Acetyl-l-carnitine and L-carnitine: Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange Fact Sheet

Acetyl-l-carnitine (often shortened to acetylcarnitine) and L-Carnitine (aka carnitine) are among the most heavily investigated of dietary supplements for their applications to HIV/AIDS. In particular, acetylcarnitine has been studied for more than a decade for HIV-associated neuropathy, especially by Michael Youle in the UK (see other entries under “acetylcarnitine, this Blog). Acetylcarnitine is also a key component in the K-Pax (and NYBC’s low-cost K-pax equivalent, the MAC Pack). Meanwhile, carnitine is also much used by people with HIV, and the prescription form, Carnitor, is made available through some state-funded formularies.

For a very good overview on acetycarnitine and carnitine research and application to HIV/AIDS, see

Acetyl-l-carnitine and L-carnitine: Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange Fact Sheet

A brief excerpt:

Why do PHAs use this supplement?
Carnitine has many potential uses, including the following:

1. helping to heal damaged nerves—peripheral neuropathy (PN)
2. helping to decrease levels of lactic acid in the blood
3. reducing higher-than-normal levels of cholesterol and/or triglycerides
4. helping to maintain muscle growth

1. To manage peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage causing tingling, numbness or burning in the hands, feet and legs)
Levels of carnitine in the blood are sometimes lower in PHAs with peripheral neuropathy, particularly under the following conditions:

• damage from viral infections such as HIV and CMV (cytomegalovirus)
• the use of “d” drugs such as d4T, ddI and ddC
• the use of some anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics
• alcohol abuse
• diabetes

What the medications in the above list have in common is that they can damage the energy-producing parts of nerve cells—the mitochondria. Injured mitochondria cannot supply sufficient energy and nerves begin to malfunction and can die. Nerves in the feet, legs and hands, particularly in the skin covering those body parts, appear to be especially susceptible to PN. Some researchers have noticed that PHAs with PN can develop abnormal sweating, suggesting that nerves in sweat glands can also be affected.

One formulation of carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR), may play a role in the management of PN. This compound helps mitochondria function and also appears to enhance the effect of a chemical that helps nerves grow—nerve growth factor.

Researchers in England conducted an extensive study of ALCAR in PHAs with peripheral neuropathy. Their findings revealed that most PHAs showed some degree of recovery from nerve damage after taking ALCAR 1.5 grams twice daily for up to 2¾ years.

See also the NYBC entry on acetylcarnitine. Like its predecessor DAAIR, NYBC has this key supplement manufactured by pharmaceutical-grade producer Montiff; this allows for considerable cost savings for co-op buyers compared to commercially available products.

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