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Carnosine
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Carnosine

Principal Proposed Uses
  • Anti-aging nutrient

L-carnosine, not to be confused with L-carnitine , is a substance manufactured in the human body, made by combining the amino acids alanine and histidine. The highest levels of carnosine are found in the brain and nervous system, the lens of the eye, and skeletal muscle tissue. Its exact function in the body is not known.

Requirements/Sources

The body manufactures carnosine from common dietary proteins, and for this reason there is no daily requirement of this substance.

Therapeutic Dosages

Among advocates of carnosine, there is a controversy regarding whether the proper dose is 50–150 mg per day or nearer to 1,000 mg daily. However, until carnosine has actually been shown to have any medical benefits, this argument cannot be settled.

Therapeutic Uses

Carnosine is widely marketed as an anti-aging nutrient. However, while there are a large number of studies that hint carnosine might help slow various aspects of aging, the quality of these studies is as yet far too low to provide any reliable evidence for benefit. 1-20

There is some actual evidence that carnosine may be helpful for children with autistic spectrum disorders . 21 In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial , 31 children with autism were given either carnosine (400 mg twice daily) or placebo for a period of 8 weeks. The results showed that children given carnosine showed significant improvements compared to those given placebo. While this was too small a trial to allow definitive conclusions, it is definitely promising.

Like numerous other substances, carnosine has antioxidant properties , meaning that it neutralizes dangerous, naturally occurring substances called free radicals. 22,23

Free radicals are thought to play a role in many illnesses, and on this basis many antioxidant substances have been studied for potential health-promoting properties. The best evaluated are beta-carotene , vitamin E , and vitamin C . However, despite massive amounts of research, these supplements have yet to live up to their apparent promise. Some websites claim that carnosine acts as an antioxidant in a unique way, fighting the “second wave” effects that follow attacks by free radicals. However, there is no meaningful evidence to support this theory or the hypothesis that such an effect, if it truly exists, would provide any health benefits.

Other weak evidence hints that oral carnosine might be helpful for cataracts , 24-29wound healing , 30Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, 31-50 diseases of the digestive tract, 53 and various forms of heart disease. 51,52

It has been hypothesized that taking supplements of the amino acid alanine can raise carnosine levels in muscle, and, in turn, enhance sports performance. However, the one published study where this was tried failed to report benefit.54

Safety Issues

The use of carnosine has not been associated with any significant side effects. However, the body deploys a range of enzymes, called carnosinases, to break down carnosine. There may be a reason for the presence of these enzymes, and overcoming them by providing large amounts of supplemental carnosine could conceivably cause harm in some as-yet unrecognized way. Maximum safe doses in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.

References

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2.   Yuneva AO, Kramarenko GG, Vetreshchak TV, Gallant S, Boldyrev AA. Effect of carnosine on Drosophila melanogaster lifespan. Bull Exp Biol Med . 2002;133:559–61.

3.   Hipkiss AR, Brownson C, Bertani MF, et al. Reaction of carnosine with aged proteins: another protective process? Ann N Y Acad Sci . 2002;959:285–94.

4.   Stuerenburg HJ. The roles of carnosine in aging of skeletal muscle and in neuromuscular diseases. Biochemistry (Mosc) . 2000;65:862–5.

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7.   Boldyrev, AA, Gallant, SC, Suhkich, GT. Carnosine, the protective, anti-aging peptide. Biosci Rep . 1999;19:581–7.

8.   Gille JJ, Pasman P, van Berkel CG, et al. Effect of antioxidants on hyperoxia-induced chromosomal breakage in Chinese hamster ovary cells: protection by carnosine. Mutagenesis . 1991;6:313–8.

9.   Shao L, Li QH, Tan Z. L-carnosine reduces telomere damage and shortening rate in cultured normal fibroblasts. Biochem Biophys Res Commun . 2004;324:931–6.

10.   Ikeda D, Wada S, Yoneda C, et al. Carnosine stimulates vimentin expression in cultured rat fibroblasts. Cell Struct Funct . 1999;24:79–87.

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12.   Kasai H. Analysis of a form of oxidative DNA damage, 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine, as a marker of cellular oxidative stress during carcinogenesis. Mutat Res . 1997;387:147–63.

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27.   Babizhayev MA. Rejuvenation of visual functions in older adult drivers and drivers with cataract during a short-term administration of N-acetylcarnosine lubricant eye drops. Rejuvenation Res . 2004;7:186–98.

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31.   Stvolinskii SL, Fedorova TN, Yuneva MO, et al. Protective effect of carnosine on Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase during impaired oxidative metabolism in the brain in vivo. Bull Exp Biol Med . 2003;135:130–2.

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41.   Horning MS, Blakemore LJ, Trombley PQ. Endogenous mechanisms of neuroprotection: role of zinc, copper, and carnosine. Brain Res . 2000;852:56–61.

42.   Huang X, Cuajungco MP, Atwood CS, et al. Cu(II) potentiation of Azheimer Ab neurotoxicity. Correlation with cell-free hydrogen peroxide production and metal reduction. J Biol Chem . 1999;274:37111–6.

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52.   Stvolinsky SL, Dobrota D. Anti-ischemic activity of carnosine. Biochemistry (Mosc) . 2000l;65:849–55.

53.   Mahmood A, FitzGerald AJ, Marchbank T, et al. Zinc carnosine, a health food supplement that stabilises small bowel integrity and stimulates gut repair processes. Gut .2007;56:168-75.

54.   Kendrick IP, Harris RC, Kim HJ, et al. The effects of 10 weeks of resistance training combined with beta-alanine supplementation on whole body strength, force production, muscular endurance and body composition. Amino Acids. 2008 Jan 4.



Last reviewed January 2008 by EBSCO CAM Review Board

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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