Acetyl-l-Carnitine – Anti-Aging for Brain Cells & Metabolism

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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Acetyl-l-Carnitine1 (ALC) is a special nutrient with a high level ability to positively influence brain health, stress tolerance, and metabolism – especially of fat. Unlike plain l-carnitine (an amino acid), acetyl-l-carnitine is fat soluble and highly active in nerves; it offers superior protection from stress and excitotoxic damage. 

ALC is highly synergistic with the nutrient pantethine, which makes CoA. CoA latches on to fatty acids and turns them into something that has the potential to be metabolized as fuel (acyl-CoA). In turn, ALC grabs the acyl-CoA and makes acetyl-CoA, a form of fuel used by your cellular engines (mitochondria) to make energy. This burning of fat for fuel is called beta-oxidation2. The ability of your body to manage CoA correctly is vital to your health.

ALC is one of a number of nutrients that has an energetic effect on your brain cells3.  It helps maintain their normal energy production, and thus their health. ALC is particularly good at protecting nerve cells and even has a regenerative effect on them.

Brain Anti-Aging and Cognitive Health

Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline are difficult problems of nerve-related wear and tear that involve the formation of amyloid plaque. ALC helps address this problem in several ways. ALC promotes nerve cells to alpha-secretase instead of beta-secretase. This results in less production of beta-amyloid plaque4. ALC also preserves the level of BDNF5, which helps to repair as well as make new brain cells.  BDNF itself has been shown to prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s in a variety of animal models.

ALC also helps your brain metabolize fat6 and cholesterol so that these extra lipids don’t build up and clog your brain’s function. This cleanup function makes it less likely that cholesterol will form into beta-amyloid plaque. 

Excess alcohol damages brain cells, in part, by leaving a trail of damaged fatty particles, which then produce free radicals and cause even more damage. ALC has been shown to clean up these damaged fatty particles7, preventing the damage caused by excess alcohol intake.

ALC helps prevent toxins8 from interfering with brain cell energy production. The ability to maintain energy production in your brain is vital to your mood as well as the lack of wear and tear that is associated with cognitive health.  Another recent study showed that a mixture of high quality nutrients, including ALC9, Lipoic Acid, DHA, and PhosphatidylSerine stopped cognitive decline in an animal model of experimentally induced nerve destruction.

ALC is known to boost general nerve transmission; this was recently tested in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy10. A dose of 2000 mg per day showed a decrease in pain, improvement in nerve conduction, and some nerve regeneration.

Studies in aging animals invariably show increased inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain. ALC supplementation not only stops the progression of the inflammation and free radical damage, but it also actually helps reverse the problem,11 which demonstrates a return of less-aged nerve function. This is a true anti-aging result from ALC. Another study showed that ALC restored brain energetics,12 resulting in less free radicals and less lipofusion formation (age spots) – both features of an anti-aging nutrient.

Energy and Stress Management

ALC helps preserve the integrity of mitochondria13, which are your cell’s car engines. This is a direct anti-aging function on their integrity, facilitating a cell’s ability to make energy. On the other hand, individuals with chronic fatigue14 are consistently low in ALC.

You brain needs energy to function properly. ALC has been shown to increase the output of serotonin and dopamine15, making it a truly natural antidepressant. It does this while enhancing brain plasticity, which means that it can help your brain form new patterns of function.

In the face of stress16, ALC helps maintain your brain’s energy supply, meaning that it noticeably helps you cope with stress in a more efficient manner. This study shows that ALC helps maintain brain energy levels and acts as a buffer against oxidative stress, enabling nerves to more efficiently tolerate higher levels of stress. 

In a study with elderly men ALC was shown to improve mild depression17, which was measurable not only by questionnaire but also by positive changes in the energetics of their prefrontal brain regions.

Another form of stress is the condition of low oxygen and low blood sugar often found in people with poor circulation and bad eating habits.  ALC has been shown to prevent injury18 to nerves even in this stressed condition.

ALC, Fat Metabolism, and Leptin

It is not surprising that a nutrient such as ALC, which is proven to assist fat burning19 for fuel, will have a very positive effect on your metabolism. Interestingly, ALC even helps insulin work better so that sugar can be more effectively metabolized, even in type 2 diabetics20.

Animal studies show that ALC actually helps increase protein muscle mass, while at the same time lowers leptin resistance21. This creates a positive environment for burning calories more efficiently, as the more muscle you have the more calories you can burn. By improving leptin resistance your metabolism improves its “go signal.”

The combination of ALC and R-alpha lipoic acid has been shown to turn on metabolism within your stored fat22, in turn providing the energy to help break down fat to use as fuel. ALC turns on specific genes that help do this.

ALC has been shown to have a rejuvenating effect23 on your liver, helping it metabolize calories in a more youthful manner. Since your liver is the main metabolic organ in your body, improving its function is important for enhancing your metabolism. ALC can even help your liver improve its metabolism in the presence of hypothyroidism24. It is rather amazing that any nutrient can keep metabolism moving along normally without the regular amount of thyroid hormone it should have.

