Other names: Acetyl L Carnitine, ALCAR
Used for: Improved memory, metabolism, and mood; treating brain degeneration, anti-oxidant properties
Known side effects: nausea, diarrhea, headache
Dosing: 500 mg to 4 g per day
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is the synthetic form of Carnitine. It boosts brain health and supports cognitive functions in several ways.
Our body produces Carnitine, albeit in a small quantity. From its manufacturing units, in the kidneys and liver, this substance is dispersed to other parts of the body including the heart and brain.
Instead of Carnitine supplement, its acetylated version ALCAR is used as a supplement to enhance brain function. That’s because Acetyl-Carnitine effortlessly crosses the blood-brain barrier; an almost impossible task for L-Carnitine. ALCAR is also an excellent team player; its impact on cognition is augmented when combined with supplements that influence the cholinergic system.
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How Does Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) Function?
Once Acetyl L-Carnitine finds itself in the brain, the nootropic begins its actions. It has a bagful of tricks to maximize cognitive health. Here are four of ALCAR’s primary functions in the brain.
ALCAR and Acetylcholine: In the brain, the nootropic is converted into Acetyl-COA. This compound is synthesized into the neurotransmitter with the help of choline. The presence of choline in sufficient quantity is necessary for the production of acetylcholine.
The brain chemical acetylcholine is indispensable for the healthy brain function, and it is associated with memory, attention, and intelligence. A healthy level of this neurotransmitter is also known to delay age-related cognitive impairment.
ALCAR and Energy Metabolism: Acetyl L-Carnitine also assumes the role of carrier service, delivering fatty acids to the mitochondria through the cell membrane. Hence, this nootropic is instrumental in energy metabolism. Through this function, the nootropic increases the efficiency of the energy metabolism process in the mitochondria, thereby boosting both physical and mental energy.
The Anti-Oxidant Properties of ALCAR: One of the clear signs of a declining brain is a poor antioxidant defense mechanism. ALCAR is known for its powerful antioxidant properties. The nootropic uses this particular ability to optimize the brain by promoting cerebral blood circulation, increasing BDNF, and protecting the brain cells through its neuroprotective properties.
ALCAR Removes Toxic Waste: Along with its other functions, Acetyl L-Carnitine also removes the toxic waste from the brain. As mentioned above, after moving the fatty acids into mitochondria, the nootropic also ferries out the waste and toxic materials out of it. Our brain uses 1/5 of the energy produced in the body; it also produces its share of toxic waste, which needs to be quickly removed.
Why Do We Need Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)?
We think of improving the cognitive faculties only when there is an unusual demand to perform better; when we’re unable to cope up with pressure and seek to improve our performance and productivity. Furthermore, as we age, the body chemistry also changes.
Above 40+, the body, mind, and the many functions that take place aren’t as efficient as there used to be. And, when we’re over 60, the severe symptoms of age-related cognitive degeneration take effect. We can blame the decline on many factors; chief among them is the decline in the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine and Nerve Growth Factor. On top, the mitochondria lose their efficiency.
Acetyl L-Carnitine, taken just with choline or other nootropics can improve memory and optimize the overall cognitive function.
Cognitive Benefits of Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
The acetylated version of the compound carnitine is known to offer more cognitive than physiological benefits. Here is a brief list of some of the benefits of ALCAR:
Acetyl L-Carnitine Improves Memory
The role of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in enabling sharp memory, focus, and other cognitive faculties is well-known. Decline in the levels of this neurotransmitter due to unhealthy lifestyle or advancing age can affect memory and other faculties.
ALCAR is a precursor and donor of a methyl group. This nootropic, along with choline increase the levels of acetylcholine in the brain (1). With more acetylcholine in the brain, the mind becomes much better at storing and recalling information at will.
Acetyl L-Carnitine Boosts Brain Energy
The mitochondria – present in every single cell – are called the power plant of the body. These organelles supply 90% of the energy that is required to keep the cells alive and functioning normally. The mitochondria need to be fed with fatty acids for it to produce energy using the Krebs cycle. The energy output drops when mitochondria don’t get enough fuel to burn, or its efficiency is compromised. The result is tiredness, fatigue, and lethargy – overall decrease in physical and mental energy. Acetyl L-Carnitine boosts brain energy by taking fuel into and removing waste material from mitochondria (2).
ALCAR is an excellent treatment option for a complicated condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There is scientific research to validate this particular benefit of Acetyl L-Carnitine. A crossover clinical trial was carried out for three months with 36 participants. They were either given 1 g of Acetyl L-Carnitine (twice, daily) or Amantadine (the drug usually prescribed for treating chronic fatigue). At the end of the 3-month study period, the results showed that the nootropic Acetyl L-Carnitine was more effective and better tolerated than Amantadine (3).
Acetyl L-Carnitine Impacts Depression and Dopamine
The impact of ALCAR is not restricted to memory and mental energy alone. The role of this nootropic in improving mitochondrial function also has a significant effect on dementia and depression (4).
Furthermore, an animal study has explored and established the role of ALCAR in reducing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by regulating the dopamine, assisting dopamine neurons, and boosting mitochondrial respiration (5).
ALCAR for Treating Brain Degeneration
In a crossover study involving 1204 people, the use of Acetyl L-Carnitine improved memory, attention, mental function and performance (6). In addition, the nootropic also slowed down cognitive decline, raising the hope ALCAR can be used as a potent treatment for brain degeneration.
