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Should L-Carnitine Be Added to Hepatitis C Treatment?

October 31, 2016

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A new study urges further investigation into L-Carnitine’s place in fighting Hepatitis C.
Should L-Carnitine Be Added to Hepatitis C Treatment?

An ingredient usually found in powdered shakes for bodybuilders and energy drinks, L-Carnitine is an intriguing supplement that may benefit those with Hepatitis C.

Newly published research on L-Carnitine and Hepatitis C is exciting, but far more studies must come to a similar conclusion before supplementing with L-Carnitine is accepted as a strategy for battling the Hepatitis C virus.

About L-Carnitine

Most sources consider L-Carnitine to be an amino acid, but it technically is a bit different. First studied in the 1950s, L-Carnitine is similar to both amino acids and B vitamins. Formed in the liver and kidneys from the amino acids lysine and methionine, L-Carnitine is stored primarily in the muscles, brain and sperm tissue. Dietary sources of L-Carnitine are largely meat and other animal products – especially red meat. In addition, avocado, peanuts and soybeans contain smaller amounts of L-Carnitine.

One of L-Carnitine’s critical roles in the human body is helping to transport fat into the mitochondria of cells. Once there, the fat can be oxidized to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – our body’s main source of energy. Research shows that L-Carnitine assists the fat to energy function most effectively during intense exercise. To help burn fat and boost energy levels, this is why bodybuilders and elite athletes frequently supplement with L-Carnitine.

Young, healthy people produce all the L-Carnitine they need; however, levels may be depleted in those with chronic liver disease.

L-Carnitine Warnings

A moderate dosage of L-Carnitine is rarely cause for concern, but high doses can cause nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Rare side effects can include muscle weakness in uremic patients and seizures in those with seizure disorders.

Although supplementing with this amino acid/vitamin seems like a great idea, it interacts with several common medications. If you are being treated with any of the following, do not use L-Carnitine without prior physician authorization:

  • Thyroid Hormones – L-Carnitine may stop thyroid hormones from getting into cells, and could make thyroid hormones less effective.
  • Valproic Acid (Depakote) – This anti-seizure medication may lower blood levels of L-Carnitine. For reasons not fully understood, there is a possibility that taking L-Carnitine may increase the risk of seizures in those who are susceptible.
  • Blood Thinning Medications – L-Carnitine may increase the risk of bleeding in people taking blood-thinning medications.

L-Carnitine and Hepatitis C

As described in a 2014 Iranian article in Future Virology, Carnitine blood levels in those with chronic hepatitis are significantly lower than in healthy individuals. Considering that the liver is one of the locations this substance is produced – and chronic hepatitis progressively damages the liver – these findings come as little surprise.

A recently published study gives reason to include L-Carnitine in Hepatitis C treatment regimens. Published in a September 2016 edition of the Journal of Medical Virology, Japanese researchers acknowledged that the Hepatitis C virus hijacks fat metabolism in infected liver cells. Because it is involved in transporting fat to the mitochondria, the researchers analyzed the effect L-Carnitine has on the Hepatitis C virus. They found that L-Carnitine reduced Hepatitis C activity and demonstrated antioxidant properties in Hepatitis C-infected liver cells. They concluded that L-Carnitine be considered as an effective adjunctive agent in antiviral treatment for chronic Hepatitis C.

One study does not constitute sufficient evidence for implementing a supplement regimen concurrent with Hepatitis C treatment protocols. However, eating foods high in L-Carnitine or taking it at moderate dosages as a supplement could help reduce Hepatitis C viral load while supporting your ability to burn fat and gain energy – particularly if intense exercise is part of your daily routine.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10620-007-9983-1, L-Carnitine Treatment Reduces Steatosis in Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C Treated with α-Interferon and Ribavirin, M. Romano, et al, Retrieved September 25, 2016, Digestive Diseases and Sciences, April 2008.

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/carnitine-lcarnitine, Carnitine (L-Carnitine), Retrieved September 25, 2016, University of Maryland Medical Center, 2016.

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/your-expert-guide-to-l-carnitine.html, Your Expert Guide to L-Carnitine, Jim Stoppani, PhD, Retrieved September 25, 2016, Bodybuilding.com, 2016.

http://www.drwhitaker.com/health-benefits-of-l-carnitine/, Health Benefits of L-Carnitine, Dr. Julian Whitaker, Retrieved September 25, 2016, DrWhitaker.com, 2016.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/825664, Serum Carnitine Level and Its Associated Factors in Patients With Chronic Viral Hepatitis, A. Nassirir, et al, Retrieved September 25, 2016, Future Virology, 2014.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27664407, Anti-adipogenic and antiviral effects of L-carnitine on hepatitis C virus infection, Tsukuda, Y, et al, Retrieved September 25, 2016, Journal of Medical Virology, September 2016.

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