Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) are two natural compounds that are believed to boost mitochondrial function and provide energy for all bodily functions. ALA is a strong antioxidant that generates energy by breaking down carbohydrates, while ALCAR acts as a vessel that transports fatty acids to the mitochondria, oxidizing them for energy production.
Our bodies can produce ALCAR and ALA, but as we age our bodies become less efficient in their production which causes mitochondria to wear out over time. Scientists have speculated in recent years that worn-out mitochondria may contribute to a variety of age-related issues, such as memory loss, Parkinson’s disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
As a result, people often turn to the use of supplements that contain both compounds to alleviate their health conditions.
Benefits Of Acetyl-L-Carnitine And Alpha-Lipoic Acid
ALCAR and ALA have been tested more thoroughly in animals than in humans. However, there are reasons to believe that these compounds can provide various benefits to the body and that their combined benefits are quite groundbreaking.
Prevents Parkinson’s Disease
Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative damage play a vital role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. PD therapy often uses mitochondrial antioxidants, like alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine, to improve mitochondrial function and heal oxidative damage. Recent research has looked into the preventive effects of combining mitochondrial antioxidants and other nutrients against Parkinson’s disease.
One study examined the combined effect of the two supplements in a chronic cellular model of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers found that administering alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine treatment for four weeks significantly protected cells against mitochondrial dysfunction. They discovered that both supplements worked more effectively together at lower concentrations than individually at higher dosages.
Furthermore, pretreatment with alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine increased mitochondrial biogenesis, while decreasing reactive oxygen species production. Thus, this study served as vital evidence that combining ALCAR and ALA at optimal dosages may be an effective prevention strategy for Parkinson’s disease.
Delays Mitochondrial Decay
Mitochondrial decay is linked to the aging process in all organisms. It reduces cellular energy production and jeopardizes ATP-dependent cellular functions, like detoxification, system repairs, DNA replication, and osmotic balance. Sometimes mitochondrial decay can increase oxidant production, putting the cell at risk of oxidative stress and making the heart more susceptible to mitochondrial dysfunction due to myocardial dependency on beta-oxidation of fatty acids to produce energy.
Therefore, preserving mitochondrial function is critical for the protection of myocardial function.
In a study that used alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine to address mitochondrial decay and its subsequent effects, it was found that ALCAR alone cannot reverse the age-related decline in cardiac antioxidant status. In contrast, combining ALCAR with ALA increases low molecular weight antioxidants and decreases age-associated oxidative insult, which provides evidence that this supplement combination is effective in maintaining myocardial function.
Another study utilized the combination of alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine towards mitochondrial decay in the brains of old rats. The findings suggest that oxidative mitochondrial decay is linked to brain aging and that combining the two mitochondrial-targeting supplements can reduce mitochondrial decay by preventing mitochondrial oxidative damage.
Helps With Mood Disorders
Over the last several years, researchers have conducted studies regarding the assumed neurotherapeutic effects of acetyl-L-carnitine, L-carnitine, and alpha-lipoic acid. Experimental studies have shown that administration of acetyl-L-carnitine daily can improve mood and decrease depression in some people and that it works best in older populations. On the other hand, ALA has been found to play a role in the treatment of depression in diabetic patients by increasing insulin activity, which has been shown to treat depression.
Due to the positive results of these individual studies, researchers decided to determine the efficacy of combining both mitochondrial antioxidants in treating neurocognitive deficits associated with mood disorders in a study that evaluated the neuropathic effects of ALCAR and ALA. Results indicated that L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid offer neuropathic effects through a disparate anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and metabolic regulation mechanism. Preliminary controlled trials also indicate that ALCAR has an antidepressant effect.
Thus, it has been shown that when combined, acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, and L-carnitine have significant neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects.
Improves Vascular Function
When plaque accumulates in the arteries, it blocks and reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood that’s supplied to the heart. This results in shortness of breath and chest pain and if not treated promptly, it has the potential to lead to a heart attack.
Mitochondria generate reactive oxygen species which contribute to vascular dysfunction. It has been discovered that combining alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine reduces oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species and improves mitochondrial function. It also aids in the reduction of plaque buildup in the arteries, resulting in a more consistent flow of oxygen-rich blood.
Although ALA and ALCAR target mitochondrial function and energy production, they also influence many other bodily functions, such as supporting homeostasis.
A study from Boston Medical Center examined the combined effects of alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine compared to placebo treatment on vascular dysfunction and blood pressure in people with coronary artery disease. The researchers found that the combined treatment increases brachial artery diameter, which is consistent with lowering arterial tones, and allows average circulation with minimal risk of a heart attack. The results also demonstrated a significant decrease in the subjects’ systolic blood pressure, contributing to the sub-group with blood pressure above median level and metabolic syndrome.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid And Acetyl-L-Carnitine Side Effects
According to research, adults can take up to 2,400 mg of ALA without experiencing harmful side effects. However, higher doses are not recommended as no studies have proven that higher dosages provide extra benefits.
The most common side effects from taking ALA include nausea and skin rash, or itching. If you have low blood sugar or feel like passing out, it’s advisable to discontinue its use and contact your physician. If you are experiencing allergic reaction symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or swelling of the lips, throat, and tongue, you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Taking acetyl-L-carnitine is generally considered safe, though there are some potential side effects. Nausea, upset stomach, vomiting, dry mouth, tiredness, and headache are common side effects and some studies say its use can cause a foul odor or bad breath.
People who have the following conditions should avoid acetyl-L-carnitine: bipolar disorder, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), history of seizures, chemotherapy-induced nerve pain. Pregnant women should also avoid its use.
Most children can safely take acetyl-L-carnitine orally, but we always recommend consulting with a medical professional prior to use.
What To Look For In Acetyl-L-Carnitine And Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplements
Only a few brands combine alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine, making it easier to choose a product. However, to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, here are some things to look for when purchasing these supplements.
The recommended dosage for alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine supplements varies according to age. Adults should consume 800 mg of ALCAR and 400 mg of ALA daily. Children should take half the recommended dosage for adults.
Clinically Tested and Proven
Purchasing a product with no evidence of clinical trials for efficacy means that there’s a huge chance you’re just wasting your money. Some manufacturers sell their products without scientific testing, so you should always look for a stamp indicating that the Food and Drug Administration regulates the product.
Pure Raw Ingredients
Some products are combined with other ingredients to maximize their benefits, but this may impact the combined benefits of ALCAR and ALA. It’s always best to use supplements that are free of preservatives or flavoring to enhance bioavailability and prevent potential ingredient interactions.
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Studies You Can Read About Acetyl L-Carnitine And Alpha Lipoic Acid
- A Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acetyl-L-Carnitine and α-Lipoic Acid in the Treatment of Bipolar Depression (J Clin Psychopharmacol, 2013)
- The effect of acetyl-L-carnitine and R-α-lipoic acid treatment in ApoE4 mouse as a model of human Alzheimer’s disease (Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 2009)
- Alpha lipoic acid: a novel treatment for depression (Medical Hypotheses, 2000)
- Effect of combined treatment with Alpha Lipoic Acid and Acetyl L-Carnitine on Vascular Function and Blood Pressure in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease (Wiley, 2007)
- Mitochondrial Decay in the Brains of Old Rats: Ameliorating Effect of Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-carnitine (Springer Link 2008)
Editor’s note: we are regularly updating this review. If you see any problems, weird interpretations of the data, or just want to say hi, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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