR on learning andmemory deficits in aged rats. Treatment with acetyl-L-carnitine showedsignificant improvement in acquisition and retention of avoidance responses inrats, which indicated improved learning and memory capacity.
In another study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine,acetyl-L-carnitine was given to seven patients likely to have Alzheimer’sdisease. These subjects were compared over the course of one year with fiveplacebo-treated patients who were also likely to have Alzheimer’s disease and 21healthy subjects who were matched in age. Test scores for cognition and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment declined less in the ALCAR-treated patients thanin the placebo-treated subjects by a significant margin.
More research from the University of California School of Medicine in SanDiego examined 431 patients in a double-blind, placebo controlled,parallel-group study over the course of one year. This study compared theeffects of ALCAR with a placebo in patients with likely, mild to moderateAlzheimer’s disease. 83% of the individuals completed one full year oftreatment.
When early-onset (65 years of age or younger) patients were compared withlate-onset (older than 66 years of age) patients, the early-onset patientstaking ALCAR declined less quickly than early-onset patients taking a placebo incognitive and Alzheimer’s assessment tests.
In addition, early-onset patients taking the placebo declined more rapidlythan late-onset patients in this group. However, late-onset patients on ALCARtended to decline more rapidly than early-onset patients in this group. Thissuggests that early-onset AD patients may benefit from treatment with ALCARwhereas late-onset individuals might not.
Acetyl-L-carnitine continues to beinvestigated for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive healthissues. ALCAR seems to have an effect on the central nervous system, but aclear pharmacological explanation for improved cognition has yet to beidentified.
A word of caution: Always check with a health care provider before takingany kind of supplement. Acetyl-L-carnitine can impact people withhypothyroidism, seizure disorders or those who are taking Coumadin or otheranti-clotting medications.