European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 207–217

Effect of l-carnitine supplementation on the body carnitine pool, skeletal muscle energy metabolism and physical performance in male vegetarians

  • Katerina Novakova
  • Oliver Kummer
  • Jamal Bouitbir
  • Sonja D. Stoffel
  • Ulrike Hoerler-Koerner
  • Michael Bodmer
  • Paul Roberts
  • Albert Urwyler
  • Rolf Ehrsam
  • Stephan Krähenbühl
Original Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s00394-015-0838-9

Cite this article as:
Novakova, K., Kummer, O., Bouitbir, J. et al. Eur J Nutr (2016) 55: 207. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-0838-9

Abstract

Purpose

More than 95 % of the body carnitine is located in skeletal muscle, where it is essential for energy metabolism. Vegetarians ingest less carnitine and carnitine precursors and have lower plasma carnitine concentrations than omnivores. Principle aims of the current study were to assess the plasma and skeletal muscle carnitine content and physical performance of male vegetarians and matched omnivores under basal conditions and after l-carnitine supplementation.

Results

Sixteen vegetarians and eight omnivores participated in this interventional study with oral supplementation of 2 g l-carnitine for 12 weeks. Before carnitine supplementation, vegetarians had a 10 % lower plasma carnitine concentration, but maintained skeletal muscle carnitine stores compared to omnivores. Skeletal muscle phosphocreatine, ATP, glycogen and lactate contents were also not different from omnivores. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and workload (Pmax) per bodyweight (bicycle spiroergometry) were not significantly different between vegetarians and omnivores. Sub-maximal exercise (75 % VO2max for 1 h) revealed no significant differences between vegetarians and omnivores (respiratory exchange ratio, blood lactate and muscle metabolites). Supplementation with l-carnitine significantly increased the total plasma carnitine concentration (24 % in omnivores, 31 % in vegetarians) and the muscle carnitine content in vegetarians (13 %). Despite this increase, Pmax and VO2max as well as muscle phosphocreatine, lactate and glycogen were not significantly affected by carnitine administration.

Conclusions

Vegetarians have lower plasma carnitine concentrations, but maintained muscle carnitine stores compared to omnivores. Oral l-carnitine supplementation normalizes the plasma carnitine stores and slightly increases the skeletal muscle carnitine content in vegetarians, but without affecting muscle function and energy metabolism.

Keywords

Vegetarians l-carnitine supplementation Spiroergometry Skeletal muscle Energy metabolism 

Supplementary material

394_2015_838_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katerina Novakova
    • 1
    • 2
  • Oliver Kummer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jamal Bouitbir
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sonja D. Stoffel
    • 1
  • Ulrike Hoerler-Koerner
    • 1
  • Michael Bodmer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paul Roberts
    • 1
    • 2
  • Albert Urwyler
    • 3
  • Rolf Ehrsam
    • 1
  • Stephan Krähenbühl
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Clinical Pharmacology and ToxicologyUniversity Hospital BaselBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of BiomedicineUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of AnesthesiaUniversity Hospital BaselBaselSwitzerland

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