Carnitine metabolism in normal-weight and obese human subjects during fasting

Am J Physiol. 1980 May;238(5):E409-15. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1980.238.5.E409.


Carnitine metabolism was studied in normal-weight and obese subjects by measurement of carnitine and its acyl derivatives in plasma and urine. When first fed an isocaloric, low-carnitine diet, both groups showed a decrease in plasma total carnitine, primarily due to a decrease in the free carnitine fraction. Urinary free carnitine excretion also fell significantly. When fasting was instituted, plasma total carnitine concentration increased. This was the net result of a rapid increase in short-chain and long-chain acylcarnitine and a delayed decrease in free carnitine. Urinary excretion of short-chain acylcarnitines increased parallel to rising plasma concentrations, whereas free carnitine excretion first decreased and then tended to increase slightly. Both plasma and urinary short-chain acylcarnitine correlated with beta-hydroxybutyrate. All of these changes were reversed by refeeding, in the obese even with a low-carnitine hypocaloric intake. Obese subjects also developed hyperketonemia significantly more slowly than did normal-weight subjects, yet demonstrated substantially the same changes in magnitude and direction in carnitine and its metabolites.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Carnitine / blood
  • Carnitine / metabolism*
  • Carnitine / urine
  • Fasting*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Carnitine