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J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2011 Mar;2(1):37-44. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

l-carnitine and cancer cachexia: Clinical and experimental aspects.


Cancer cachexia is a multifaceted syndrome characterized, among many symptoms, by extensive muscle wasting. Chronic systemic inflammation, partly triggered and sustained by cytokines, as well as increased oxidative stress contributes to the pathogenesis of this complex metabolic disorder. l-carnitine plays a central role in the metabolism of fatty acids and shows important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Systemic carnitine depletion has been described in several diseases, and it is characterized by fatigue, muscle weakness, and decreased tolerance to metabolic stress. In cachectic cancer patients, low serum carnitine levels have been reported, and this change has been suggested to play an important contributory role in the development of cachexia. Based on these data, carnitine supplementation has been tested in preliminary studies concerning human cachexia, resulting in improved fatigue and quality of life. We present here a review of clinical and experimental evidence regarding the use of carnitine supplementation in the management of cancer cachexia.

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