Carnosine Shines: Help for Depression, OCD, Kidneys, Heart, Diabetes, and Formaldehyde Exposure

July 5, 2017 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Carnosine Shines: Help for Depression, OCD, Kidneys, Heart, Diabetes, and Formaldehyde Exposure
Periodically, I like to check up on the new research on particular nutrients. Carnosine is one of those nutrients. Carnosine has amazing benefits in many different health areas and is an incredibly versatile antioxidant. New research continues to show carnosine’s effectiveness as a powerful, highly beneficial antioxidant for brain health, nerves, liver and kidney support, heart health, blood sugar, muscle health, and more.

Carnosine Buffers against the Effects of Formaldehyde

Research published just weeks ago delved into a very interesting combination – formaldehyde, depression, diabetes, dementia and the nutrient carnosine. Formaldehyde is being implicated in a number of age-related disorders. Science shows that formaldehyde stimulates an upregulation of glucose metabolism in the brain which acts as a toxic stress response to tissues that is thought to contribute to diabetes, memory loss, and neurodegeneration.

Formaldehyde causes cross-links with proteins or a stiffening effect on tissues and DNA changes in the brain. This inflammatory effect is thought to cause increased levels of amyloid-beta plaques and free radicals, and decreased antioxidant levels of glutathione in the brain. Some researchers question if elevated formaldehyde levels is the missing link in Alzheimer's disease.

Formaldehyde exposure occurs two ways – external, environmental sources and internal production. There are many common external sources which include particle board, pressed wood, paper towels, paper products, floor coverings, carpet adhesive binders, fire retardants, permanent press clothes, insulation, natural gas, kerosene, cosmetics, deodorants, shampoos, fabric dyes, disinfectants, tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes, aspartame, and methanol ingestion. Our bodies also make formaldehyde as a result of metabolism as it is a by-product of de-methylation. It is questioned in its role in kidney, liver, bone marrow disease and cancer. Regardless of the formaldehyde sources, we want to protect ourselves from this common toxin.

Symptoms of formaldehyde exposure and toxicity include dry, red, itching and burning eyes, dry nasal passages, soreness or post-nasal drip, sinus congestion, cough, chest tightness, mucous, repeated sinus and/or eye infections, asthma, headaches, fatigue, lethargy, and disrupted sleep.

Research suggests that carnosine buffers the effects of increased formaldehyde production and may prevent the damage from formaldehyde and other aldehydes as seen in Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and type 2 diabetes. Carnosine is also recommended because of its antioxidant protection against elevated, altered glucose metabolism that formaldehyde stimulates. As a versatile antioxidant, carnosine also protects against damaged mitochondria and cross-linking or damaged proteins from the altered glucose metabolism. Carnosine neutralizes the effect of increased blood sugar metabolism that makes proteins get stiff and accumulate. This dual effect makes carnosine an extremely important nutrient to help buffer the oxidative effects caused by formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde exposures are a part of daily modern life and part of human metabolism. But for those with depression, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other neurodegenerative disorders, carnosine may act as a priceless nutrient essential to improve health. Carnosine may also provide invaluable support for those who struggle with brain fog, brain fatigue, headaches, and fatigue from multiple chemical sensitivity or loss of chemical tolerance from aldehyde exposures within their home, work, or school.

Carnosine, Depression, and OCD

In major depression, telomere length is shortened and cortisol levels are elevated. Carnosine is known for its ability to help protect and maintain telomere length and ameliorate stress-induced cortisol changes. Scientists suggest carnosine supplementation as a helpful tool for depression management.

Recent research evaluated the effect of carnosine on moderate to severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In a randomized, double-blind trial, OCD patients received the SSRI drug fluvoxamine/Luvox along with either a placebo or carnosine. After 10 weeks of treatment, the carnosine-drug treatment group experienced far more improvement than those with the placebo-drug treatment alone.

