Carnosine Studies – The Latest Research on the Benefits and Side Effects of Carnosine

Table of Contents

Carnosine Studies – The Latest Research on the Benefits and Side Effects of Carnosine

Table of Contents

Many studies have been carried out on carnosine, perhaps because the researchers are motivated by this dipeptide’s beneficial effects. Or that both clinical and pre-clinical research shows that it is well-tolerated. It also shows that it is non-toxic without any dangerous side effects or drug interactions.

Regardless of their reasons, we’ve compiled these studies for you in case you’re curious about them. Learn the basics of carnosine, its benefits, and side effects through these studies. 

What is Carnosine?

Other Name(s): L-Carnosine, B-Alanyl-L-Histidine, B-Alanyl Histidine, N-Acétyl-L-Carnosine, N-Acetyl-Carnosine.

Most notable concentrations in the skeletal muscle

Carnosine is a dipeptide synthesized in the body from two constituent amino acids: B-alanine and L-histidine. In the human body, carnosine concentrations are highest in the skeletal muscle tissue. You can find it in gastrointestinal tissues, the heart, the brain, and other body parts. 

The story of the molecule carnosine started in the 20th century. Russian chemists Gulewitsch and Amiradžibi from the Laboratorium der Universität Charkow were analyzing a meat extract in search of nitrogen-containing non-protein compounds.

Instead, they discovered two new molecules present in high amounts, called carnosine and carnitine. Thus, they named it “carnosine” from the Latin carnis (meat). [1] 

How does it work?

Carnosine is necessary for many body functions, such as the development and proper function of the muscles, liver, heart, kidneys, and brain. There are also studies about it being an anti-aging agent, which we will further discuss later.

However, carnosine disappears quickly from the blood because it is synthesized by an enzyme called carnosine synthase.

So, traditionally, people consume fish and meat (primary sources of carnosine) to meet their needs for this protein building block. Today, most people get carnosine from a supplement, which is typically available in capsules and powder form.

Carnitine or carnosine? What’s the difference?

If you’re comparing carnosine and carnitine, both come from meat but play different roles. 

L-carnitine is necessary for energy production. Meanwhile, carnosine has many important bodily functions, such as a physiological buffer in proper calcium and enzyme regulation.

Carnosine is now known as an over-the-counter food supplement due to its promising potential for the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases. 

Let’s learn more about its benefits and side effects as backed by science.

What Are the Benefits of Carnosine?

1. Proper Functioning of the Heart and Other Organs

animation of a human with his heart

Source: Canva/Getty Images

Carnosine is the key to the proper development and function of the heart and other organs.

Due to its anti-glycation, chelating, anti-ischemic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant roles in the body, it may be beneficial in treating cardiovascular diseases. [2]

Additionally, carnosine protects the blood vessels from damage, which may be caused by diabetes or arterial plaque formation.

A study published in Nutrition showed that patients with heart failure who received carnosine treatment for half a year showed improvement in their quality of life and in the six-minute walk test distance. Their peak exercise and Vo2 workload also increased. [3] 

2. Prevention of Oxidative Stress

The second benefit of carnosine is it helps prevent oxidative stress. Human cells undergo oxidative stress from reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals as we age. Some examples of free radicals from external sources include cigarette smoke, pesticides, and toxic metals.

Fortunately, some antioxidants neutralize the cell-damaging species, and that’s where carnosine comes into play.

L-carnosine is an antioxidant. A study in Aging and Disease demonstrated that carnosine suppressed stress in animals and improved the well-being, cognition, and behavior of human subjects. [4] 

Meanwhile, another study published in Rejuvenation Research claimed that the antioxidant effects of carnosine are responsible for cellular rejuvenation, muscle microcirculation, and brain stimulation. 

Thus, experts agree that carnosine has the ability to defend the body against oxidative stress with high efficacy.

3. Prevention of Kidney Disease or Nephropathy

Another reason why scientists refer to carnosine as “small but mighty” is because it protects podocyte and mesangial cells to alleviate diabetic nephropathy.

Our kidneys comprise millions of tiny filters (nephrons). However, high blood sugar from diabetes damages the kidney and nephrons, so they don’t function as they should.

Carnosine also protects the kidney cells from the effect of high glucose levels. Thus, it reduces the risk of nephropathy or diabetic kidney disease. [5]

4. Slows Down Aging

Old man listening with his headphones on

Source: Pexels

Carbosine helps slow down aging by interfering with the chemicals that affect aging. Its skin-boosting benefits also occur because of its antioxidant, free radical scavenging, and anti-inflammatory properties that protect DNA cells and boost skin health. [6] 

5. Enhances Exercise Performance

Supplementation of beta-alanine (one of the carnosine’s main ingredients), has been shown to enhance exercise performance and executive function after endurance training. [7]

This is why it has become a common ingredient in nutritional supplements for athletes.

