|The more choline the better the carnitine retention; and the better the retention the less high carnitine red mead you'll have to eat ;-)|
If said bulletin boards are not the only thing you frequent, i.e. if you are a regular at the SuppVersity, as well, you will probably also be aware of the fact that I strongly discourage the use of insulin in non-diabetic individuals - especially in cases as the one at hand, where it appears as if there were non-pharmacological alternatives to achieve increases in carnitine retention.
Using choline instead of insulin to maximize carnitine retention
I guess I could start this paragraph by stating that "it is a wonder that nobody appears to know about the interactions between choline and carnitine", but honestly, I have long given up to wonder when the respective information has to be looked up in studies that are older than 2-3 years. Studies as the one by Dodson and Sachan that was conducted at the University of Tennessee in the mid 1990 and the results of which werr published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1996.
In the corresponding paper, Dodson and Sachan report the results of two experiments that were conducted to determine the effects of supplementary choline and/or pantothenate on the carnitine and lipid status of free-living humans:
In the follow up experiment, Dodson and Sachan were able to show that the beneficial effects choline had on the retention of supplemental carnitine were not influenced by the provision of panthothenate, which had previously been used as a complement to carnitine and choline in clinical trials for a variety of neurologic and hyperlipidemic conditions.
"In experiment 1, adults receiving 13.5 mmol choline plus 1.4 mmol pantothenate/d had a significant decline in urinary carnitine excretion and renal clearance with nonesterfied carnitine (NEC) declining the most dramatically, 84%.
Carnitine as Repartitioning Agent? + 7% Improvement in Lean- to Total Mass Ratio W/ HED of 1-1.5 of Carnitine/Day | more
Additionally, serum NEC and total carnitine concentrations decreased significantly. No changes were observed in any of the serum lipids examined." (Dodson. 1996)
Choline doesn't work for supplemental carnitine, only
Most of you will know that carnitine is not just a supplement, but also a non-essential nutrient. As long as we consume large enough quantities of lysine and methionine, the building blocks our bodies use to produce carnitine "on demand" we don't really need supplemental and probably not even dietary carnitine sources to survive (Mitchell. Feb. 1978).
|Table 1: Total carnitine content of various foods (Mitchell. 1978)|
In other words, the equation "higher choline = better carnitine levels" is valid irrespective of whether you are supplementing with beta-hydroxy-y-trimethylamino butyrate or simply producing it yourself.
|SuppVersity Suggested Read: "Carnitine Loading Revisited: 3g Carnitine per Day Ward Off Vitargo Induced Fat Gain by Increasing Fatty Acid Oxidation and Total Energy Expenditure in 12 Week Human Study" | read more|
Against that background it does not come as a surprise that the carnitine demands increase, when you go on a low carb or even ketogenic diet. In fact, Balaban-Gil et al. mention diet-induced carnitine deficiency as a potentially hepatoxic (=liver-damaging) side effect of long(er)-term ketogenic dieting (Balaban-Gil. 1998). They do yet also point out that the beginning liver damage can be sent into remission by the timely provision of supplemental l-carnitine.
On a side note: You do remember having read about the beneficial effects choline has on liver, did you? If not, I'd suggest you review my previous article "Choline: Stronger, Faster, Leaner & More Muscular, or Just Another Dumb-and-Barbell Story?" | read more.
More than just a life-insurance for the livers of keto dieters
As a diligent SuppVersity reader you will probably already know that choline, which used to be a staple supplement in the earlier days of bodybuilding, is a potent synergist to caffeine and carnitine - so potent in fact that I already devoted a whole post to the fat burning magic of the "CCC Stack" (read more).
|Suggested Read:"Forgotten Dieting Aids: Choline, Carnitine, Caffeine and the Anti-Weight-Loss Plateau Effects of Sugar and Phosphates" | learn more|
I'd rather take a parting look at what actually happens to the carnitine in the Dodson and Sachan study. It was neither excreted nor pooling up in the blood of the 29 healthy volunteers when they consumed 13.5mmol of choline (ca. 1.4g of choline) as choline bitartrate (~3g) for 7 days and choline + of carnitine for additional three days.
