Glucose Management: The Carnitine Connection

Glucose Management: The Carnitine Connection: What if blood glucose could be flushed from the system using a common nutrient found in many foods? But what if eating some of those foods might in turn make you more liable to develop diabetes? This is a puzzle potentially solved in the nutrient carnitine.

The National Institute on health describes carnitine as one that “Plays a critical role in energy production. It transports long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria so they can be oxidized (“burned”) to produce energy. It also transports the toxic compounds generated out of this cellular organelle to prevent their accumulation. Given these key functions, carnitine is concentrated in tissues like skeletal and cardiac muscle that utilize fatty acids as a dietary fuel.”

Beefsteak has one of the highest concentrations of carnitine, but most medical professionals would not urge a diabetic to consume large quantities of steak in order to gain the benefit of this desirable nutrient.

In typical adults there is enough existing carnitine in their body to allow for proper regulation of blood glucose. However, there may now be evidence to suggest that in some individuals the addition of a carnitine supplement could prove valuable in diabetes management.

Duke University conducted tests on rats using carnitine. According to, “After just eight weeks of supplementation with carnitine, the obese rats restored their cells’ fuel burning capacity (which was shut down by a lack of natural carnitine) and improved their glucose tolerance, a health outcome that indicates a lower risk of diabetes.”

Plans are in place to transfer the study from rats to humans in an effort verify the original findings. Researchers believe that the addition of carnitine could allow for improve glucose tolerance in both obese and older individuals. This is exciting news because it could mean a new therapy that allows at risk individuals to avoid developing diabetes while allowing those already diagnosed with an improved means of blood sugar control.

Deborah Muoio, Ph.D., of the Duke told, “We suspected that persistent increases in acylcarnitines in the rats were causing problems, and we could also see that the availability of free carnitine was decreasing with weight gain and aging. It appeared that carnitine could no longer do its job when chronic metabolic disruptions were stressing the system. That’s when we designed an experiment to add extra carnitine to the rats’ diet.”

When carnitine was added fat burning functions improved and the rats lost weight and improved vigor.

Experts agree that tighter control on blood glucose allows for the best long-term health outcomes for diabetic patients. Carnitine supplements could provide the fuel-burning boost needed to achieve reduced weight and flush excess blood glucose from the body.

The NIH adds, “Insulin resistance, which plays an important role in the development of type 2 diabetes, may be associated with a defect in fatty-acid oxidation in muscle. This raises the question as to whether mitochondrial dysfunction might be a factor in the development of the disease. Increased storage of fat in lean tissues has become a marker for insulin resistance. Early research suggests that supplementation with L-carnitine intravenously may improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics by decreasing fat levels in muscle and may lower glucose levels in the blood by more promptly increasing its oxidation in cells. A recent analysis of two multicenter clinical trials of subjects with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes found that treatment with acetyl-L-carnitine (3 grams/day orally) for one year provided significant relief of nerve pain and improved vibration perception in those with diabetic neuropathy. The treatment was most effective in subjects with type 2 diabetes of short duration.”