Vegetarianism, female gender and increasing age, but not CNDP1 genotype, are associated with reduced muscle carnosine levels in humans

Amino Acids. 2011 Apr;40(4):1221-9. doi: 10.1007/s00726-010-0749-2. Epub 2010 Sep 24.


Carnosine is found in high concentrations in skeletal muscles, where it is involved in several physiological functions. The muscle carnosine content measured within a population can vary by a factor 4. The aim of this study was to further characterize suggested determinants of the muscle carnosine content (diet, gender and age) and to identify new determinants (plasma carnosinase activity and testosterone). We investigated a group of 149 healthy subjects, which consisted of 94 men (12 vegetarians) and 55 women. Muscle carnosine was quantified in M. soleus, gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior using magnetic resonance proton spectroscopy and blood samples were collected to determine CNDP1 genotype, plasma carnosinase activity and testosterone concentrations. Compared to women, men have 36, 28 and 82% higher carnosine concentrations in M. soleus, gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscle, respectively, whereas circulating testosterone concentrations were unrelated to muscle carnosine levels in healthy men. The carnosine content of the M. soleus is negatively related to the subjects' age. Vegetarians have a lower carnosine content of 26% in gastrocnemius compared to omnivores. In contrast, there is no difference in muscle carnosine content between omnivores with a high or low ingestion of β-alanine. Muscle carnosine levels are not related to the polymorphism of the CNDP1 gene or to the enzymatic activity of the plasma carnosinase. In conclusion, neither CNDP1 genotype nor the normal variation in circulating testosterone levels affects the muscular carnosine content, whereas vegetarianism, female gender and increasing age are the factors associated with reduced muscle carnosine stores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Carnosine / blood*
  • Diet
  • Diet, Vegetarian / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dipeptidases* / blood
  • Dipeptidases* / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / chemistry*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Sex Factors
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Young Adult
  • beta-Alanine / analysis


  • beta-Alanine
  • Testosterone
  • Carnosine
  • CNDP1 protein, human
  • Dipeptidases