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Danger! L-Carnitine Causes Heart Disease!

Written by Wellness Club on March 2, 2015 – 5:16 pm -

That’s What The Headline Said, So It Must Be True – Right?


By Nurse mark


Our recently featured supplement ALA / ALC caught the attention of our eagle-eyed readers, who also have the memory attributed to elephants – who never forget.

We received a few “heads-ups” and questions about a news article that made the rounds a few years ago, reporting on a study from the Cleveland Clinic.

The article, written by a very prolific freelance writer by the name of Cari Nierenberg goes to great lengths to stress the evils of eating red meat (which contains carnitine) and concludes with this ominous warning:

Pass it on: A compound called carnitine found in in red meat and supplements may increase the risk of heart disease.

Yikes! This is scare-tactics journalism at its worst – just like my title for this article. But it worked, because Cari’s article was picked up (read: purchased) by dozens of different outlets from The Huffington Post to and more. It also has taken on a life of its own on the internet, and is being reproduced and quoted in endless emails and blogs, all dedicated to warning us poor unwary and uneducated folk about the dangers of meat…

I’m not going to rebut Cari’s article – it is a sensationalized but moderately accurate report of a very limited study done by the Cleveland Clinic that looked at the gut bacteria of people who ate red meat and found that in some of those people carnitine (and l-carnitine) could be broken down into a compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). The researchers then pointed to very preliminary and unproven research that suggested that TMAO might be bad for the heart. They then wrapped up this grand study of 10 subjects by concluding that meat eaters had gut bacteria that took carnitine and created TMAO which caused heart disease.

I wonder if the researchers were a little out-of-breath after jumping to all those conclusions…

I won’t try to rebut the research article or its conclusions either, since I would not be able to do any better than the doctors and research staff at Life Extension Foundation who produced a very thorough, well-researched, and quite readable rebuttal to the study in this article of August 2013:

Rebuttal to Attack Against Carnitine
By William Faloon, Steven V. Joyal, MD, Luke Huber, ND, MBA, Blake Gossard, and Richard A. Stein, MD, PHD

The L.E.F. Report concludes:

In the wake of a single negative study, deceptive media headlines have generated concern that supplemental forms of L-carnitine may be detrimental to heart health. This notion flies in the face of numerous published, peer-reviewed studies showing L-carnitine promotes cardiovascular health in a variety of ways. The media’s effort to generate outrageous headlines has undermined decades of scientific research on the heart-health benefits of carnitine.

Carnitine is a vital nutrient for health. The discovery of carnitine’s ability to maximize cellular fuel efficiency and minimize the impact of normal cellular metabolism on delicate cellular machinery has led to a revolution in the way scientists think about some of the most troubling age-related conditions. Supplementing with carnitine can help preserve cell energy levels, enhance heart muscle strength, reduce the impact of obesity and diabetes, and protect heart attack victims from dying.

I hope you will read the Life Extension Report – it offers valuable information on the many benefits of carnitine and l-carnitine as well as debunking the sensationalist news reporting of a flawed study.

Oh, and feel free to enjoy a nice juicy steak – in moderation of course – that red meat really is good for you!

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