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Role of Carnitine in Disease


Role of Carnitine in Disease

Judith L Flanagan et al. Nutr Metab (Lond).


Carnitine is a conditionally essential nutrient that plays a vital role in energy production and fatty acid metabolism. Vegetarians possess a greater bioavailability than meat eaters. Distinct deficiencies arise either from genetic mutation of carnitine transporters or in association with other disorders such as liver or kidney disease. Carnitine deficiency occurs in aberrations of carnitine regulation in disorders such as diabetes, sepsis, cardiomyopathy, malnutrition, cirrhosis, endocrine disorders and with aging. Nutritional supplementation of L-carnitine, the biologically active form of carnitine, is ameliorative for uremic patients, and can improve nerve conduction, neuropathic pain and immune function in diabetes patients while it is life-saving for patients suffering primary carnitine deficiency. Clinical application of carnitine holds much promise in a range of neural disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, hepatic encephalopathy and other painful neuropathies. Topical application in dry eye offers osmoprotection and modulates immune and inflammatory responses. Carnitine has been recognized as a nutritional supplement in cardiovascular disease and there is increasing evidence that carnitine supplementation may be beneficial in treating obesity, improving glucose intolerance and total energy expenditure.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Carnitine biosynthesis and metabolism.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Carnitine is actively transported via OCTN2 into the cytosol to participate in the shuttling of activated long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria where β-oxidation takes place. Carnitine also regulates the Coenzyme A (CoA)/acylCoA ratio within the mitochondria, modulation of which reduces accumulation of toxic acyl-CoA compounds and maintains energy production.

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