Effect of lifelong carnitine supplementation on plasma and tissue carnitine status, hepatic lipid metabolism and stress signalling pathways and skeletal muscle transcriptome in mice at advanced age.
While strong evidence from clinical studies suggests beneficial effects of carnitine supplementation on metabolic health, serious safety concerns associated with carnitine supplementation have been raised from studies in mice. Considering that the carnitine doses in these mice studies were up to 100 times higher than those used in clinical studies, the present study aimed to address possible safety concerns associated with long-term supplementation of a carnitine dose used in clinical trials. Two groups of NMRI mice were fed either a control or a carnitine-supplemented diet (1 g/kg diet) from weaning to 19 months of age, and parameters of hepatic lipid metabolism and stress signalling and skeletal muscle gene expression were analysed in the mice at 19 months of age. Concentrations of free carnitine and acetylcarnitine in plasma and tissues were higher in the carnitine than in the control group (P<0·05). Plasma concentrations of free carnitine and acetylcarnitine were higher in mice at adult age (10 and 15 months) than at advanced age (19 months) (P<0·05). Hepatic mRNA and protein levels of genes involved in lipid metabolism and stress signalling and hepatic and plasma lipid concentrations did not differ between the carnitine and the control group. Skeletal muscle transcriptome analysis in 19-month-old mice revealed only a moderate regulation between carnitine and control group. Lifelong carnitine supplementation prevents an age-dependent impairment of plasma carnitine status, but safety concerns associated with long-term supplementation of carnitine at doses used in clinical trials can be considered as unfounded.