Beta-alanine also works by buffering the increasing acid levels that accumulate in the human skeletal muscle during exercise. Intramuscular acidosis is one of the causes of fatigue during exercise, and carnosine plays a significant role in muscle pH regulation. 

Interestingly, studies have shown that beta-alanine supplementation may influence muscle carnosine metabolism in cells. Such refers to the biochemical pathways that produce, use, and break down carnosine. 

Understanding carnosine and BA metabolism with supplementation may offer insight into how the supplements can be optimized. [8]

Related: Lower Back Pain After Running – What Are the Causes and How to Heal

6. Fights Diabetes and Its Consequences

We’ve already discussed that carnosine alleviates diabetic kidney disease by protecting the podocyte and mesangial cells.

These cells maintain the filtration barrier, regulate the filtration rate, and contribute to cell-to-cell signaling in the cluster of tiny blood vessels in the kidneys called the glomerulus.

But what you may not know is that carnosine fights type 2 diabetes (also called diabetes mellitus). It aldso fights its damaging consequences, including eye disorders, nerve damage, kidney failure, and cardiovascular diseases. [9] 

Carnosine also mitigates the rise of glucose, TNF-α levels, and triglycerides in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and in obese pre-diabetic and overweight patients.

It likewise improves the clearance of harmful chemicals called aldehydes, such as methylglyoxal. This reactive aldehyde can modify many macromolecules associated with secondary complications of diabetes, including protein glycation. [10] 

7. Preserves Cognition

Carnosine’s many therapeutic benefits make it promising for slowing the progression of cognitive decline.

For instance, it may prevent Alzheimer’s, one of the most widely feared neurodegenerative disorders. Researchers have also found that patients diagnosed with AD have lower carnosine levels in their spinal fluid and brain than other older adults. [11] 

Alan R. Hipkiss from William Harvey Research Institute and Bart’s and the London Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry is an expert on this study. He summarized the relationship between AD and the falling carnosine levels in the body.

He also observed that certain parts of the brain, particularly the olfactory lobe, that are first affected by early AD are the same in which carnosine is normally found in the highest concentration. [12]

Another study hypothesized that L-carnosine supplementation could improve executive dysfunction in schizophrenia.

Executive dysfunction is a behavioral symptom that disrupts an individual’s ability to manage their actions, thoughts, and emotions. It is common in people with mental health conditions, including behavioral disorders, mood disorders, and addictions.

From their randomized controlled trial on 75 symptomatically stable adults with chronic schizophrenia, those who received carnosine supplementation performed “significantly faster” on tests. They also made fewer preservative errors and displayed improved strategic efficiency than the placebo group. [13] 

8. Decreases Amyloid Beta Buildup in Alzheimer’s Disease

brain

Source: Unsplash

Since we’re on the topic of cognition, let’s highlight the next benefit of carnosine. It has been shown to decrease the amyloid beta buildup, which makes the organs not work properly. 

The beta-amyloid protein forms brain plaques, as seen in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s. Experimental studies on mice showed that carnosine supplementation potently decreased amyloid build-up in AD. It also fully rescued the brains from mitochondrial dysfunction. [14-15]

Another effect of carnosine relating to this topic is it prevents neurodegeneration. Hence, it was successfully used in treating patients with Parkinson’s disease and brain stroke. This was based on a study about the effects of carnosine supplementation on chronic disease risk factors and supported by clinical trials published in Rejuvenation Research. [16-17]

9. Improves Symptoms of Autism

Other carnosine studies showed that inhibiting amyloid-beta improves nervous system function in people with autism.

Early studies also suggested that L-carnosine supplementation for eight weeks improved symptoms of autism in kids with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). [18] 

It may help individuals with autism in various ways. The most significant benefit is improvement in behavior. It can likewise enhance nervous system function and language skills.

Children taking L-carnosine supplements improved auditory processing, fine motor skills, vocabulary, awareness of surroundings, socialization, object recognition, language comprehension, and communication.

10. Protection Against Fatty Buildup

Next up, it may help with weight loss. But to better appreciate its benefits in that aspect, let’s first understand that there are different types of body fat. Two of those main types are white and brown fats.

White fat is often associated with overweight people and accumulates in areas we least want, such as around the belly. Meanwhile, brown fat is abundant in infants, and it burns calories.