In a study, the cognitive performance of 130 patients with Alzheimer’s was tested. They were given a daily dose of Acetyl L-Carnitine or placebo. The researchers found that the performance of the placebo group declined faster than that of ALCAR (7).
Acetyl L-Carnitine Protects Mitochondria
ALCAR is also an effective antioxidant; it bridges the gap between free radicals and antioxidants. Through its actions, the nootropic also reduces the instances of free radicals reacting with other molecules in the body.
The process of oxidation is healthy and necessary, but it becomes harmful to the body (proteins, fatty tissues, DNA, etc.) if more free radicals are present.
The antioxidant properties of the nootropic protect the mitochondria from the dangers of oxidative stress. This was the outcome of an animal study involving male rats. The researchers tested the neurotoxicity of the subjects after feeding them with ALCAR and Ecstasy. A dose of the nootropic before MDMA reduced the neurotoxicity of ecstasy in the subjects (8).
The Difference between Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) and L-Carnitine
In some ways these two substances are similar, but they differ in many ways and provide different benefits to the users.
It can be said that L-Carnitine is biased towards the body. That’s because of its inability to cross the blood-brain barrier effectively. Also, only less than 20% of the supplement lands in the bloodstream. Even so, the fat metabolizing capabilities make L-Carnitine the favorite choice of dieters and athletes.
As a nootropic, Acetyl L-Carnitine with its high bioavailability is the obvious choice. Taking a daily dose of 2g for less than two months increased the blood level of this nootropic by more than 40% (9). As we have seen, the ALCAR supplement boosts mental health in various ways. In an animal study, there is clear data to show ALCAR fights oxidative stress to protect the neurons (10).
Recommended Dosage of Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
The ideal dosage of Acetyl L-Carnitine depends on many factors, mainly the primary purpose of taking the supplement. The average dose falls within the range of 500 mg to 4 g per day.
To achieve cognitive benefits, the daily dosage that most people follow is between 1 to 4 g; divided and taken 2-3 times a day.
The recommended dose to alleviate fatigue and improve mood is 1 to 3 g per day.
Finally, to treat forgetfulness and prevent age-related cognitive decline the ideal daily dosage is 1 to 2 g.
For best results, ALCAR alone won’t do, the nootropic must be taken with a Choline supplement. The nootropic is water-soluble and can be consumed with or without food.
Possible Side Effects of Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
Our body is capable of producing this substance in small quantities; sufficient to aid its normal functions, but not enough to enhance brain power or prevent cognitive decline. Supplementation within recommended dosage is safe and non-toxic, and the nootropic is well-tolerated by the body.
The side effects are rare, but even if they occur, the adverse effects are mild. Some common side effects that users might complain about are nausea, abdominal distress, diarrhea, and headache. Some users have reported bad breath and body odor after using ALCAR.
Not much is known about the effect of the nootropic on the fetus and newborn children. Hence, pregnant women and new mothers should consult a physician before taking this nootropic. Similarly, those with thyroid problems and seizure disorders should avoid using the nootropic without the doctor’s permission.
Unless you’re a regular red meat eater, your body isn’t getting enough ALCAR needed to boost cognition and prevent brain degeneration. So, supplementation becomes necessary.
The many properties of Acetyl L-Carnitine have a profound effect on various functions of the brain. The nootropic can boost memory, increase mental energy, treat mood-related disorders, and prevent age-related cognitive impairment.
- “Acetyl-L-Carnitine as a Precursor of Acetylcholine.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2215852.
- “The Utilization of Fatty Acids as Fuel Requires Three Stages of Processing.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22581/.
- “Comparison of the Effects of Acetyl L-Carnitine and Amantadine for the Treatment of Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis: Results of a Pilot, Randomised, Double-Blind, Crossover Trial.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14759641.
- “Functional Proteomics of Synaptic Plasma Membrane ATP-Ases of Rat Hippocampus: Effect of l-Acetylcarnitine and Relationships with Dementia and Depression Pathophysiology.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25797282.
- “Acetyl-Levo-Carnitine Protects against MPTP-Induced Parkinsonism in Primates.” Springer Link, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02251137 .
- “Meta-Analysis of Double Blind Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials of Acetyl-L-Carnitine versus Placebo in the Treatment of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Mild Alzheimer’s Disease.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12598816.
- “Long-Term Acetyl-L-Carnitine Treatment in Alzheimer’s Disease.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1944900?dopt=Abstract.
- “Acetyl-l-Carnitine Provides Effective in Vivo Neuroprotection over 3,4-Methylenedioximethamphetamine-Induced Mitochondrial Neurotoxicity in the Adolescent Rat Brain.” ScienceDirect, sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306452208015947.
- “Kinetics, Pharmacokinetics, and Regulation of L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine Metabolism.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15591001.
- “Comparison of the Effects of L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine on Carnitine Levels, Ambulatory Activity, and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in the Brain of Old Rats.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15591009.
“Acetyl-L-Carnitine.” NootropicsExpert, https://nootropicsexpert.com/acetyl-l-carnitine/ .
“Acetyl L-Carnitine Effects & Benefits for Cognitive Function.” Nootriment, https://nootriment.com/acetyl-l-carnitine/ .
“ACETYL-L-CARNITINE.” WebMD, www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-834/acetyl-l-carnitine.