Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), an acetylated form of L-carnitine, is garnering attention in the world of dietary supplements. Carnitine assists in transferring long-chain fatty acids (fat) into the mitochondria, where they can be burned for energy (ATP). With the unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier more effectively than L-carnitine, ALCAR is considered a promising nootropic and a valuable agent in combating brain oxidative damage (1). Let's delve into the properties and potential benefits of ALCAR.
ALCAR as a Nootropic and Fatigue Fighter
ALCAR is making waves in the realm of cognitive enhancement. It has demonstrated its potential to combat mental fatigue in various scenarios. Studies have shown efficacy in improving mental clarity and combating fatigue in individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (2) and elderly patients experiencing fatigue (3). Perhaps one of its most significant highlights is its role in addressing mild Alzheimer's Disease and mild cognitive impairment. A meta-analysis of multiple randomised controlled trials revealed that individuals treated with ALCAR experienced notable cognitive improvements compared to those receiving a placebo (4).
Furthermore, ALCAR has been explored in animal models, such as an induced model of Parkinson's Disease. In these studies, ALCAR showcased its ability to enhance cognition, which may provide hope for those facing neurodegenerative challenges (5).
Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine
The benefits of ALCAR aren't limited to cognitive enhancement; it's also a formidable ally in the fight against oxidative stress and inflammation. In an animal model of atherosclerosis, ALCAR administration led to significant reductions in unhealthy lipids while simultaneously elevating high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, the "good" cholesterol (6). These effects can have a profound impact on cardiovascular health.
Beyond that, ALCAR's antioxidant capabilities have been well-documented in various trials. It has been explored in hypoxia models, where it demonstrated its potential to mitigate oxidative damage (7). Additionally, ALCAR has been studied in a chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity model, underlining its potential to protect the heart from the adverse effects of specific medical treatments (8).
ALCAR and Healthy Weight Control
Due to its metabolism-boosting effects and ability to promote the transfer of fats into mitochondria to produce energy, ALCAR may assist in fat burning, although robust evidence is lacking. It may complement a healthy diet and exercise regime.
Side Effects of Acetyl-L-Carnitine
ALCAR is typically well tolerated, especially in lower doses. Side effects may include:
Gastrointestinal Distress: This may include symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps. Reducing the dosage or taking ALCAR with food can often alleviate these symptoms.
Insomnia: Some individuals may experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep when taking ALCAR, especially if it's consumed too close to bedtime. Adjusting the timing of ALCAR supplementation can help mitigate this issue.
Restlessness and Anxiety: High doses or individual sensitivity to ALCAR can lead to feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or anxiety. Reducing the dosage may alleviate these symptoms.
Headaches: Occasional headaches have been reported as a side effect of ALCAR. Reducing the dose or ensuring proper hydration may help alleviate headaches.
Fishy body odour: This is generally experienced only at higher dosages.
How should you take Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)?
For those interested in boosting cellular energy and metabolism, ALCAR can be found in various forms, including capsules, powders, and liquid extracts. The optimal dosage varies amongst individuals, but typical recommendations range from 400 mg to 2,000 mg per day. It's advisable to start with a lower dose and gradually increase it as needed. Ideally consume on an empty stomach to improve absorption in the morning.
Most in the nootropic community utilise ALCAR as part of a 'stack' of cognitive-enhancing supplements rather than as a sole agent. At We Know Health, we have combined ALCAR with Panax Ginseng, Guarana and Eleuthero to create a brain and body energising formula, Energise+.
This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.
- Montgomery SA, Thal LJ, Amrein R. Meta-analysis of double blind randomised controlled clinical trials of acetyl-L-carnitine versus placebo in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003 Mar;18(2):61-71. doi: 10.1097/00004850-200303000-00001.
- Singh S, Mishra A, Srivastava N, Shukla R, Shukla S. Acetyl-L-Carnitine via Upegulating Dopamine D1 Receptor and Attenuating Microglial Activation Prevents Neuronal Loss and Improves Memory Functions in Parkinsonian Rats. Mol Neurobiol. 2018 Jan;55(1):583-602. doi: 10.1007/s12035-016-0293-5. Epub 2016 Dec 14.
- Barhwal K, Hota SK, Jain V, Prasad D, Singh SB, Ilavazhagan G. Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) prevents hypobaric hypoxia-induced spatial memory impairment through extracellular related kinase-mediated nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 phosphorylation. Neuroscience. 2009 Jun 30;161(2):501-14. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.02.086. Epub 2009 Mar 24.