A Review of Recent Carnosine Studies

Table of Contents

A Review of Recent Carnosine Studies

Table of Contents

Carnosine was discovered more than 100 years ago in Ukraine at Charkow University by Gulewitsch and Amiradžibi while they were analyzing a meat extract (Gulewitsch and Amiradžibi, 1900), [1] and it continues to capture the attention of both scientists and the sporting community today.

The U.S., Belgium, and Italy are leading the research on carnosine. These studies, sponsored primarily by academic institutions, are characterized by less commercial bias and provide scientific openness and transparency. That being said, let’s take a closer look at the research methods used and the results of the most recent studies.

The methodology behind carnosine clinical trials

Double-blind placebo-controlled trials, widely recognized as a robust method for generating unbiased evidence, have been the foundation upon which research into the effectiveness of carnosine supplementation has been conducted. With a publication rate of 71%, these studies are a testament to the growing body of evidence supporting the numerous health benefits of carnosine. 

Registering carnosine trials is important for transparency and adherence to ethical research standards. This commitment to ethical scientific practices allows researchers and product developers the certainty that their work is based on solid, reliable and scientifically accepted practices. Researchers have been instrumental in reviewing carnosine and beta-alanine supplementation studies, with many of these studies being published under the DOI 10.1007, while some others can be found under the DOI 10.1016.

The following databases have published several papers on carnosine and beta alanine supplementation and it is from these sources that we draw the latest research.

  • PubMed
  • the National Library of Medicine
  • NCBI database
  • Google Scholar

Latest research on exercise performance and muscle recovery

Woman athlete running in water.

Image courtesy of Canva/Getty Images

Several studies have investigated the concentration of carnosine in the skeletal muscle of performance athletes in recent years. Carnosine in human muscle generally ranges between 5-10 mM wet weight or 15-40 mmol/kg dry weight. [2] The purpose of the studies was to confirm whether an increased presence of carnosine helped athletes perform better. A summary of the latest findings follows.

Exercise performance

Human athletes involved in anaerobic sports, such as sprinters and bodybuilders, have been found to have higher intramuscular concentrations of carnosine. Exercise training has been reported to increase resting muscle carnosine concentrations in these athlete types. [3] 

Increases in muscle carnosine due to β-ALA supplementation have resulted in significant effects on several variables related to exercise performance. Some of these include improved time to fatigue on a maximal cycle test [4] delayed onset of neuromuscular fatigue during incremental cycle ergometry tests as noted by increased physical working capacity (PWCFT), increased ventilatory threshold (VT) and time to exhaustion (TTE) [5], and improvements in muscle torque during repeated bouts of intense dynamic contractions [6].

These improvements were most noticeable when supplementation continued for longer than 4-6 weeks since it takes several weeks to induce carnosine loading.

A paper published in the National Library of Medicine considered the therapeutic effect of novel carnosine formulations in preventing its rapid hydrolysis and increasing its bioavailability for uptake by muscle fibers. [7]

With the development of new formulations, researchers hope to minimize the challenge of rapid hydrolysis, allowing the body to benefit from the anti-oxidant, anti-aggregant, and anti-inflammatory effects of supplementation.

One such formulation comes from Chemipower in conjunction with Tartu University. Their high grade formulation contains 4% carnosine in gel form (CarnoSport) which can be applied directly to the skin, making it directly available for uptake by the muscles.

Another study sought to determine whether carnosine would affect endurance cycling performance. Participants were monitored for 8 weeks and then asked to perform a 30 second all-out sprint. The researchers reported that carnosine supplementation increased sprint peak power after a two-hour endurance exercise bout by 11-15% (p=0.0001) and mean power output by 5-8% (p = 0.005) [8]

To date, the performance improvements shown following carnosine supplementation have largely been ascribed to increases in intracellular buffering as a result of the increased M-Carn concentrations, although there are other potential mechanisms that might also explain a performance effect, including improved calcium handling and potential antioxidant effects. [9]

Muscular fatigue

Man experiencing muscle fatigue during exercise

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Several factors play a role in muscular fatigue during high-intensity exercise. Studies sought to discover the effect of carnosine to delay the onset of muscle fatigue. The researchers noted that the observed response with β-alanine supplementation had similar results as muscle creatine loading on muscle fatigue. [8] It was also suggested the increase in carnosine attenuated fatigue by not only its buffering capacities, but also by its ability to improve myofibrilar Ca2+ sensitivity.

