Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Acetyl-l-carnitine, The Next Anti-aging Brain Nutrient

Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an amino acid derivative instrumental in the biochemical synthesis of acetycholine, an important neurotransmitter without which you would be unable to learn or to memorize anything. However, it has another property: it may be able to provide sufficient nutrition to the brain as to allow it to withstand the ravages of time and aging.

Since time immemorial mankind has sought the elixir of life that can be used to give humans everlasting life. While this has yet to be found there is increasing evidence that research is slowly but steadily identifying the factors that cause aging, and identifying means of overcoming them. Acetyl-L-carnatine is one of those amino acid supplements that is essential to life, and that when combined with other supplements can produce a synergistic effect that shows signs of combating at least some of the oxidative changes in the body that cause aging.

Anti-oxidants such as Vitamins C and E have long been used in attempts to fight against the oxidative effects of free radicals on the body; free radicals that once were the by products of our metabolism and easily combated, but which are now being increasingly generated in our environment through pollution, radiation, excessive exposure to sunlight and cigarette smoke. All of these contribute to aging through the disruption and destruction of body cells by these free radicals.

Acetylcholine is well known to biochemical historians, being one of the first neurotransmitters discovered, and its importance in maintaining the proper operation of the brain is indisputable. It is an essential part of the process that allows brain cells to communicate and to create memory. Not only that, but also to recall memories and to tell muscles when they should and should not contract. As people age their brain cells become less efficient, this mainly being due to a decline in the acetyl-L-carnitine that produces actylcholine in the body with the aid of the enzyme choline acetyl transferase.

To express it simply, acetyl-l-carnitine enables neurons to maintain communication when the levels of enzymes and other necessary chemicals are falling throughout the body due to the slowing of the body with age. If we cannot produce it ourselves, then we can either supply it directly though a supplement, or supply its precursor so that the body has the raw materials to produce it.

Most biochemistry is active throughout our lives: we simply need to provide the raw materials for the necessary reactions to take place. We can do that through supplements. It has been established that a supplement of acetyl-L-carnitine slows the natural mental decline that begins to occur in middle age and to improved memory and concentration. It is extremely useful that it is easily soluble in both water and fats, so that it can be carried to any part of the body that requires an antioxidant effect.

Studies have also indicated that supplemental acetyl-L-carnitine can promote improved energy generation through its effect on fatty acids. This support of the metabolism of fatty acids is indicated by its effect on 'liver spots', which are a recognized sign of aging. These brown spots can be seen on the skin as people age, but the lipofuscin that causes it also affects the internal organs and the brain, and can also appear on the lens of the eye. Lipofuscin is composed of waste products such as damaged proteins and oxidized fats and other lipids. Its production can be held back by antioxidants, and are reduced by supplemental acetyl-L-carnitine.

This is yet another incidence of how ALC can be used to slow done or even reverse, the effects of aging on the human metabolism and brain functions. Animal studies have indicated that this effect is significantly greater when it is used in conjunction with lipoic acid.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant, occurring naturally in beef, kidney, and green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. It is also a coenzyme, working with with other metabolic enzymes to produce energy. Moreover, ALA raises the levels of a substance called glutathione which is critical for the proper functioning of the neurons. However, it is their effect on mitichondria that makes a combination of ALA and ALC so interesting in human biology.

Mitochondria are responsible for the generation of power in all cells in the human body through the biosynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) responsible for all metabolic functions and cell generation. Without mitochondria, oxygen cannot be used. ATP is the substance that is responsible for carrying chemical energy in the body. During aging, mitochondria are damaged by oxidation through free radicals. This induced a general decline in energy and cognitive functions.

However it was found in a study with rats that when acetyl-L-carnitine was provided as a supplement, the age-related decline in mitochondrial activity was reversed and oxidation of fatty acids was increased. As a result of this fatty acid oxidation, even more oxidation damage to the mitochondria occurred. When a supplement of alpha lipoic acid was also given, however, the mitochondrial oxidation was reduced, so that the mitochondria produced a higher energy output with less oxidation damage.

In fact the two worked synergistically, the benefit of acetyl-L-Carnitine and alpha lipoic acid used together being more effective than when given separately. It is possibly the discovery of more such synergistic effects that will eventually lead to longer life spans!

After a period of time, the old rats took on the energy of much younger rats, and the aging process appeared to have reversed. Tests are now under way on humans, and while the doses needed are large, initial results of a 2001 study at San Francisco State University have indicated a reduction in the oxidative stress induced by exercise of a test group in comparison with a placebo control group.

This type of stress as in indication of damage caused by energy output, and relates to aging. It appears, therefore, that a supplement consisting of both acetyl-L- carnitine and alpha lipoic acid is more effective that either alone in improving the degeneration of energy levels as well the decline in cognitive and memory functions that comes with age. It is not yet, however, the elixir of life!

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More information on Acetyl l Carnitine can be found at along with alpha lipoic acid and other great antioxidants to boost health.

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