Acetyl L-carnitine comes from the Latin word for flesh, but don’t let its strange name scare you away. From increased energy to better sleep and improved brain function, this amino acid can tackle more than what “meats” the eye.
What is Acetyl-L Carnitine and How Does the Body Produce it?
Acetyl L-carnitine—or ALCAR—is a compound found in the body that plays a role in producing energy as well as promoting brain function.
Acetyl L-carnitine is made from L-carnitine. Your liver and kidney produce L-carnitine from two amino acids: lysine and methionine. The body can convert acetyl L-carnitine to and from the L-carnitine form, which is used to transport long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria to oxidize or convert fat into energy as well as transport toxins out of the mitochondria.
What are the Benefits of Acetyl L-Carnitine?
While they have many similarities, L-carnitine and acetyl L-carnitine also differ in many ways. Because acetyl L-carnitine can pass through the semi-permeable membrane around your brain—the blood brain barrier (BBB)—it’s able to access the mitochondria in your brain. This helps it provide even more benefits, specifically for cognition and brain function.
While studies on fat-burning results are still mixed, one of the main benefits people look for from acetyl L-carnitine is its function in shuttling fatty acids to the mitochondria in order to turn fat into energy. Because of this, acetyl L-carnitine may help improve both physical and mental energy.1
Memory and Cognition
Acetyl L-carnitine may have some brain-boosting benefits, especially for the aging community. In older adults, acetyl L-carnitine is taken to improve memory and cognitive function. Human studies have shown improvement of age-related cognitive function for older adults with a dosage of 1.5 to 3.0 grams a day.2 Another study also showed improved learning capabilities when acetyl L-carnitine was given to older animals.3
According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million American adults have trouble getting a good night’s sleep.4 With that kind of statistic, it’s no wonder many of us feel exhausted throughout the day. Not getting enough sleep can cause many negative effects, which disrupt sleep-wake cycles.5 Acetyl L-carnitine can pass the blood brain barrier to get directly to the brain and help decrease these negative effects. This can then promote better sleep quality, which can also improve memory.6
What Foods are High in Acetyl L-Carnitine?
Carnitine was originally extracted from meat, so it gets its name for the Latin word for flesh, carnus. It makes sense then that red meat is one of the most common sources of dietary L-carnitine. You can also find high amounts of carnitine in chicken, fish, milk and cheese. It may be beneficial to include acetyl L-carnitine in your wellness routine to ensure you’re getting the proper amount, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan since dietary source options are reduced to foods with low levels of L-carnitine like avocados and beans.
What are the Potential Side Effects of Acetyl L-Carnitine?
Acetyl L-carnitine can interfere with some blood thinning medications, so be sure to speak with your doctor before introducing acetyl L-carnitine into your wellness routine.
What is the Acetyl L-Carnitine Dosage for Adults?
Research shows that differing amounts or dosages of acetyl L-carnitine may be more beneficial for differing wellness needs.
Research has delved into the effectiveness of using acetyl L-carnitine to boost energy as we age, which included a dosage of 2 grams twice daily for 180 days.7
For Memory Health
Studies have focused on an oral dosage of between 1,500 to 2,000 mg of acetyl L-carnitine for a period of 3 months for memory health.7
For Sleep Health
To promote better sleep, research has focused in on 2 grams of acetyl L-carnitine twice a day for 180 days.7
This compound comes with a long list of wellness benefits. From improved quality of sleep to memory support and better energy, acetyl L-carnitine is a nutrient to get hyped about.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like The Difference Between L-Carnitine and Acetyl L-Carnitine, Be a Lean, Mean Body Machine and Nourish Your Noggin.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products
Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food. Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.
1 Malaguarnera M, Gargante MP, Cristaldi E, et al. Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) treatment in elderly patients with fatigue. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2008;46(2):181‐190. doi:10.1016/j.archger.2007.03.012
2 Bella R, Biondi R, Raffaele R, Pennisi G. Effect of acetyl-L-carnitine on geriatric patients suffering from dysthymic disorders. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 1990;10(6):355‐360.
3 Kobayashi S, Iwamoto M, Kon K, Waki H, Ando S, Tanaka Y. Acetyl-L-carnitine improves aged brain function. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2010;10 Suppl 1:S99‐S106. doi:10.1111/j.1447-0594.2010.00595.x
4 ASA Authors & ReviewersSleep Physician, & American Sleep Association Reviewers. (n.d.). Sleep Statistics - Data About Sleep and Sleep Disorders.https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/
5 Mullington, J. M., Simpson, N. S., Meier-Ewert, H. K., & Haack, M. (2010). Sleep loss and inflammation. Best practice & research. Clinical endocrinology & metabolism, 24(5), 775–784. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beem.2010.08.014
6 Alzoubi KH, Rababa'h AM, Owaisi A, Khabour OF. L-carnitine prevents memory impairment induced by chronic REM-sleep deprivation. Brain Res Bull. 2017;131:176‐182. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2017.04.004
7 Acetyl L-Carnitine: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. Web MD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-834/acetyl-l-carnitine
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.