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2013-02-27

Does L-Carnitine Help with Weight Loss?

Here's an interesting study that confirms--almost exactly--what I tell people when they ask me about the use of L-carnitine for weight loss. If you don't know about this amino acid (and you can read more from the links below), L-carnitine is used to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria (the energy-producing parts of our cells) so that the fatty acids can be used to produce energy.

L-carnitine has other uses in the cell as well, but transporting fatty acids is its primary role. Based on this, it's become a popular supplement for weight loss, but there are no human clinical trials to validate its use for this purpose. Therefore, I've always maintained that it's likely a good adjunct nutrient that can boost the effectiveness of a weight loss program, but likely not going to be effective on its own.

Now, here is a small new pilot study that looked at exactly this. The double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study divided 24 overweight Japanese men into the following 4 groups:
  1. Group A: 500mg L-carnitine
  2. Group B: 500mg L-carnitine with motivation training
  3. Group C: placebo
  4. Group D: placebo with motivation training.
"Motivation training" included a 30-minute face-to-face session where subjects learned about the beneficial effect of weight loss on the risk of metabolic diseases, and were encouraged to perform simple daily physical activities like taking stairs instead of using elevators. A reduction in the amount of daily calories consumed was also recommended.

The results at the end of the study showed only Group B showed a statistically significant weight reduction of 1.1 kg compared to an increase of 0.7 kg in Group D.

The study's small sample and short duration of 4 weeks were big limitations in the study's design, but the significance of this study is how little L-carnitine (500 mg is a small dose for supplemental carnitine) was needed to to realize the weight loss benefits.

This definitely gives some much needed evidence to all those people already using L-carnitine for weight loss. Just make sure you're not relying on this in isolation.

Source: A Pilot Clinical Trial on L-Carnitine Supplementation in Combination with Motivation Training: Effects on Weight Management in Healthy Volunteers

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