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Supplements

Carnosine (N-Acetyl-L-carnosine)

What Is It?
Health Benefits

Forms

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects

Cautions

References
Evidence Based Rating Scale 

What Is It? 

Carnosine (not to be confused with carnitine) is in a class of chemical compounds known as dipeptides, which are composed of two amino acids joined by a single chemical bond. The compound was first discovered in bovine muscle over 100 years ago and is composed of the two amino acids beta-alanine and L-histidine. Carnosine occurs naturally in skeletal muscle, the heart, the brain, and in other nerve tissues.  

Health Benefits 

Carnosine has been cited for its antioxidant properties and anti-aging properties. (1) Specifically, carnosine may help to: 

Increase muscle contraction. Carnosine appears to be concentrated in muscles that are actively contracting and may be lower in conditions such as muscular dystrophy, a condition involving muscle tissue loss and muscle weakness. Carnosine levels also seem to correlate with age; since lower carnosine levels are seen in older individuals. (2)  

The amino acids of carnosine and of caffeine are in a chemical group named imidazoles, which are natural compounds that contain nitrogen in their structure. Early studies indicate the nitrogen in caffeine drugs causes muscle contractions by releasing calcium present in the muscles. In a 1992 animal study, carnosine and other imidazoles were examined to determine if they exhibited the same effect on calcium sensitivity and skeletal muscle contraction as caffeine. The study proposed carnosine and its related imidazoles were natural calcium sensitizers in skeletal muscles; thus lowered carnosine levels may affect calcium-dependent muscle contraction. Preliminary studies suggest carnosine may play a role in regulating calcium levels and muscle contraction in heart muscle as well as in skeletal muscle. (2-5) 

Improve brain function after cerebral ischemia. Insufficient blood flow to a portion of the brain, known as cerebral ischemia, is one form of brain “stroke” (the other form of stroke is caused by hemorrhage in the brain).  In a 2008 animal study, ischemic mice injected with carnosine showed significantly improved neurological function for up to seven days after the injections were completed. The study suggested the neuroprotective effects of carnosine should be studied as a possible therapy for ischemic strokes. (6) 

Slow the aging process. Two of the characteristics of aging, cellular damage and oxidative stress, may benefit from carnosine. As the cells in our bodies age, the structure of the proteins in these cells is chemically altered, causing them to react with other chemical groups. In vitro laboratory studies showed carnosine reacted with the altered proteins by slowing their reactions with other chemical groups. If the same reactions occur in cells of the body, it could explain the mechanism for carnosine's anti-aging properties. (7) 

Oxidative stress produces free radicals, which damage cells and must be "mopped up" by antioxidants. Carnosine is one of the most abundant antioxidants in the brain. A recent laboratory study showed the N-acetyl derivative of carnosine inhibited brain inflammation and oxidative stress. (8)

A carnosine-derived lubricant eye drop developed by a company in Delaware is being tested in a large-scale study. Preliminary studies indicate the drops may promote healthy vision and prevent the vision disabilities of diabetes, aging, glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. (11) 

Reduce complications of diabetes. Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) are derived from sugar and production is accelerated in diabetic patients. AGE's are one of the causes of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which is considered the primary cause of diabetic complications. Laboratory studies indicate carnosine inhibits protein alterations caused by AGE's that cause diabetic complications such as kidney failure, cataracts, and neuropathy, or nerve damage. (9-10) 

Prevent Alzheimer's disease.  Animal studies indicate the antioxidant and anti-glycating properties (inhibitory effect on AGE's) of carnosine prevent cell damage in the brains of rats. Both of these properties are indicated in the neural and skin cell damage of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, the olfactory lobe of the brain, which is responsible for the perception of odors, is normally rich in carnosine. Damage to the olfactory tissue and loss of sense of smell are associated with early signs of Alzheimer's. These observations suggest carnosine therapy may be beneficial in preventing Alzheimer's; more studies are needed. (12-13) 

Treat autism. Carnosine has shown some benefit in autistic children. In one study, 31 autistic children were given either 800mg of L-carnosine or placebo for eight weeks. The carnosine group showed significant improvements on the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale and on the Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test. (15) The mechanism is unclear; however carnosine helps to rid the body of heavy metals such as zinc and copper that can cause neurotoxicity. (14) 

Forms 

  • Tablets
  • Eye drops (N-acetyl derivative) 

Dosage Information 

  • 800 mg per day 

Guidelines for Use 

No therapeutic guidelines for carnosine have been established. In one study, 800 mg per day for eight weeks was shown to be safe and beneficial in children with autism. 

General Interaction 

There are no known drug interactions for carnosine. If you are taking any medication, consult your physician before taking carnosine. 

Possible Side Effects 

There are no known side effects of carnosine supplementation. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, consult your physician before taking carnosine 

Cautions 

Currently, no cautions have been reported with carnosine. 

