Carnitine is a natural component consisting of the amino acids lysine and methionine. It is involved in lipid (fat) metabolism, making it possible for fatty acids to be used by the body for energy production in the mitochondria.
This is why athletes often use carnitine supplements to enhance their performance. In addition to that, there have also been various studies examining a possible benefit of taking carnitine supplements during weight-loss programs. Results were not consistent, though. Whereas some studies showed very promising results, many experts remain critical. This is mainly due to the fact, that carnitine is normally produced in sufficient quantities by the body and therefore supplementation seems to be pointless.
The situation for PCOS patients is quite different, though. Women affected by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) suffer from irregular menstrual cycles, elevated androgen levels and polycystic ovaries. Due to the close connection between the carbohydrate metabolism and the disorder, weight management is often recommended as a first step of treatment. Many PCOS patients, however, have already experienced a series of unsuccessful attempts at losing weight. This might well be due to the fact that PCOS patients have markedly lower levels of carnitine than healthy persons (Fenkci et al, 2008).
In accordance with this observation, results from a recent study published in June 2016 in the renowned British journal Clinical Endocrinology hint at the fact that PCOS patients may benefit from carnitine supplementation way more than healthy persons.
A group of scientists from Kashan, a city in the province of Isfahan in central Iran, assigned 60 over-weight study participants with PCOS randomly in two groups. One group received a daily supplementation of 250 mg carnitine, the other group had a placebo. After 12 weeks, head scientist Dr Samini and his colleagues recorded some very promising results: the participants in the carnitine-supplemented group had lost significantly more weight and had markedly improved levels of insulin. This blood sugar hormone allows for take-up and metabolizing of carbohydrates in the body. In addition to that, the hormone was also much more effective (doctors refer to this as a decrease of insulin resistance).
Particularly interesting for PCOS-patients planning for pregnancy: 2014 a separate study found that supplementation of carnitine improved success of clomiphene treatment considerably, resulting in higher pregnancy rates (Ismail et al, 2014).
By the way: neither of the studies reported any side effects. While due to the low patient numbers expectations shouldn’t be too high, there is obviously nothing to lose either.
Carnitine in an ideal dosage for PCOS patients is available in combination with other micronutrients important in PCOS (such as inositols, chromium, vitamin D, omega-3-fatty acids and others) as dietetic food Fertilovit®FPCOS (www.fertilovit.com).
Ismail AM, Hamed AH, Saso S, Thabet HH.Adding L-carnitine to clomiphene resistant PCOS women improves the quality of ovulation and the pregnancy rate. A randomized clinical trial. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2014 Sep;180:148-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2014.06.008. Epub 2014 Jun 23.
Fenkci SM, Fenkci V, Oztekin O, Rota S, Karagenc N. Serum total L-carnitine levels in non-obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Hum Reprod. 2008 Jul;23(7):1602-6. doi: 10.1093/humrep/den109. Epub 2008 Mar 31.
Samimi M, Jamilian M, Ebrahimi FA, Rahimi M, Tajbakhsh B, Asemi Z. Oral carnitine supplementation reduces body weight and insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2016 Jun;84(6):851-7. doi: 10.1111/cen.13003. Epub 2016 Jan 29.