What is this medicine?
Acetyl-L-carnitine is made from L-carnitine in the body. L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine are used to help the body turn fat into energy.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is important for many body processes. L-carnitine is made in the human brain, liver, and kidneys. The body can convert L-carnitine to acetyl-L-carnitine and vice versa. It’s not clear if the effects of acetyl-L-carnitine are from the chemical itself, from the L-carnitine it can make, or from some other chemical.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is sometimes used for Alzheimer disease, improving memory and thinking skills, treating symptoms of depression, and reducing nerve pain in people with diabetes. It is used for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
Possibly Effective for
- Decline in memory and thinking skills that occurs normally with age. Taking acetyl-L-carnitine by mouth might improve memory and mental function in older people with some memory loss.
- Tiredness in older adults. Taking acetyl-L-carnitine by mouth might improve mental and physical tiredness in older people. It also seems to reduce tiredness after exercise.
- Alcohol use disorder. Acetyl-L-carnitine given intravenously (by IV) for 10 days and then taken by mouth for 80 days, helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings during alcohol detox. But it’s possible that the benefits are from IV acetyl-L-carnitine only.
- Alzheimer disease. Taking acetyl-L-carnitine by mouth might slow the rate of disease progression, improve memory, and improve some measures of mental function and behavior in some people with Alzheimer disease.
- Depression. Taking 1-4 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine by mouth daily seems to improve mood and decrease depression in some people. It seems to work better in older people and when taken in higher amounts.
- Nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). Taking acetyl-L-carnitine by mouth 2-3 grams daily seems to improve symptoms in people with nerve pain caused by diabetes.
- Conditions in a male that prevent a female partner from getting pregnant (male infertility). Taking acetyl-L-carnitine by mouth along with L-carnitine seems to increase sperm count and sperm movement in males with fertility problems. It’s not clear if taking acetyl-L-carnitine alone helps.
When taken by mouth: Acetyl-L-carnitine is likely safe for most people. It can cause some side effects including stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, headache, and restlessness. It can also cause a “fishy” odor of the urine, breath, and sweat.
Precautions and Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if acetyl-L-carnitine is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Acetyl-L-carnitine is possibly safe for most children when taken by mouth.
Bipolar disorder: Acetyl-L-carnitine might worsen symptoms in people with bipolar disorder who are currently in remission.
Nerve damage in the hands and feet caused by cancer drug treatment: Acetyl-L-carnitine might worsen symptoms in some people with nerve pain caused by a class of chemotherapy drugs known as taxanes.
Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism): There is some concern that acetyl-L-carnitine might interfere with thyroid hormone. Don’t use acetyl-L-carnitine if you have an under-active thyroid.
Seizures: L-carnitine seems to make seizures more likely in people who have had seizures before. Since L-carnitine is related to acetyl-L-carnitine, there is a concern that this might also occur with acetyl-L-carnitine. If you have ever had a seizure, don’t take acetyl-L-carnitine.
Be cautious with this combination:
- Acenocoumarol (Sintrom) interacts with ACETYL-L-CARNITINE
- Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with ACETYL-L-CARNITINE
- Serotonergic drugs interacts with ACETYL-L-CARNITINE
- Thyroid hormone interacts with ACETYL-L-CARNITINE