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Carnosine

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated September 26, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Carnosine is a substance produced naturally by the body. Classified as a dipeptide (a compound made up of two linked amino acid molecules), carnosine is highly concentrated in muscle tissue and in the brain. A synthetic form of carnosine is sold in supplement form and touted as a natural remedy for a host of health conditions.

Uses for Carnosine

Carnosine supplements are often marketed as anti-aging aids. Proponents also claim that carnosine can help treat or prevent a number of health problems, including:

In addition, carnosine is said to stimulate the immune system, enhance mood, improve memory, fight wrinkles, and preserve eyesight.

Benefits of Carnosine

Research indicates that carnosine has powerful antioxidant properties. Carnosine also appears to fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. It's thought that carnosine's antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects could help protect against a number of aging-related conditions (such as Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular disease).

In animal-based studies and laboratory research, scientists have found that carnosine may offer a number of a health benefits, such as inhibiting the buildup of amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease), preventing diabetes-related nerve damage, and promoting vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels, a process essential to keeping blood pressure in check). Still, very few clinical trials have tested the potential health benefits of taking carnosine supplements. Until such trials are conducted, it's difficult to tell how consumption of carnosine might influence human health.

One of the few clinical trials involving carnosine is a small study published in the Journal of Child Neurology in 2002. For the study, 31 children with autistic spectrum disorders took either a carnosine supplement or a placebo every day for eight weeks. By the end of the treatment period, members of the carnosine group showed significantly greater improvements in certain measures of functioning (including behavior and communication). The study's authors note that carnosine may benefit children with autism by enhancing nervous-system function.

Is Carnosine Safe?

While very little is known about the safety of taking carnosine supplements, there's some concern that carnosine may disrupt your sleep. Since the health risks of carnosine supplements are unknown, it's important to seek medical advice before using carnosine.

Should You Use Carnosine for Health Purposes?

It's too soon to recommend carnosine supplements as a standard treatment for any health problem. If you're considering the use of carnosine supplements for treatment of a chronic condition, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen. It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with carnosine supplements and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources

Chez MG, Buchanan CP, Aimonovitch MC, Becker M, Schaefer K, Black C, Komen J. "Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of L-carnosine supplementation in children with autistic spectrum disorders." J Child Neurol. 2002 Nov;17(11):833-7.

Guiotto A, Calderan A, Ruzza P, Borin G. "Carnosine and carnosine-related antioxidants: a review." Curr Med Chem. 2005;12(20):2293-315.

Hipkiss AR. "Carnosine and its possible roles in nutrition and health." Adv Food Nutr Res. 2009;57:87-154.

Hipkiss AR. "Could carnosine or related structures suppress Alzheimer's disease?" J Alzheimers Dis. 2007 May;11(2):229-40.

Hipkiss AR. "Would carnosine or a carnivorous diet help suppress aging and associated pathologies?" Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 May;1067:369-74.

Janssen B, Hohenadel D, Brinkkoetter P, Peters V, Rind N, Fischer C, Rychlik I, Cerna M, Romzova M, de Heer E, Baelde H, Bakker SJ, Zirie M, Rondeau E, Mathieson P, Saleem MA, Meyer J, Köppel H, Sauerhoefer S, Bartram CR, Nawroth P, Hammes HP, Yard BA, Zschocke J, van der Woude FJ. "Carnosine as a protective factor in diabetic nephropathy: association with a leucine repeat of the carnosinase gene CNDP1." Diabetes. 2005 Aug;54(8):2320-7.

Quinn PJ, Boldyrev AA, Formazuyk VE. "Carnosine: its properties, functions and potential therapeutic applications." Mol Aspects Med. 1992;13(5):379-444.

Ririe DG, Roberts PR, Shouse MN, Zaloga GP. "Vasodilatory actions of the dietary peptide carnosine." Nutrition. 2000 Mar;16(3):168-72.

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