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Clin Chim Acta. 2002 Apr;318(1-2):51-61.

Long-term administration of L-carnitine to humans: effect on skeletal muscle carnitine content and physical performance.

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Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Berne, Switzerland.



Long-term administration of high oral doses of L-carnitine on the skeletal muscle composition and the physical performance has not been studied in humans.


Eight healthy male adults were treated with 2 x 2 g of L-carnitine per day for 3 months. Muscle biopsies and exercise tests were performed before, immediately after, and 2 months after the treatment. Exercise tests were performed using a bicycle ergometer for 10 min at 20%, 40%, and 60% of the individual maximal workload (P(max)), respectively, until exhaustion.


There were no significant differences between V(O(2)max), RER(max), and P(max) between the three time points investigated. At submaximal intensities, the only difference to the pretreatment values was a 5% increase in V(O(2)) at 20% and 40% of P(max) 2 months after the cessation of the treatment. The total carnitine content in the skeletal muscle was 4.10 +/- 0.82 micromol/g before, 4.79 +/- 1.19 micromol/g immediately after, and 4.19 +/- 0.61 micromol/g wet weight 2 months after the treatment (no significant difference). Activities of the two mitochondrial enzymes citrate synthase and cytochrome oxidase, as well as the skeletal muscle fiber composition also remained unaffected by the administration of L-carnitine.


Long-term oral treatment of healthy adults with L-carnitine is not associated with a significant increase in the muscle carnitine content, mitochondrial proliferation, or physical performance. Beneficial effects of the long-term treatment with L-carnitine on the physical performance of healthy adults cannot be explained by an increase in the carnitine muscle stores.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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