Perhaps nothing reveals our collective longing for a weight-loss wonder drug so much as the ever-more-fantastic claims of the supplement industry, or the Photoshopped before-and-after pics of sagging guts and rock-hard abs.
Plenty of supplement sellers tout acetyl-L-carnitine's effects on fat metabolism. You'll actually start getting thinner at the mitochondrial level! Every cell in your body will get more efficient! You've never exercised like this before!
These claims might come from small, limited studies that link acetyl-L-carnitine to a balanced thyroid function, which certainly has an effect on your metabolism. But these studies dealt with the correction of an actual medical condition -- hyperthyroidism -- and results were not conclusive [source: UMMC].
The Atkins Diet listed acetyl-L-carnitine as a supplement that could help low-carb dieters with weight loss. Of course, the problem with that claim is that the Atkins plan, far from having widespread medical acceptance, is considered a fad diet that may actually have detrimental health effects (notably on blood lipids and cholesterol) [source: WebMD].
Unfortunately, there's just no proof that acetyl-L carnitine can help the Average Joe (or Jane) turn into Joe (or Jane) Six-Pack [sources: UMMC, NAT]. In fact, thanks to the kidneys' intervention, athletes who take acetyl-L carnitine supplements don't even show elevated levels of the chemical [source: NIH]. You're probably better off with the standard regimen of exercise, proper diet and sleep.
As for the necessity of taking a supplement, you're probably already getting enough acetyl-L-carnitine from dietary sources such as these:
- Lamb and other red meat
- Dairy products
- Avocados [source: UMMC]
Acetyl-L-carnitine might actually help in treating some cognitive problems. We'll take a look at one on the next page.