May 2010 / Jack Challem
How carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, and CoQ10 work synergistically to increase energy, lower blood sugar, and strengthen your heart and circulation.
BACKGROUND: Nutrients work as a team, and some nutrients work very closely together. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), carnitine, and alpha-lipoic acid are a great example. They function in related biochemical pathways toward the same result: breaking down food molecules to create energy. This energy, in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), acts as a biological battery that drives all cell activities.
DETAILS: The ultimate breakdown of food to create ATP occurs in tiny cell structures called mitochondria. Two chemical processes within mitochondria—biochemists call them the Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation— govern most of the energy-producing chemical reactions. It’s in these processes that CoQ10, carnitine, and alpha-lipoic acid do their jobs.
BIG-PICTURE IMPLICATIONS: ATP provides the oomph to make things happen, from moving immune cells to fight infections to making your muscles flex. Researchers gained a fundamental perspective of these processes when they discovered that a group of inherited diseases, called mitochondrial myopathies, were caused by defects in the body’s ability to make energy.
Subsequently, researchers discovered that CoQ10, carnitine, and alpha-lipoic acid could improve energy levels in people with these myopathies. Studies have also found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and more generalized fatigue can benefit from these supplements. Many scientists now believe that the aging process begins with a deterioration of mitochondrial activity—and tantalizing research suggests that these and other nutrients can slow the aging process.
What They Do
Carnitine. This vitamin-like nutrient helps transport fats into mitochondria, where they are burned for energy. In a study of 66 centenarians, doctors found that taking 2 grams of carnitine daily led to significant improvement in physical and mental fatigue, greater muscle mass, and sharper thinking.
DID YOU KNOW?
Taking CoQ10 supplements can help boost collagen and elastin production, which helps protect skin from aging.
Alpha-lipoic acid. This antioxidant plays multiple roles as a cofactor in the energy-generating Krebs cycle. A patient case history described by European doctors illustrates its benefits: As a child, the patient had been thin, weak, and exercise intolerant. By her early 20s, she had developed eye-muscle disorders and droopy eyelids. When examined in her early 30s, she had very weak arm and leg muscles. Tests found that she was producing low levels of ATP. So the doctors gave her 200 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid three times daily. After several months, tests indicated that her ATP production had increased substantially and her overall energy levels had improved as well.
CoQ10. This vitamin-like nutrient helps shuttle around energy-carrying electrons to maximize ATP production. Supplements can boost energy levels and enhance stamina. In one study, Japanese researchers reported that people were able to bicycle faster and had quicker recovery times after just one week of taking 300 milligrams of CoQ10 daily.
ACCESSORY NUTRIENTS: Carnitine is available in several forms, including L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine. Vitamin C is needed for the body to make its own carnitine. Energy production can also be enhanced with vitamins B1, B2, and B3, magnesium, ribose, and creatine monohydrate.
THE SYNERGISTIC PAYOFF: Some cardiologists have used CoQ10 to help patients recover from cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Studies have found that acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid together can boost energy and mental function. For improving energy levels, combining lipoic acid with L-carnitine (or acetyl-L-carnitine), and CoQ10 is an ideal approach.
WHAT YOU SHOULD TAKE: Take approximately 100 milligrams of CoQ10, 1,000 milligrams of carnitine, and 200 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid daily to boost energy. For more serious health problems, such as heart failure, consider taking 200 milligrams of CoQ10, 2,000 milligrams of carnitine, and 400 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid daily—but please work with your physician.