Summary: 

In line with previous and long standing research into carnosine’s pH buffering capacity, these studies continue to show that carnosine remains a viable choice for clean competitive sports. The attention has turned to better delivery mechanisms, reducing the rapid hydrolysis of carnosine. Results of performance improvement remain varied and dependent on the type of activity being measured.

Athletes who supplement with carnosine for several weeks notice improvements in their performance, but deeper investigation is needed into all the factors that might cause this improvement, such as training, diet, gender, and health. Research has further shown the positive relationship between carnosine supplementation, delayed onset of muscle fatigue, and increased exercise capacity.  

The well-researched and proven therapeutic potential of carnosine in competitive sports has provided a breakthrough for athletes interested in clean supplementation for increased performance. 

CarnoSport offers athletes all the benefits of carnosine without the side effects. Two unpleasant side effects of oral supplementation (nausea and gastrointestinal upset) are avoidable when you use Chemipower’s innovation formulation. 

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Cell protection against free radical damage

Carnosine achieves its antioxidative effects via both direct and indirect modes of action. Directly, it counteracts oxidative stress by scavenging lipid peroxidation products and inhibiting cellular and tissue damage induced by oxidants and glucose.

Simultaneously, carnosine contributes to:

  • the activation of cellular signaling pathways
  • the enhancement of the Nrf2 pathway, which is critical for the regulation of detoxifying genes
  • potentially improving immune function

One research paper found carnosine synthase expression and carnosine levels are altered in the human skeletal muscle during different phases of training. During high-intensity interval training, β-alanine feeding promotes detoxification of lipid peroxidation products and increases anserine levels in the human skeletal muscle. [10]

Protection against cognitive decline

Woman playing chess.

Image courtesy of Canva/Getty Images

Recent studies on carnosine have been directed at the protective benefits of carnosine for cognitive decline. The population of elderly people (over 60 years old) will increase by 56% in the next 15 years and people over the age of 80 will triple by 2050. This rapid demographic aging will increase the prevalence of disease and disability, with a particular emphasis expected on the impairment of cognitive functions. [11]

The need for improving age-related cognitive decline becomes critical in light of the figures above, and this is why carnosine is the focus of these studies. Carnosine is derived from two amino acids and is present in the body. Due to its beneficial effects in dietary supplements for the elderly, it is becoming more appealing. 

It helps preserve function and maintain neuronal homeostasis, which is crucial for preventing oxidative damage. In 1995, carnosine was first reported to act as an anti-protein-cross-linking agent, highlighting its ability to prevent or reduce protein aggregation. In addition, carnosine displays other molecular mechanisms, such as:

  • Modulating immunological responses
  • Delaying cell aging processes

More recent reviews, such as those published on ScienceDirect.com, show that carnosine’s pharmacodynamic profile is multimodal and combines systemic anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities with its anti-aggregant and neuroprotective efficacy in the central nervous system. [3]

Four individual studies explored whether carnosine supplementation affected cognitive function. [4] Each study, which involved 52 to 60 patients, showed either an improvement or stabilization of cognitive measurements when taken with medication to treat cognitive disorders. In these same studies, dietary carnosine was compared to supplementation with either pill or powder form. The outcomes were promising and have provided enough evidence for further studies. 

Future Studies in Carnosine Research

Far from being stagnant, the landscape of carnosine research is dynamic and continually evolving. Future directions in this field hold promise for further understanding the multifaceted nature of carnosine and its applications.

For instance, dietary carnosine supplementation has potential therapeutic applications in neurodegenerative disorders, diabetic nephropathy, and insulin resistance, but these studies need a much broader demographic to conclusively show efficacy in populations suffering from these conditions. 

Chronic beta-alanine supplementation could potentially cause gene regulation changes linked to carnosine metabolism, despite currently conflicting research findings on this matter.

Furthermore, the improvement of diabetes mellitus parameters and symptoms of oral mucositis was seen, as well as the regression of esophagitis and taste disorders after chemotherapy, and the protection of the gastrointestinal mucosa due to intestinal absorption have recently been of interest to researchers.