Scientists believe carnosine was helpful for two major reasons. First, carnosine provides powerful antioxidant effects to the brain. Secondly, carnosine is suspected to have a modulatory effect on the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate. Glutamate is essential to wakefulness and alertness, but when in excess, it becomes an excitotoxin provoking dysfunction and oxidative stress to the nervous system. Nutrition plays such a vital role in neurological health. This research helps individuals make choices to fortify their brain, calm down inflammation, and hopefully over time use less or no toxic medications.

Heart Failure

Heart failure affects over 23 million individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in five individuals develop heart failure in their lifetime. Prevention and early treatment is fundamental to keeping heart health strong. Carnosine was studied for its effectiveness in heart failure support. Other nutrients like vitamin D, hawthorne, l-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, vitamin D, omega-3 oils, and some probiotics were also identified in the same study as able to provide powerful cardiac support. Improvement was found with ejection fraction, stroke volume, and cardiac output. Other research shows carnosine is very helpful for improving exercise performance with heart failure.


Healthy individuals and athletes may find carnosine helpful for improved exercise performance and tolerance as various studies demonstrate its effectiveness. This includes a position statement by the International Society of Sports Nutrition. They found carnosine helpful to buffer against acid pH or lactic acid in muscles. Carnosine intake at high doses of 4-6 grams per day was found safe. Supplementation improved exercise performance and reduced fatigue with the greatest effect with short duration exercise.

Liver and Kidney Damage

Carnosine has been shown to be highly beneficial for chronic liver injury, scarring, and cirrhosis that has led to liver failure. One reason for its effectiveness relates to how carnosine buffers high ammonia levels caused by liver injury and failure. Ammonia can build up so much in the body that it causes neurological troubles like balance difficulties, cognitive difficulties, changes in behavior, headaches, dislike for protein, lethargy and irritability. A recent animal study found that high dose carnosine intake (250-1000 mg/kg per day) significantly improved liver injury, cirrhosis, and build-up of ammonia. High ammonia levels may also occur with gut problems and may be improved by adding carnosine with arabinogalactan for more comprehensive support.

Studies continue to show carnosine’s remarkable effect in prevention and protection against diabetes and its complications like diabetic kidney damage. Animal studies show that carnosine-treated diabetic mice had very good improvement in health. The mice used in the study are bred to replicate advanced diabetes in humans. After 18 weeks of treatment with carnosine, blood levels of glucose, hemoglobin A1C, insulin and C-peptide levels improved. Kidney swelling and dysfunction improved. The results of the study led the scientists to suggest that carnosine was a “novel therapeutic strategy to treat patients with diabetic kidney disease and/or be used to prevent diabetic nephropathy in patients with diabetes.” Other studies find carnosine protects against kidney stress. Carnosine decreased advanced glycation end products (AGE), cholesterol, and oxidative stress in diabetic rats caused by a high fat, high sugar diet.

Carnosine is a non-addictive and well-tolerated supplement. It possesses anti-glycation and anti-crosslinking properties, which means that it offsets increased adverse blood sugar metabolism and formaldehyde that makes proteins get stiff and damaged. Other recent information demonstrates very positive help in depression, OCD, heart failure, liver failure, ammonia toxicity, kidney damage, and diabetes. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what carnosine studies show.

Several other studies demonstrate carnosine’s positive effect in stomach cancer and other cancers, and protection against cancer treatment side effects like cachexia, cataracts Parkinson’s disease, stroke, iron toxicity, and combats the effects of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Carnosine is a powerful, versatile antioxidant. It is not a trendy nutrient as research stems back more than 100 years. It continues to stand the test of time as a solid, anti-aging nutrient.

The research on carnosine is so important for today’s environmental and internal metabolic production of formaldehyde. Neurodegeneration, diabetes, depression, kidney and liver disease, heart failure, and cancer are all on the rise worldwide. It gives us incentive to ensure that adequate carnosine is regularly consumed. Foods rich in carnosine are red meat, poultry, and fish. Small amounts may be found in some vegetables. Several of the studies listed above cited therapeutic amounts of carnosine to reach the health benefit. If you don’t consume animal proteins, struggle with some of the concerns, or need additional support, consider adding carnosine in your nutritional supplement regime today.

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