European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 1313–1325 | Cite as

Effect of carnitine, acetyl-, and propionylcarnitine supplementation on the body carnitine pool, skeletal muscle composition, and physical performance in mice

  • Réjane Morand
  • Jamal Bouitbir
  • Andrea Felser
  • Jürgen Hench
  • Christoph Handschin
  • Stephan Frank
  • Stephan Krähenbühl
Original Contribution



Pharmacokinetics and effects on skeletal muscle and physical performance of oral acetylcarnitine and propionylcarnitine are not well characterized. We therefore investigated the influence of oral acetylcarnitine, propionylcarnitine, and carnitine on body carnitine homeostasis, energy metabolism, and physical performance in mice and compared the findings to non-supplemented control animals.


Mice were supplemented orally with 2 mmol/kg/day carnitine, acetylcarnitine, or propionylcarnitine for 4 weeks and studied either at rest or after exhaustive exercise.


In the supplemented groups, total plasma and urine carnitine concentrations were significantly higher than in the control group receiving no carnitine, whereas the skeletal muscle carnitine content remained unchanged. The supplemented acylcarnitines were hydrolyzed in intestine and liver and reached the systemic circulation as carnitine. Bioavailability of carnitine and acylcarnitines, determined as the urinary excretion of total carnitine, was in the range of 19 %. Skeletal muscle morphology, including fiber-type composition, was not affected, and oxygen consumption by soleus or gastrocnemius fibers was not different between the groups. Supplementation with carnitine or acylcarnitines had no significant impact on the running capacity, but was associated with lower plasma lactate levels and a higher glycogen content in white skeletal muscle after exhaustive exercise.


Oral supplementation of carnitine, acetylcarnitine, or propionylcarnitine in mice is associated with increased plasma and urine total carnitine concentrations, but does not affect the skeletal muscle carnitine content. Despite better preservation of skeletal muscle glycogen and lower plasma lactate levels, physical performance was not improved by carnitine or acylcarnitine supplementation.


Carnitine and short-chain acylcarnitines Bioavailability Muscle composition and metabolism Physical performance 



We would like to thank Markus Beer and Kristoffer Svensson for their kind assistance concerning the treadmill experiments. SK was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF 31003A-132992).

Conflict of interest

None of the authors reports any conflict of interest regarding this study.

Supplementary material

394_2013_631_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Réjane Morand
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jamal Bouitbir
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrea Felser
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jürgen Hench
    • 3
  • Christoph Handschin
    • 4
  • Stephan Frank
    • 3
  • Stephan Krähenbühl
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Clinical Pharmacology and ToxicologyUniversity Hospital BaselBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of BiomedicineUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Division of Neuropathology, Institute of PathologyUniversity Hospital BaselBaselSwitzerland
  4. 4.Division of Pharmacology/Neurobiology, BiozentrumUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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