One of the most important, yet overlooked, nutrients for heart health is L-Carnitine. When I first started combining L-Carnitine with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) back in the 1990s, few doctors knew about the importance of supplementing with this heart nutrient. But taking it with CoQ10 can make a huge difference in your heart health.
What is L-Carnitine? It’s a water-soluble nutrient made up of two amino acids, lysine, and methionine. L-Carnitine is found in all living tissue, including your adrenal glands, skeletal system, kidneys, brain, and heart.
The primary role of L-Carnitine is creating energy. It shuttles oxygen and fatty acids to your cells where coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) helps to convert them into energy. Plus, L-Carnitine helps to recycle CoQ10, so your cells stay fueled for energy.
L-Carnitine Also Protects Your Heart by Removing Waste
After energy is generated in your cells, L-Carnitine picks up the toxic fatty acid byproducts of the energy production process—shuttling this waste out of your cells. If L-Carnitine didn’t clear out waste, those toxic fatty acid byproducts would build up in the cells, placing severe stress on your heart. Not only would you end up with damage to your cell membranes, over time you could end up with atherosclerosis of the heart.
The other problem is that if the waste is not cleared out, those toxic energy production by-products can cause vasoconstriction (narrowing of the arteries). That’s why I’ve found that supplementing with L-Carnitine is helpful for people with claudication of the extremities, which is pain or cramping in the legs with activity, including walking. That’s because L-Carnitine delivers oxygen to blocked arteries, helps to keep arteries relaxed, and can even help to treat congestive heart failure.
L-Carnitine also acts as a vasodilator, helping to open blood vessels so blood can flow to your heart, muscles, and other tissues throughout your body. For all these reasons, L-Carnitine can also be helpful in treating congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, angina, and cholesterol disorders.
Are You Getting Enough L-Carnitine?
The word "carnitine" comes from the Latin carnis, meaning flesh or meat. We get some L-Carnitine benefits through our food. It's most abundantly found in red meat. Lamb is by far the best source of this amino acid, but you can also get the benefits of L-Carnitine in pork, beef, and poultry.
Although deficiencies in L-Carnitine are rare in healthy, well-nourished people who consume adequate amounts of animal protein, many vegetarians (particularly vegans, or “pure” or “strict” vegetarians) become deficient to some degree. Without meat, eggs, or dairy products, their diets often come up short on the many L-Carnitine benefits.
I’ve seen severe deficiencies among vegetarian patients with heart failure or extreme fatigue. So, for these people, supplementing with 250 to 500 mg of L-Carnitine has always made a positive difference in the number of L-Carnitine benefits they are getting.
How Much L-Carnitine Should You Take?
To get the maximum benefits of L-Carnitine, I recommend taking 150-450 mg daily in divided doses. You can take up to 1-1.5 grams daily if you have congestive heart failure, which requires higher amounts of supplementation. If heart failure is a concern, I especially recommend taking L-Carnitine with other nutrients that support the heart, including CoQ10 (100-150 mg daily), magnesium (400-800 mg daily), and D-ribose (5 grams twice daily).