Effect of dietary carnitine isomers and gamma-butyrobetaine on L-carnitine biosynthesis and metabolism in the rat

J Nutr. 1983 Oct;113(10):1906-13. doi: 10.1093/jn/113.10.1906.


Oral supplementation with L-carnitine or DL-carnitine for treatment of primary and secondary carnitine deficiency syndromes is becoming increasingly popular, yet little is known about the systemic manifestations of oral intake of large doses of those compounds, particularly the D-isomer of carnitine. To determine the possible beneficial and/or toxic effects or oral carnitine isomers and the carnitine precursor, gamma-butyrobetaine, in the rat, groups of male, weanling rats were fed a carnitine-free diet (control) supplemented with various amounts of L-carnitine, D-carnitine, DL-carnitine or gamma-butyrobetaine for 32 days. Rats fed diets supplemented with L-carnitine (0.1-1.0%) had increased L-carnitine concentrations in serum and all tissues studied. Mean L-carnitine concentrations in serum and tissues (except liver) from rats fed equivalent amounts of L-carnitine, as the racemic mixture DL-carnitine, were greater than controls but were consistently lower than in rats fed L-carnitine alone. D-Carnitine (1% of diet) significantly reduced serum and heart L-carnitine concentrations from control levels, and the effects of gamma-butyrobetaine depended on the level of dietary supplementation. Dietary L-carnitine, D-carnitine and gamma-butyrobetaine (1%) reduced carnitine biosynthesis from epsilon-N-trimethyl-L-lysine in vivo. However, this decrease probably resulted from effects on transport of gamma-butyrobetaine into tissues, rather than on the biosynthetic pathway per se. Other than mild diarrhea with high levels of some supplements, no toxic effects of these compounds were observed under the conditions employed and within the time frame of the study.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Betaine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Betaine / pharmacology
  • Carnitine / administration & dosage*
  • Carnitine / biosynthesis
  • Carnitine / metabolism
  • Carnitine / pharmacology
  • Diet
  • Isomerism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Betaine
  • gamma-butyrobetaine
  • Carnitine