Due to the fact that Dodson and Sachan who have been working at the University of Tennessee, back in the day, did not conduct muscle, let alone heart, brain, kidney and liver biopsies. We will (unfortunately) have to content ourselves with the results of a 1998 guinea pig study from the same work group (Daily. 1998), if we want to understand the fate of the "missing" carnitine.
|Total ingested (full bars) and absorbed (blue part of the bar) amount of dietary carnitine in mg/kg body weight (from Amino Acids for Super Humans)|
What exactly happens to the carnitine, when you consume extra choline?
The study protocol Daily et al. used was slightly different from the one Dodson and Sachan had used in their 1996 human trial: Instead of carnitine and choline, the guinea pigs received only choline (+200% more than the regular diet would offer).
|Figure 1: Changes in carnitine content of brain, liver, heart, kindney and muscle (left) and differences in body composition (right) extra choline vs. normal chow (Daily. 1998)|
The question whether these changes were the cause or just correlates to the beneficial effects the provision of additional choline had on the body composition (see Figure 1, right) of the hairy mini remains to be answered, though. On the other hand, it is quite certain that the observations Daily et al. made in their lab animals stand in line with the results of Hongu et al.'s human trial from 2003, which clearly suggests that the "selective accretion of nitrogen and depletion of fat", of which Daily et al. state that it is an "important and unique consequence of choline–carnitine interactions" is not species dependent and occurs even in the absence of caffeine, the CNS stimulant Hongu et al. added to the equation.
- Ballaban-Gil K, Callahan C, O'Dell C, Pappo M, Moshé S, Shinnar S. Complications of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia. 1998 Jul;39(7):744-8.
- Brass EP. Carnitine and sports medicine: use or abuse? Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Nov;1033:67-78. Review.
- Carter AL, Frenkel R. The relationship of choline and carnitine in the choline deficient rat. J Nutr l978;108:l748-54.
- Daily JW III, Hongu N, Mynatt RL, Sachan DS. Choline supplementation increases tissue concentrations of carnitine and lowers body fat in guinea pigs. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 1998; 9(8): 464–470.
- Dodson WL, Sachan DS. Choline supplementation reduces urinary carnitine excretion in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Jun;63(6):904-10.
- Hongu N, Sachan DS. Caffeine, carnitine and choline supplementation of rats decreases body fat and serum leptin concentration as does exercise. J Nutr. 2000 Feb;130(2):152-7.
- Hongu N, Sachan DS. Carnitine and choline supplementation with exercise alter carnitine profiles, biochemical markers of fat metabolism and serum leptin concentration in healthy women. J Nutr. 2003 Jan;133(1):84-9.
- Hoppel CL, Genuth SM. Carnitine metabolism in normal-weight and obese human subjects during fasting. Am J Physiol. 1980 May;238(5):E409-15.
- Mitchell ME. Carnitine metabolism in human subjects. I. Normal metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 1978 Feb;31(2):293-306. Review.
- Mitchell ME. Carnitine metabolism in human subjects. II. Values of carnitine in biological fluids and tissues of "normal" subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1978 Mar;31(3):481-91. Review.
- Sheard NF, Krasin B. Restricting food intake does not exacerbate the effects of a choline-deficient diet on tissue carnitine concentrations in rats. J Nutr. 1994 May;124(5):738-43.
- Tsai AC, Romsos DR. Leveille GA. Significance of dietary carnitine for growth and carnitine turnover in rats. J Nutr l974;104:782-92.
- Tsai AC, Romsos DR. Leveille GA. Determination of carnitine turn over in choline-deficient and cold-exposed rats. J Nutr 1975;105: 301-7.