Experts claim that acetyl-L-carnitine can boost memory in Alzheimer’s patients
05/27/2020 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

Complementary and alternative approaches for the treatment of various types of dementia are steadily gaining traction due to the limited effectiveness of currently used medications. In the case of Alzheimer's disease, cognitive enhancers like donepezil, memantine and galantamine have been found to produce varying results in multiple studies. Their effects also appear to be short-lived in some patients. And often in clinical trials, their side effects outweigh their benefits.

In contrast, treatment with a naturally occurring amino acid called acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) has produced better results with very few adverse effects. According to a recent study by South Korean researchers, ALC works by increasing blood supply to the precuneus of Alzheimer's patients. This brain region is involved in complex functions, such as recollection and memory, mental imagery strategies, episodic memory retrieval and affective responses to pain. ALC is widely used today not only to treat cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative disorders, but also to enhance memory in healthy adults.

ALC helps restore cognitive function and delays cognitive impairment

ALC is both a conversion product and a precursor of L-carnitine, an amino acid produced by the body. ALC can be found in the liver and the brain and helps produce energy to sustain heart and brain function, as well as to support muscle movement and other processes. According to studies, ALC also helps stabilize nerve cell membranes, stimulates acetylcholine production and increases the efficiency of mitochondrial energy generation in the brain.


One of the earliest studies on ALC focused on its effects on dysthymia, a chronic form of depression. Researchers found that ALC significantly reduced the severity of depressive symptoms in senile adults (60 to 80 years old) and improved other aspects related to quality of life. These results hinted at the possibility of ALC having a positive influence on cognitive function. (Related: 14 supplements to give your brain a much-needed edge.)

In the same year, a team of Italian researchers found that treatment with ALC benefited elderly subjects who were undergoing rehabilitation for a rare type of cerebrovascular disease. They reported that ALC improved their memory function, as well as their performance in number and word tests. ALC also improved their responses to simple stimuli without causing any side effects.

Years later, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine conducted a one-year multi-center, placebo-controlled study to assess the efficacy of ALC in treating patients with early-onset Alzheimer's. They found that ALC slowed down cognitive decline in patients aged 65 years or younger but accelerated the process in older patients. These findings suggest that the neuroprotective benefits of ALC are age-dependent.

Another benefit of ALC comes from its ability to promote neurological recovery. This is particularly important for people with nervous system-related diseases, injury or disorders, as well as those who have suffered from a stroke. In a study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, researchers at The Ronald Reagan Institute of Emergency Medicine conducted a randomized, blinded study involving rats subjected to cerebral occlusion to induce stroke.

The researchers found that ALC treatment for seven days significantly improved neurological outcomes as early as day 1 post-operation. ALC also reduced weight loss in the rats significantly, compared with controls that received a different treatment. These findings show that ALC can help the brain recover from massive injury, and treatment with the amino acid can effectively improve or restore neurological function.

The problem with modern medications

Research on Alzheimer's medications, particularly cholinesterase inhibitors, suggest that their effectiveness is only modest and hinges on patients having a high tolerance for their distressing side effects. Common complaints associated with these drugs include severe diarrhea, headaches, nausea and vomiting and even fainting. Because of their negative impact on quality of life, the use of these medications is often discontinued to afford patients relief.

Another notable finding regarding the use of cholinesterase inhibitors is that their effects differ only by a small margin to those of inert medication (placebo). Additionally, not all Alzheimer's patients experience long-term benefits. Reports have mentioned cases in which these drugs were effective for only short periods. Moreover, clinical benefits dissipate within a few weeks after these medications are stopped.

Compared with conventional Alzheimer's treatments, natural medicines like acetyl-L-carnitine show consistency in terms of effectiveness and are generally well-tolerated by patients. ALC also shows promise in treating other conditions besides brain disorders.

Learn more about ALC and similarly useful supplements at

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