N-acetyl L-carnosine shares an identical structure to l-carnosine with the addition of an acetyl group. It is more difficult for carnosinase enzymes to break down this acylated form of l-carnosine. L-carnosine is a naturally occurring dipeptide molecule synthesized from the amino acids histidine and alanine via carnosine synthetase enzymes. It is an antioxidant with antiglycation properties that improve longevity.
Muscles can store carnosine in high quantities as the body does not use it to synthesize proteins. The highest concentrations exist in parts of the body that demand a significant amount of energy, such as skeletal muscle, heart muscle, nerve tissue, and the brain.
Carnosine gets its name from the word carn, meaning meat or flesh. As the name implies, carnosine exists exclusively in meat. The body can synthesize l-carnosine in the liver, but vegetarians and vegans often have lower carnosine levels than people who eat meat. Individuals take n-acetyl l-carnosine and l-carnosine for their ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and protect cellular structural components against oxidative stress.
Potential N-Acetyl L-Carnosine Benefits
N-Acetyl L-Carnosine Antioxidants
L-carnosine is a potent antioxidant, but enzymes can quickly break it down into its primary components. The additional acetyl group in n-acetyl l-carnosine slows this process and allows carnosine to exert its effects for longer. Carnosine slows the aging process by blocking advanced glycation end products (AGEs) from forming. AGEs occur when proteins and fats glycate due to sugar exposure. They wreak havoc on several aspects of health, including expediting cellular aging, disrupting cell functions, damaging cells, and increasing cellular vulnerability to damage. Carnosine also inhibits advanced lipoxidation end product (ALE) formation. ALEs cause oxidative stress that can contribute to premature aging and worsen or lead to numerous chronic illnesses. Carnosine antioxidants protect DNA cells against oxidative stress and damage by scavenging reactive oxygen and nitrogen free radical species. It can also scavenge and chelate heavy metals.
N-Acetyl L-Carnosine and Cognition
Carnosine exerts neuroprotective effects on the brain by inhibiting and repairing AGE-related damage in the brain. Carnosine antioxidants also scavenge free radicals in the brain and protect it against oxidative damage. It also helps maintain optimal mitochondrial function and control autophagy. Autophagy is a normal part of breaking down and recycling cells, but too much can aggravate existing health conditions or bring about new ones. Research shows carnosine enhances some aspects of cognition. One study reported that individuals taking carnosine supplements had better executive function and made fewer errors than the participants taking a placebo.
N-Acetyl L-Carnosine for Exercise Performance and Energy
Athletes may benefit from taking n-acetyl l-carnosine supplements. Muscles store the highest concentrations of carnosine, where it accounts for 20% of type I and type II muscles’ acid buffering capacity. It helps improve muscle energy by maintaining the acid-base balance. Too much acid buildup (acidosis) causes fatigue and suppresses the ability to contract muscles. Buffering this acid may improve athletic performance and energy levels.
Other Potential N-Acetyl L-Carnosine Benefits
N-acetyl l-carnosine may enhance several other areas of health. The muscular layer of the heart contains large quantities of carnosine, where it exerts antioxidant effects. Research also shows carnosine supplements improve oxygen uptake and cardiovascular performance in individuals with heart health problems. N-acetyl l-carnosine also supports ocular health by protecting the eyes against oxidative stress.
Potential N-Acetyl L-Carnosine Side Effects
Most individuals do not experience issues while taking n-acetyl l-carnosine supplements. Some mild side effects may occur, such as dry mouth or appetite changes. These often resolve once the body adjusts to the supplement. Individuals taking blood pressure medication should consult a physician before taking n-acetyl l-carnosine supplements, as they may lower blood pressure. Large doses of n-acetyl l-carnosine supplements may cause a stimulatory effect and sleep disturbances, particularly if taken before going to bed.
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