Conversion of white to brown fat can reduce obesity and inflammation, and other associated risks. In 2018, researchers sought the effect of L-carnosine on the browning of white fats in exercised obese rats.

In addition, they found that carnosine alone or combined with exercise may reduce weight gain by increasing the amount of brown fats in the body. In turn, this benefit may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other complications of obesity. [19] 

11. Improves Cataracts and Visual Performance

A cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and the single available treatment, for now, is surgery. Fortunately, carnosine eye drops show great promise.

Based on a randomized, placebo-controlled research involving 26 patients (41 eyes), they used eyedrops containing 1% carnosine twice daily with 13 patients (21 eyes) that received the placebo eye drops.

There were also 10 patients (14 eyes) who received no eye drops. After half a year, 90% of those treated with carnosine eye drops had a seven to 100% improvement in best corrected visual acuity (BCVA), measuring agility to determine details and shapes of objects at a given distance with corrective lenses.

Moreover, 88.9% of the same carnosine group showed a 27 to 100% improvement in glare sensitivity. None of the treated eyes showed worsening vision. [20] 

Yet, a scientific review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews believed future high-quality studies are needed. This will validate the use of carnosine to reverse or prevent the progression of cataracts. [21] 

12. Heals Wounds

A study published in Amino Acids demonstrated that carnosine accelerated the healing of wounds and ulcers in diabetic mice.

The authors wrote that normal wound healing involves a series of well-orchestrated and series of complex molecular events. However, wound healing in patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) is “grossly impaired” because of dysregulated and defective cellular and molecular events at “all phases of wound healing.”

Such results in chronic wounds that don’t heal. In their study, they injected 100 mg/kg of carnosine daily into diabetic mice. As a result, such a treatment enhanced wound healing significantly. [22]

Animal experiments may not always accurately mimic how the human body and diseases respond to treatments, drugs, and chemicals. Yet, some diseases are modeled well in mice, plus humans and mice share about 70% protein-coding genes.

13. Lowers Blood Sugar

Human studies revealed that carnosine lowers blood sugar and insulin levels in individuals at risk for diabetes. Moreover, carnosine helps control one’s appetite. 

Researchers theorized that carnosine may affect the nerves in the kidneys, pancreas, stomach, adrenal glands, and liver due to its hypoglycemic and hypotensive effects. Thus, it may be an effective strategy to prevent type 2 diabetes. [23] 

How About the Side Effects of Carnosine Supplementation?

carnosine studies

Source: Pexels

Carnosine is generally safe, especially when consumed according to the dose guidelines or prescribed by a doctor. However, there are a few people who reported side effects.

Stop taking the supplement and consult your doctor if you experience side effects, such as the following:

More common

  • Headache
  • Stomach Upset
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting

Less common:

  • Body odor
  • Dizziness
  • Body odor
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Swelling in feet, lower legs, and hands

Overstimulation as a side effect

While carnosine has been used to treat individuals with autism, there was a single report of overstimulation when the supplement is taken in high dosage. This caused hyperactivity, insomnia, or irritability. 

These side effects are usually resolved when the doctor adjusts the dose. Some parents even reported that their children sleep better when taking the supplement.

Final Thoughts

carnosine studies

Source: Canva/Getty Images

Science continues to evolve, and there will surely be future studies that will be published about carnosine. However, what’s clear by now is that this supplement comes with many benefits with very few to no side effects. 

Research supports its efficacy as a blood-sugar regulator, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging agent, and even cancer prevention.

Disclaimer: Although many studies support the use of carnosine, these are still relatively new. There may still be many things we don’t know about this dipeptide. 

Always get medical advice before starting any natural or over-the-counter supplement, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking other medications, to rule out any interactions or side effects.

Did you know? Carnosine is the main ingredient in CarnoSport. It’s a sports gel that reduces muscle fatigue, accelerates muscle recovery, and improves tendon, ligament, and joint health. Find out more about this sports gel here today.

References:

[1] https://chemistry-europe.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cber.19000330275

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28407658/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25287762/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4567213/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16046297/

[6] https://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/carnosine

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20479615/ 

[8] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00135/full

[9] http://www.aginganddisease.org/EN/10.14336/AD.2017.0120

[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24292217/

[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17031479/

[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17522447/

[13] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23099060/

[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627134/

[15] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14610252/

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5875615/

[17] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/rej.2009.0923

[18] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33170378/

[19] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29236301/

[20] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12001824/ 

[21] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28245346/

[22] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22451275/

[23] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29420997/