Carnosine for Skin Cell Health, Stress Tolerance, Blood Sugar

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

November 15, 2021

Carnosine for Skin Cell Health, Stress Tolerance, Blood Sugar
Carnosine, a natural antioxidant, is an amazing nutrient that uniquely supports your body’s aging process. It is particularly helpful for skin, brain, eyes, muscles, and blood sugar protection. It also supports stress tolerance differently than herbal adaptogens, B vitamins, and phytonutrients.

Carnosine is a natural di-peptide, made up of the amino acids beta-alanine and l-histidine. It is naturally found in red meat, poultry, and fish. Individuals on a low protein, or predominately plant-based diet are more likely to lack adequate intake. Significant amounts of carnosine are found in tissues with high metabolic activity like skin, brain, heart, and muscles.


Healthy skin depends upon many things. Adequate hydration, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and many nutrients provide positive anti-aging support. Carnosine provides unique anti-aging support for your skin as it aids the process of removing old cells.

Cellular senescence is the term applied to aging cells. These aged worn out or senescent cells build up in layers of your skin. Senescent cells release damaging compounds like cytokines, chemokines and other substances that contribute to wrinkles, thinning, and loss of elasticity in skin.

Old skin cells are removed and replaced with new skin cells every few days via immune system surveillance. This process easily happens when you are young, but it slows down with age, or when there is a back-log of repair.

Researchers discovered that carnosine aids in the process of immune system surveillance, critical for skin health. Carnosine modulates the production and activities of immune cells, like macrophages and neutrophils, which are involved with removal of senescent cells. A 2020 cell study confirmed that carnosine increased immune cell surveillance and improved the elimination and build-up of old skin cells.

In addition, carnosine provides free radical scavenging support to skin cells for protection against UV radiation. It helps slow down the sugar hardening of proteins that leads to advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These hardened proteins contribute to stiffening and decreased flexibility in skin. Carnosine helps support skin tone, elasticity, and moisture with healthful aging.

Carnosine and Brain Benefits

Significant amounts of carnosine are also found in your brain and affects many different functions. In particular, a very high concentration of carnosine is found in the olfactory bulb located deep within the limbic system of your brain. The olfactory bulb is directly involved with your sense of smell.

Within the olfactory nerve tissue, carnosine levels and its metabolic enzymes are 50-100 times higher than in other parts of the brain and even 10 times higher than skeletal muscle. This intense concentration in the olfactory bulb allows carnosine to function like a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator for the sense of smell.

Like in the skin, carnosine also provides protection against sugar build up, or advanced glycation end products (AGEs), in your brain and nerves. It provides antioxidant protection against blood sugar stress to the lens of your eye as well.

Stress Tolerance Support, Blood Sugar, and Acrolein

Carnosine helps modulate the stress tone of your autonomic nervous system and blood sugar management while under stress. Under high amounts of acute or chronic stress, your sympathetic nervous system is highly active and engaged in fight-flight action. As a result, your body releases increased amounts of blood sugar into the bloodstream. This provides nourishment for your brain and body allowing you to think and move fast to deal with the immediate danger. However, when you are in a chronic stress state, with ongoing demands of busy schedules and/or difficult situations, etc., your sympathetic nervous system often becomes locked into a fight/flight stress response. This contributes to unnecessary blood sugar increases, dysregulation, and resistance.

Carnosine helps modulate activity of the sympathetic nervous system fight/flight stress response and engage the parasympathetic nervous system rest/repair/relax response. By engaging in the rest/repair/relax response, it helps lower stress cortisol signals, which naturally aids in healthier blood sugar management.

Carnosine also helps balance other metabolic stress within the brain as it helps manage a protein called acrolein. When stressed, microglial cells and macrophages, brain clean up cells, release this compound. Acrolein irritates and causes oxidative stress to the nervous system. Animal studies demonstrated that carnosine quenched acrolein within brain and microglial cells.

Synergistic Duo

In a very interesting study published September 2020, scientists combined carnosine with hyaluronic acid. This latter compound is often used for skin health, along with joints, cartilage support and comfort. The combination of carnosine and hyaluronic acid together created a synergistic bioactive response within nerve cells better than when used alone. This dynamic duo of natural substances hindered build-up of toxic protein wastes and helped to enzymatically break up other unwanted toxins in the brain.

Muscles and Athletes

Within muscles, carnosine functions as an antioxidant and provides protection against protein glycation (AGEs). In addition, evidence shows that carnosine helps calcium uptake into muscles. It also regulates pH levels inside cells and buffers against acid waste products like lactic acid, thus supporting exercise tolerance.


Your heart is made of intensely active cardiac muscles. Carnosine is naturally found within cardiac muscle cells, where it provides antioxidant support. Cell studies demonstrated that carnosine quenched acrolein in heart muscle cells that caused cellular oxidative stress – similar to that quenching effect in the brain.

Carnosine – A Handyman Nutrient

Carnosine is a bit of a "handyman" nutrient. It helps clean up old cells in the skin. It cleans up protein debris and waste products in the brain and heart and is deeply involved with your olfactory bulb and sense of smell. It buffers against lactic acid in muscles to support exercise tolerance. It aids your autonomic nervous system with stress tolerance and helps buffer against the sticky effects of blood sugar.

Carnosine is sometimes confused with carnitine. They are very different nutrients, but can be taken together with synergistic support. We offer Carnosine as a separate stand-alone product, or it is available in Stress Helper. Carnosine is a great nutrient to combine with acetyl-l-carnitine or hyaluronic acid for dynamic synergistic anti-aging effects.

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