Despite the numerous studies on carnosine, there is a recognized need for more high-quality clinical trials to confirm the therapeutic benefits of carnosine supplementation in various health conditions such as:

  • Senile cataracts
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autistic disorders
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction

From these studies, it is safe to conclude that carnosine dietary supplementation has become a topic of much interest in the medical community over the last two decades. Its powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have caused researchers to test its efficacy in a broad spectrum of applications in clinical studies.

In Conclusion

In this article, we reviewed research papers and findings on the natural compound carnosine and its effectiveness across a wide range of modalities.

Since it was first discovered over 100 years ago, it has been studied and promoted in the sporting arena due to its safety and efficacy. Therefore, research on its use for increasing performance, delaying muscle fatigue and being helpful as an anti-inflammatory has generated a large volume of scientific and credible information. 

Over the last two decades this kind of research continues to provide solid evidence in favor of carnosine and is now joined by an interest in its ability to help those suffering from cognitive decline. Since this is a rapidly increasing problem it is likely that this research will continue and also yield better delivery mechanisms that will be used by the sporting industry.

This small molecule is steadily making a huge impact on the scientific, medical and sporting community.  

Read TESTIMONIALS in favor of CarnoSport Sports Gel.

References:

1. Gulewitsch, W.L. and Amiradžibi, S., 1900. Ueber das Carnosin, eine neue organische Base des Fleischextractes. Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 33(2), pp.1902-1903.

2. Harris, R.C.; Tallon, M.J.; Dunnett, M.; Boobis, L.; Coakley, J.; Kim, H.J.; Fallowfield, J.L.; Hill, C.A.; Sale, C.; Wise, J.A. The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids 2006, 30, 279–289. 

3. Parkhouse, W.S.; McKenzie, D.C.; Hochachka, P.W.; Ovalle, W.K. Buffering capacity of deproteinized human vastus lateralis muscle. J. Appl. Physiol. 1985, 58, 14–17. 

4. Hill, C.A.; Harris, R.C.; Kim, H.J.; Harris, B.D.; Sale, C.; Boobis, L.H.; Kim, C.K.; Wise, J.A. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids 2007, 32, 225–233

5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00726-006-0474-z

6. Derave, W.; Ozdemir, M.S.; Harris, R.C.; Pottier, A.; Reyngoudt, H.; Koppo, K.; Wise, J.A.; Achten, E. Beta-alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters. J. Appl. Physiol. 2007, 103, 1736–1743. 

7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10300694/

8. Van Thienen, R.; Van Proeyen, K.; Vanden Eynde, B.; Puypo, J.; Lefere, T.; Hespel, P. Beta-alanine improves sprint performance in endurance cycling. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2009, 41, 898–903, Greenhaff, P.L.; Casey, A.; Short, A.H.; Harris, R.C.; Soderlund, K.; Hultman, E. Influence of oral creatine supplementation on muscle torque during repeated bouts of maximal voluntary exercise in man. Clin. Sci., 84, 565–571. 

9. Researchgate – carnosine from exercise performance to health

10. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00007.2018

11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7709591/

12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590257123000019#bib91

13. Small, B.J.; Rawson, K.S.; Martin, C.; Eisel, S.L.; Sanberg, C.D.; McEvoy, C.L.; Sanberg, P.R.; Shytle, R.D.; Tan, J.; Bickford, P.C. Nutraceutical intervention improves older adults’ cognitive functioning. Rejuvenation Res. 2014, 17, 27–32, Cornelli, U. Treatment of alzheimer’s disease with a cholinesterase inhibitor combined with antioxidants. Neurodegener. Dis. 2010, 7, 193–202.,Szcześniak, D.; Budzeń, S.; Kopeć, W.; Rymaszewska, J. Anserine and carnosine supplementation in the elderly: Effects on cognitive functioning and physical capacity. Arch. Gerontol. Geriatr. 2014, 59, 485–490.,Katakura, Y.; Totsuka, M.; Imabayashi, E.; Matsuda, H.; Hisatsune, T. Anserine/carnosine supplementation suppresses the expression of the inflammatory chemokine ccl24 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from elderly people. Nutrients 2017, 9, 1199.

14. Suzuki Y., Ito O., Mukai N., Takahashi H., Takamatsu K. High level of skeletal muscle carnosine contributes to the latter half of exercise performance during 30-s maximal cycle ergometer sprinting. Jpn. J. Physiol. 2002;52:199–205. doi: 10.2170/jjphysiol.52.199.