A European animal study has found that L-carnitine supplementation could become part of treatment for cancer-related cachexia.

Cancer-related cachexia is a devastating wasting syndrome, where the sufferer experiences dramatic muscle loss and weight loss. This is caused by the body’s own immune system which is attempting to fight the cancer, but breaks down and destroys skeletal muscle and fat tissue.

It usually occurs in advanced cancer, and severely affects quality of life. Some patients with cancer cachexia become so frail they cannot even walk.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that about a third of all cancer deaths are caused by cancer cachexia. This is not only due to extreme frailty, but also because cachexia hinders treatment responses.

S Busquets, R Serpe, et al, part of the Cancer Research Group, Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, developed an animal trial to study the effects of L-carnitine on cancer-related cachexia.

L-carnitine is the biologically-active form of the amino acid carnitine. Carnitine is made in the body from two other amino acids: lysine and methionine. It plays a significant role in the metabolism of fatty acids. L-carnitine is a very popular health supplement.

L-carnitine and cancer cachexia animal study

The researchers gave L-carnitine to rats with an extremely cachectic rat tumor. The rats received 1 gram of L-carnitine per kilo of body weight. Food intake, muscle mass, and physical performance were analyzed.

Results were extremely promising. The L-carnitine supplements significantly improved the animal’s food intake. The rats’ muscle weight also improved. The rats’ physical performances improved, as measured by their total physical activity, how quickly they moved, and how far they travelled.

The L-carnitine also affected the cancer genes, possibly causing some apoptosis, or cell death.

The researchers concluded that supplementation with L-carnitine could become part of a successful, non-toxic, therapy for cancer-related cachexia.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22608917