I've read that the dietary supplement acetyl-L-carnitine may reduce fatigue in multiple sclerosis. Is this true?
Answers from Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.
Currently, there isn't enough evidence to know whether acetyl-L-carnitine helps improve fatigue associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) or not. More study is needed.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is a form of L-carnitine, an amino acid that is found in nearly all cells of the body. L-carnitine plays a critical role in the production of energy from long-chain fatty acids. In addition, it increases the activity of certain nerve cells in the central nervous system.
Fatigue is a common symptom in people with multiple sclerosis. But the cause of the fatigue isn't well-understood.
As for treating fatigue with acetyl-L-carnitine, some studies have suggested that supplements could ease MS-related fatigue in people with low blood levels of L-carnitine.
Other research found that acetyl-L-carnitine works better than certain medications used to treat fatigue. But additional studies have had inconclusive results, showing a possible, but not statistically significant, benefit to acetyl-L-carnitine in MS-related fatigue.
Although acetyl-L-carnitine generally has few or mild side effects, it can interfere with blooding-thinning medications and other drugs. So, if you decide to try acetyl-L-carnitine or any other dietary supplement, be sure to talk with your doctor first.
July 30, 2015
See more Expert Answers
- Multiple sclerosis-related fatigue. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 22, 2015.
- Tejani AM, et al. Carnitine for fatigue in multiple sclerosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007280.pub3/abstract. Accessed June 22, 2015.
- Ledinek AH, et al. Evaluating the effects of amantadin, modafinil and acetyl-L-carnitineon fatigue in multiple sclerosis – Result of a pilot randomized, blind study. Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery. 2013;115S:S86.
- Tomassini V, et al. Comparison of the effects of acetyl L-carnitine and amantadine for the treatment of fatigue in multiple sclerosis: Results of a pilot, randomised, double-blind, crossover trial. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. 2004;218:103.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 23, 2015.
- Induruwa I, et al. Fatigue in multiple sclerosis — A brief review. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. 2012;323:9.