Acetyl l-carnitine Benefits
Last updated on June 17th, 2016
Acetyl l-carnitine is not a common treatment for diabetes mellitus. It is considered an alternative treatment for the disease and, when it is used, it is used in the management of diabetic neuropathy, which is diabetic nerve pain of the feet, hands, and legs that causes numbness and/or burning pain from glucose affecting the nerves. The nerves furthest away from the center of the body are the greatest ones affected.
In one study, acetyl l-carnitine was studied among a group of patients who had diabetic neuropathy. It was a double blind study, which means that neither the participants nor the researches knew who got the acetyl l-carnitine and who got the placebo (fake) medication.
The results of the study showed that giving acetyl l-carnitine significantly improved the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy among the participants who took the supplement. Both objective and subjective measurements of nerve dysfunction were looked at. They found that people who took 1,000 milligrams of the supplement three times per day had a better resolution of their symptoms when compared to those who took only 500 milligrams three times a day.
Another study looked at the effectiveness of acetyl l-carnitine in type 2 diabetics who had insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when there is enough insulin to go around but the cells don’t respond to the insulin. The end result is high blood sugar and cells starved of glucose.
The researchers also looked at the use of acetyl l-carnitine in participants with metabolic syndrome. This is a condition in which there is truncal obesity, high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
The researchers felt that acetyl l-carnitine could interact with fat and carbohydrate metabolism, positively impacting patients with type 2 diabetes. They gave participants an intravenous infusion of acetyl l-carnitine to see if it would improve the usage of glucose by the cells by restoring the activity of an enzyme in the liver known as glycogen synthase.
They looked at a pilot research study in participants who were healthy with the exception of having decreased insulin sensitivity. They weren’t yet diabetic but they were probably prediabetic by virtue of having insulin resistance. The participants took acetyl l-carnitine while the researchers studied the level of insulin sensitivity.
They found that those participants who took acetyl l-carnitine had an improvement in their insulin resistance as well as a significant reduction in their systolic blood pressure. The diastolic blood pressure, however, did not change. They didn’t know if the reduction in blood pressure was the direct effect of taking the acetyl l-carnitine or whether it was related to having improved insulin sensitivity. They did notice that, after treating the participants with acetyl l-carnitine, the blood pressure went back up again after the treatment was stopped.
In the research study, the researchers found that taking the acetyl l-carnitine as a supplement was well tolerated by the participants and they felt that acetyl l-carnitine would be a good new treatment for diabetic patients who also suffered from high blood pressure.
The study was randomized, meaning they didn’t choose who got the supplement and who didn’t. It was also double blind and prospective, meaning that the study hadn’t been done in the past but started with the giving of the acetyl l-carnitine or placebo treatment to the participants. The participants were also taking conventional medications for elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure with the acetyl l-carnitine added onto the existing treatment.
The reduction in blood pressure was found to be significant and the researchers determined that taking acetyl l-carnitine might be a good treatment for diabetics who had high blood pressure and who were at risk for heart disease because of their underlying conditions.
In yet another study, researchers looked at two other studies that were done for a year each. In the original studies, the participants were randomized and placebo pills were given in some of the participants. The placebo was matched against giving acetyl l-carnitine in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.
A total of 1,257 participants were enrolled in the two studies and the end result was the determination of the level of symptoms of diabetic neuropathy as well as objective measures of nerve damage, such as vibration perception, nerve conduction velocities, and sural nerve morphometry. A clinical score tool was used to see how much the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy affected each participant.
When the studies were combined, the researchers found that there was a significant improvement in the sural nerve function and in the regeneration of nerve fibers in the lower leg. There was not, however, an improvement in nerve conduction amplitude or nerve conduction speed. Vibration perception by the participants did improve in both studies. There was a significant improvement in nerve pain among those participants who took 1,000 milligrams of acetyl l-carnitine per day.
In the end, the researchers concluded that acetyl l-carnitine was successful in controlling the painful symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, and improved the regeneration of nerve fibers and vibration sensation in diabetic patients who had diabetic neuropathy.
Acetyl l-carnitine is still in the research phase and it is not a commonly used treatment for insulin resistance or diabetic neuropathy. It is, however, a supplement that a person could get over the counter and, with a doctor’s permission, could try taking the supplement for their diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. It apparently can be mixed with other high blood pressure and diabetic treatments so that it can be used even if the person was on another treatment for their diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Alternative Treatments for type 2 diabetes. http://www.prevention.com/health/diabetes/alternative-treatments-type-2-diabetes.
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine in type 2 diabetes. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00984750.
- Acetyl-l-Carnitine Improves Pain, Nerve Regeneration, and Vibratory Perception in Patients With Chronic Diabetic Neuropathy. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/28/1/89.full.