Carnitine Supplements Reverse Glucose Intolerance
Supplementing The Nutrient Carnitine Helps To Clear
The Extra Sugar in Blood, According To Researchers
At Duke University Medical Center.
A team of researchers from the Duke Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition
and Metabolism Center, including scientists from the departments
of medicine, pharmacology and cancer biology performed tests on
human muscle cells that showed supplementing with Carnitine might
help older people with prediabetes, diabetes, and other disorders
that make glucose (sugar) metabolism difficult.
Carnitine is made in the liver and recycled by the kidney, but in some
cases when this is insufficient, dietary Carnitine from red meat and
other animal foods can compensate for the shortfall.
After just eight weeks of supplementation with Carnitine, laboratory
subjects restored their cells' fuel- burning capacity (which was shut
down by a lack of natural carnitine) and improved their glucose
tolerance, a health outcome that indicates a lower risk of diabetes.
These results offer hope for a new therapeutic option for people with
glucose intolerance, older people, people with kidney disease, and
those with type 2 diabetes (also known as adult-onset diabetes).
The study is published in the Aug. 21 issue of the Journal of
The Duke researchers began studying Carnitine more closely when
abnormalities in the nutrient emerged from blood chemistry profiles
of obese and old subjects. These chemical profiles report on
hundreds of by-products of cell metabolism called metabolites and
give scientists an opportunity to identify markers of disease states.
Carnitine is a natural compound known for helping fatty acids enter
the mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, where fatty acids are
"burned" to give cells energy for their various tasks. Carnitine also
helps move excess fuel from cells into the circulating blood, which
then redistributes this energy source to needier organs or to the
kidneys for removal. These processes occur through the formation
of acylcarnitine molecules, energy molecules that can cross
membrane barriers that encase all cells.
Researchers at Duke had observed that skeletal muscle of obese
subjects produced high amounts of the acylcarnitines, which requires
free Carnitine. As these molecules started to accumulate, the
availability of free, unprocessed Carnitine decreased. This
imbalance was linked to fuel-burning problems, that is, impairments
in the cells' combustion of both fat and glucose fuel.
"We suspected that persistent increases in acylcarnitines in the
laboratory subjects were causing problems, and we could also see
that the availability of free Carnitine was decreasing with weight gain
and aging, It appeared that carnitine could no longer do its job when
chronic metabolic disruptions were stressing the system. That's when
we designed an experiment to add extra Carnitine to the diet."
The work was supported by grants from the National Institutes
of Health, and the American Diabetes Association, and a
John A. Hartford Duke Center for Excellence Award.