References 

1. Kohen R, Yamamoto Y, Cundy KC, Ames BN. Antioxidant activity of carnosine, homocarnosine, and anserine present in muscle and brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 May;85(9):3175-9.
2. Lamont C, Miller DJ. Calcium sensitizing action of carnosine and other endogenous imidazoles in chemically skinned striated muscle. J Physiol. 1992 Aug;454:421-34.
3. Chapman RA, Miller DJ. Structure-activity relations for caffeine: a comparative study of the inotropic effects of the methylxanthines, imidazoles and related compounds on the frog's heart. J Physiol. 1974 Nov;242(3):615-34.
4. Miller DJ, Thieleczek R. Calcium release by caffeine and other methylxanthines in skinned skeletal muscle fibres. [proceedings] J Physiol. 1977 Dec;273(2):67P-68P.
5. Zaloga GP, Roberts PR, Black KW, et al. Carnosine is a novel peptide modulator of intracellular calcium and contractility in cardiac cells. Am J Physiol 1997;272:H462-8.
6. Min J, Senut MC, Rajanikant K, Greenberg E, Bandagi R, Zemke D, Mousa A, Kassab M, Farooq MU, Gupta R, Majid A. Differential neuroprotective effects of carnosine, anserine, and N-acetyl carnosine against permanent focal ischemia. J Neurosci Res. 2008 Oct;86(13):2984-91.
7. Brownson C, Hipkiss AR. Carnosine reacts with a glycated protein. Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 May 15;28(10):1564-70.
8. Fleisher-Berkovich S, Abramovitch-Dahan C, Ben-Shabat S, Apte R, Beit-Yannai E. Inhibitory effect of carnosine and N-acetyl carnosine on LPS-induced microglial oxidative stress and inflammation. Peptides. 2009 Jul;30(7):1306-12. Epub 2009 Apr 10.
9. Peppa M, Uribarri, J, Vlassara H. Glucose, advanced glycation end products, and diabetes complications: what is new and what works. Clinical Diabetes. October, 2003; 21(4):186-187.
10. Hipkiss AR, Chana H. Carnosine protects proteins against methylglyoxal-mediated modifications. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1998 Jul 9;248(1):28-32.
11. Babizhayev MA, Micans P, Guiotto A, Kasus-Jacobi A. N-Acetylcarnosine lubricant eyedrops possess all-in-one universal antioxidant protective effects of L-Carnosine in aqueous and lipid membrane environments, aldehyde scavenging, and transglycation activities inherent to cataracts: a clinical study of the new vision-saving drug N-Acetylcarnosine Eyedrop Therapy in a database population of Over 50,500 patients. American Journal of Therapeutics. 16(6):517-533, November/December 2009.
12. Preston JE, Hipkiss AR, Himsworth DT, Romero IA, Abbott JN.Toxic effects of beta-amyloid(25-35) on immortalised rat brain endothelial cell: protection by carnosine, homocarnosine and beta-alanine. Neurosci Lett. 1998 Feb 13;242(2):105-8.
13. Hipkiss AR. Could carnosine or related structures suppress Alzheimer's disease? J Alzheimers Dis. 2007 May;11(2):229-40.
14. Horning MS, Blakemore LJ, Trombley PQ. Endogenous mechanisms of neuroprotection: role of zinc, copper, and carnosine. Brain Res 2000;852:56-61.
15. Chez MG, Buchanan CP, Aimonovitch MC, Becker M, Schaefer K, Black C, Komen J. Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of L-carnosine supplementation in children with autistic spectrum disorders. J Child Neurol. 2002 Nov;17(11):833-7.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.

 

Condition

Rating

Explanation

 

Aging

   

Antioxidant properties repair cell damage characteristic of aging in the laboratory. Human studies are needed (7-8)

Alzheimer's Disease  


Animal studies indicate prevention of cell damage, a cause of Alzheimer's; human studies needed.  (12-13)


Cataracts  
A preliminary study of N-acetyl carnosine eye drops have shown significant safety and efficacy in diabetes-related and age-related cataracts; a large-scale study is underway. (11)


Diabetes  
A preliminary studies of N-acetyl carnosine eye drops have shown significant safety and efficacy in diabetes-related vision complications; a large-scale study is underway. (11)
Glaucoma  

A preliminary study of N-acetyl carnosine eye drops have shown significant safety and efficacy in diabetes-related and age related glaucoma; a large-scale study is underway (11)

Heart disease  

Preliminary laboratory studies indicate carnosine may regulate calcium levels and muscle contractions in heart tissue; more studies needed. (2-5) 

Macular Degeneration  

A preliminary study of N-acetyl carnosine eye drops have shown significant safety and efficacy in diabetes-related and age-related macular degeneration; a large-scale study is underway (11)

Strokes   Date Published: 11/29/2009
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