Does Long-Term L-Carnitine Use Cause Cancer?
Cancer results from errors in the genetic code that trigger runaway cell growth. Genes have built-in mechanisms that prevent genetic errors, but sometimes they don’t work. Environmental factors such as radiation, poisons and even specific foods can increase the risk of genetic errors that lead to cancer. L-carnitine is a popular supplement formed from the amino acids lysine and methionine. It is critical for transporting fatty acids from the cell interior into the mitochondria. Carnitine helps break down long-chain fatty acids and promotes oxygen consumption. The mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells that provide energy, promote exercise capacity and greatly influence life span. Too much carnitine might cause cancer. A study on rats, led by Christoph Weinert from the Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food in Karlsruhe, Germany showed that chronic administration of L-carnitine increased blood levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which has been linked to cancer and heart disease. (Molecular Nutrition, published online)