A new scientific review describes the therapeutic potential of a supplement called carnosine. This review advocates for more clinical trials to evaluate carnosine’s ability to combat common disorders afflicting aging humans.
On May 20, 2022, a review article was published that described the hidden therapeutic potentials of carnosine.
Carnosine was defined as "a molecule with multimodal mechanisms of action."
The paper revealed more than 1,000 studies published about the structure, function, and biological activities of carnosine under experimental and clinical conditions. These human studies include evaluating carnosine’s potential to combat disorders as diverse as type II diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
Slow the Aging Process
An often overlooked cause of accelerated aging is glycation. Glycation damage occurs when glucose interacts with the body’s proteins to form non-functioning structures. Carnosine is an anti-glycation compound that also suppresses free radicals and persistent inflammatory reactions.
Daily supplementation with carnosine has been found to improve a range of outcomes associated with:
Cognition and exercise capacity in young and elderly adults,
Physical performance and quality of life in individuals with heart failure,
Glucose metabolism in overweight or obese non-diabetic and prediabetic individuals, and
Neurological outcomes (balance and locomotion) in Parkinson’s disease patients and elderly adults.
What is Carnosine?
Carnosine is a compound composed of two amino acids linked together (a dipeptide). It reduces or blocks glycation, rejuvenates aged cells, and more. These actions hinder processes that contribute to age-related disorders.
Dangers of Glycation
Glycation occurs when glucose (sugar) attaches to proteins, DNA, and lipids (fats), forming toxic compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs damage cells, tissues, and organs. Glycation occurs at a faster rate in those suffering from diabetes because they have elevated blood sugar that binds to the body’s proteins. But it occurs in everyone over time.
An Anti-Glycation Nutrient
Carnosine stands out because of its ability to prevent and reduce the impact of glycation.
It can inhibit the formation the toxic compounds resulting from excessive blood sugar, preventing them from damaging proteins. A systematic review of 36 articles on the impact of carnosine presented findings about its anti-glycation properties.
One randomized controlled trial found that compared to placebo, diabetic patients receiving 1,000 mg of carnosine each day for 12 weeks had significant improvements in fasting blood glucose, serum triglycerides, and HbA1c levels.
Carnosine’s ability to reduce glycation, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation makes it a promising candidate to slow aging processes. In cultured cells, carnosine helped prevent senescence and rejuvenated the cells that already showed signs of senescence. Cellular senescence is closely linked to accelerated aging and development of disease.
It has also been shown, in cultured cells, to reduce the shortening of telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. Longer telomeres are associated with increased lifespan. In an animal study, treating aging-accelerated mice with carnosine increased the proportion of mice living into old age.
Promoting Brain Health
Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s can result from protein glycation and oxidative stress that lead to the accumulation of toxic proteins.
In models of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and aging, carnosine has shown benefits, including:
Reduction of toxic protein aggregation and inflammation in cell studies,
Reduction in cognitive impairment, inflammation, and beta-amyloid accumulation in rodents, and
Increase in antioxidant enzymes in cell and animal models of Parkinson’s disease and aging.
Reduce Glycation for Better Health
Carnosine is a compound that is produced in the body. Levels decline with age.
Carnosine helps block the toxic effects of glucose that drive accelerated aging and risk for age-related disease. This compound also reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. In preclinical trials it has prevented cellular senescence and inhibited the shortening of telomeres. In one animal study, carnosine increased the proportion of mice living into old age. In human studies, carnosine has demonstrated the ability to help ward off premature aging and chronic disease.
Controlling Diabetes and Metabolic Disease
According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, almost 40 million Americans have diabetes. The numbers are even more worrisome regarding prediabetes (fasting blood sugar between 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL), which is present in almost 100 million adults 18 years and older.
In animal models, carnosine improves glucose control and insulin sensitivity and blocks the progression of diabetes complications. In one mouse study, it even reduced or delayed the initial development of diabetes. In a randomized controlled clinical study in non-diabetic overweight and obese individuals, 12 weeks of daily carnosine improved the glycemic and insulin response to an oral glucose challenge.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Fasting Glucose: 80-86 mg/dL
Fasting Insulin: <5 μIU/mL
A meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials of supplements containing carnosine or related compounds found that they improved triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Poor glucose control and diabetes increase risk of heart disease. By improving metabolic health and shielding tissues from glycation, carnosine reduces that risk. Several reviews have noted that carnosine may improve cardiac function and has potential benefits for prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump blood sufficiently, resulting in one or more symptoms that can include shortness of breath, fatigue, and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen or extremities. It can limit mobility and physical functioning, and severely impair quality of life.
In a study of patients with heart failure, participants were assigned to receive standard congestive heart failure medical therapy alone, or with added carnosine, 500 mg/day over a six-month period.
Compared with the patients not taking carnosine, the supplemented group significantly improved their physical condition in a number of ways. Patients saw improvement in:
Six-minute walking distance,
Peak exercise workload, and
The ability to deliver oxygen for use in tissues during exercise.
Oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, and glycation are underlying causes of aging and chronic disease. Carnosine can fight all three. It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and also anti-glycation compound. These actions can benefit brain, heart, and metabolic health. In clinical trials, carnosine has demonstrated improvements against several common chronic degenerative disorders.
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