ALC is a superior fat burning nutrient with added benefits for stress management and the preservation of your nervous system.


Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ ALC Protects and Supports Brain Health and Function  Ukr Biokhim Zh.  Kopelevich VM. 
  2. ^ ALC Enhances Proper Use of Coenzyme A, in Turn Enhancing Fat Metabolism  Mol Aspects Med.   Ramsay RR, Zammit VA. 
  3. ^ ALC Supports the Brain  Altern Med Rev.   Kidd PM. 
  4. ^ ALC Helps Stop Alzheimer’s Plaque Formation  Eur J Pharmacol.   Epis R, Marcello E, Gardoni F, Longhi A, Calvani M, Iannuccelli M, Cattabeni F, Canonico PL, Di Luca M.
  5. ^ ALC Helps Sustain BDNF Levels Under Stress  Neurosci Lett.  Bigini P, Larini S, Pasquali C, Muzio V, Mennini T.
  6. ^ ALC Lowers Cholesterol and Fat Accumulation Associated with Aging  J Lipid Res.   Tanaka Y, Sasaki R, Fukui F, Waki H, Kawabata T, Okazaki M, Hasegawa K, Ando S. 
  7. ^ ALC Protects Brain Cells From Alcohol Damage  Neurochem Res.    Calabrese V, Scapagnini G, Catalano C, Dinotta F, Bates TE, Calvani M, Stella AM. 
  8. ^ ALC Stops Toxin-Induced Loss of Brain Energy  Ann N Y Acad Sci.    Binienda ZK. 
  9. ^ ALC, Lipoic Acid, DHA, and PS Stop Cogntive Decline  Nutr Res.   Suchy J, Chan A, Shea TB.
  10. ^ ALC Helps Diabetic Neuropathy  Ann Pharmacother.   Evans JD, Jacobs TF, Evans EW.
  11. ^ ALC Can Anti-Age Your Brain  Brain Res.    Sharman EH, Vaziri ND, Ni Z, Sharman KG, Bondy SC.
  12. ^ ALC Has Anti-Aging Boost on Brain Energetics  Neurosci Lett.    Kaur J, Sharma D, Singh R. 
  13. ^ Lipoic Acid and ALC Improve Brain Energy Function  J Cell Mol Med.   Aliev G, Liu J, Shenk JC, Fischbach K, Pacheco GJ, Chen SG, Obrenovich ME, Ward WF, Richardson AG, Smith MA, Gasimov E, Perry G, Ames BN.
  14. ^ Fatigue Leads to Decreased Levels of ALC in the Blood  Neuroimage.    Kuratsune H, Yamaguti K, Lindh G, Evengard B, Hagberg G, Matsumura K, Iwase M, Onoe H, Takahashi M, Machii T, Kanakura Y, Kitani T, Langstrom B, Watanabe Y. 
  15. ^ ALC Boosts Dopamine and Seratonin  Neuropsychopharmacology.    Tolu P, Masi F, Leggio B, Scheggi S, Tagliamonte A, De Montis MG, Gambarana C.
  16. ^ ALC Helps Maintain Brain Energy and Act as a Buffer Against Stress  Neurochem Res.    Dhitavat S, Ortiz D, Shea TB, Rivera ER. 
  17. ^ ALC Helps Decrease Stress Levels of Older Adults  Bipolar Disord.    Pettegrew JW, Levine J, Gershon S, Stanley JA, Servan-Schreiber D, Panchalingam K, McClure RJ. 
  18. ^ ALC Aids the Brain in Stress Tolerance  Neuropharmacology.   Picconi B, Barone I, Pisani A, Nicolai R, Benatti P, Bernardi G, Calvani M, Calabresi P. 
  19. ^ ALC Assists Proper Metabolism of Fat  Acad Sci.   Mingrone G. 
  20. ^ ALC Helps Type 2 Diabetics Metabolize Sugar  Metabolism.    Giancaterini A, De Gaetano A, Mingrone G, Gniuli D, Liverani E, Capristo E, Greco AV. 
  21. ^ ALC helps Prevent Leptin Resistance  J Nutr.   Iossa S, Mollica MP, Lionetti L, Crescenzo R, Botta M, Barletta A, Liverini G. 
  22. ^ ALC and Lipoic Acid Activate Metabolism Within Stored Fat  Diabetologia.  Shen W, Liu K, Tian C, Yang L, Li X, Ren J, Packer L, Cotman CW, Liu J.
  23. ^ ALC Promotes Metabolism of Calories  Cell Mol Life Sci.    Mollica MP, Iossa S, Soboll S, Liverini G. 
  24. ^ ALC Helps Promote Mormal Liver Metabolism of Calories  FEBS Lett.    Gadaleta MN, Petruzzella V, Fracasso F, Fernandez-Silva P, Cantatore P. 

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