How L-carnosine supports healthy aging
L-carnosine is an amino acid, a component of protein that the body doesn’t obtain from dietary sources but is able to make using the amino acids alanine and histidine.
It is highly concentrated in the brain and nervous system, kidneys, stomach, cardiac muscles, the lens of the eyes, and skeletal muscle. Its exact function in the body is not known, but experts believe it possesses antioxidant, buffering and immune-enhancing and neurotransmitter actions. The body’s L-carnosine levels fall in muscle tissues after infections, trauma and shock.
L-carnosine normalizes heart contractions, and it can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease and cataracts and plays a role in healing wounds.
L-carnosine and aging
While the cognitive ability in adults changes in varying degrees with age, most will retain the skills and knowledge supported by experience, education and long-term memory.
Cognitive decline usually occurs only in the area of “fluid” intelligence, which includes mental flexibility, mental multi-tasking, learning new information, short-term memory, and abilities not based on experience or education.
Researchers think one of the causes of age-related cognitive impairment is free radical accumulation that interferes with the biochemistry of the brain.
One such condition is Parkinson’s disease, an illness of brain chemistry and motor skills that affects an estimated 7-10 million people worldwide. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 96% of people which the disease are older than 50.
Cells that form the chemical dopamine break down and the brain can no longer instruct the body to move on command. A common treatment is taking the medication L‐dopa, which replaces the body’s dopamine supply, but it doesn’t prevent the cause – the free radical accumulation and destruction of dopamine.
In a study, patients with Parkinson’s who took 1.5 g per day of L-carnosine with L-dopa significantly improved neurological symptoms, including increasing hand and leg flexibility. Its ability to activate monoamine oxidase B, the enzyme that breaks down dopamine, and decrease oxidation of proteins and lipids is considered the mechanism of action.
Cataracts is an eye disease that clouds the lens and leads to vision loss and causes 50% of global blindness cases. It occurs most frequently in developing nations due to significant nutritional deficiencies, but also impacts those in the developed world due to complications associated with diabetes, prolonged exposure to sunlight and tobacco and alcohol use.
The standard treatment is surgery, but researchers have developed an eye drop made with L-carnosine that can heal corneal erosion and improve vision acuity and lens clarity. Participants in a study evaluating the eye drops’ effectiveness found that after 2 to 6 months of treatment their eye quality improved, and the results could be sustained for another 24 months. L-carnosine protects the eye lens from protein formation and removes the existing protein.
As people age, the body’s digestive function may develop issues such as low stomach acid, gastroenteritis, infrequent bowel elimination and ulcers. The discomfort of the symptoms and the tangential effect of reducing the nutrient absorption in the intestines and availability to all of body’s systems and processes, requires a solution. For treating ulcers, the medication polaprezinc that includes as ingredients L-carnosine and zinc has ameliorated mucosal injury in medical studies.
Oxidation is an additional age-related disease precursor that environmental pollutants and the over-burdening of the body’s natural stores of antioxidants exacerbate.
Healthy cells are damaged when oxygen circulates in the body, and the resulting free radicals are normally neutralized by the body’s antioxidant defense system. In modern times, however, the sheer high-level load of toxins in the environment resulting from stress increases the number of free radical-induced mutations in healthy DNA, which if left untreated replicate and develop disease.
To compensate for the extra oxidation damage, supplementing with dietary or nutraceutical antioxidants is necessary to prevent cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
L-carnosine is an antioxidant with the particular functions of chelating to heavy metals, which helps reduce the amount of toxic material in the body and it scavenges free radicals resulting from the oxidation of sugar, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and protein.
How can I add L-carnosine to my diet?
Beef, pork, poultry, and fish provide the protein the body needs to develop L-carnosine.
You can take an L-carnosine supplement as a capsule, tablet, powder or liquid. A physician may be able to administer an injectable form to treat a diagnosed health disorder. The form found in the eye drop medication is N-alpha-acetyl-carnosine.
How much should I take?
The recommended standard dose is 50–150 mg with an upper intake of approximately 1,000 mg daily. As the research on L-carnosine is relatively new, the dosage determination is an ongoing process.
You should take an amino acid supplement 30 minutes before or 2 hours after a meal. This is because when you take it with food it competes with protein for absorption.
Patients with manic or hyperactive autism who take an L-carnosine supplement may show signs of increased irritability, hyperactivity or insomnia with higher doses. The symptoms typically decrease when you reduce the dose of L-carnosine or other medication you are taking.
L-carnosine supplements can lower blood pressure and may contraindicate with a blood pressure medication. Discuss all supplement use with a physician to determine the correct dosage.
- New York University Langone Medical Center. “Carnosine.” 2013.
- Gariballa, Salah, E., et al. Age and Ageing. “Carnosine: Physiological Properties and Therapeutic Potential.” 2000. http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/3/207.full.pdf
- English, Jim. Nutrition Review. “L-Carnosine and Autism.”
- Parkison’s Disease Foundation. http://www.pdf.org/en/parkinson_statistics
- Hipkiss, Alan R. Advances in Food and Nutrition Research. “Carnosine and Its Possible Roles in Nutrition and Health.” 2009. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19595386
- Tsai, S.J., et al. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. “Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Protection from Carnosine in the Striatum of MPTP-Treated Mice.” 2010 Oct 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20925384
Last reviewed 12/Jun/2017