July 31, 2001
Carnitine is an amino acid that is used to help move fatty substances to places inside cells where they can be burnt to release energy. The parts of a cell where this energy release takes place are called mitochondria. Carnitine can also act as an antioxidant and appears to play a role in maintaining the health of nerves and protecting the liver and kidneys from the toxicity of drugs. Carnitine exists in several forms; the two most commonly used are L-carnitine and L-acetyl-carnitine.
A number of studies have found that people with HIV/AIDS (PHAs) may have less-than-normal levels of carnitine. Signs/symptoms of carnitine deficiency include the following:
Researchers enrolled 16 adult subjects who had the following profile at the start of the study:
Subjects received 3 grams of L-carnitine daily for an average of nine months.
One month after entering the study TG levels had decreased by an average of 39% -- a significant decrease from their pre-study levels. This decrease was maintained throughout the study.
According to the researchers, "near-normal TG levels (3 mmol/Litre or lower)" were seen in 54% of subjects after two months of L-carnitine use, and in 69% of subjects after their last lab test. There were no significant changes in cholesterol or glucose levels during the study.
No serious side effects from L-carnitine were reported and, at a dose of 3 grams/day, L-carnitine appears to be relatively safe. The results of this pilot study will be used to plan a larger more complex trial. Carnitine is sold in North America as the prescription drug Carnitor. L-carnitine and L-acetyl-carnitine are also available from some health food stores, particularly in the United States.