There are two amino acids that often get mixed up: carnitine and carnosine. What are they and how do they differ? Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Normally, when you eat proteins your body breaks them down into their basic units, called amino acids. Then your body puts them back together in a new way to build protein in your body, such as muscles and organs, and it is used for other bodily functions as well.
Carnitine is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body cannot produce it on its own, so it must be gotten through diet, specifically from protein foods (meats, fish, and eggs have all 22 common amino acids), but can also be taken as an amino acid supplement.
Carnosine is a non-essential amino acid, which means that your body produces it on its own; therefore, it is not usually needed as a supplement.
Both carnitine and carnosine can be taken as supplements, but be careful doing so without checking with your doctor (whether separately or together) first since they can have side effects, especially if you are taking certain medications. Normal amounts of carnitine and carnosine that are gotten through food do not apply.
Carnitine and carnosine are usually connected with other amino acids:
Carnitine is synthesized from the amino acids methionine and lysine.
Carnosine is made from the amino acids histidine and alanine.
Carnitine and carnosine health benefits
Carnitine helps the body burn fat by transporting fatty acids, and it also flushes toxins out of the mitochondria within cells. Carnitine is found in concentrations within the cardiac muscle and skeletal muscles. It also could possibly aid in reducing symptoms of people with an overactive thyroid. People who have diabetic neuropathy may also find some pain relief, thanks to carnitine.
Carnosine works differently than carnitine. In effect, it is an antioxidant. It functions within the brain, nervous system, and skeletal muscles. Interestingly, this amino acid can help remove excess zinc and copper out of the body in a process known as chelation. It may also help with cataracts and speed up wound healing.
Carnitine and carnosine are complimentary for diseases
Carnitine and carnosine both have anti-aging effects, plus reduces the speed of memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) age-related patients.
Another area is autism, where the carnitine and carnosine both function to help autism as an alternative treatment. When comparing these two amino acids for autism treatment, Michael Chez, M.D., et al. (Nov 2002 Journal of Child Neurology) and Dan Rossignol, M.D., (Oct 2009 Clinical Psychiatry), reported that carnitine got a grade “B” for improving symptoms of autism, while carnosine got a grade “C” for improving communication and behavior.
These two amino acids also help improve cardiovascular function, but they do so in different ways. Carnitine reduces the symptoms of heart angina and peripheral vascular disease. Carnosine reduces the risk for developing atherosclerosis plus can help reduce cholesterol.
An important note: some physicians believe people should avoid taking D-carnitine because it can interfere with L-carnitine, which is naturally found in the body. Because of this, you should ask your physician before taking both carnitine and carnosine as supplements.