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Review of Carnosine

What is Carnosine?

Carnosine, a naturally occuring histamine containing compound, is a potent antioxidant found in particualrly high concentrations in the heart, the brain and skeletal muscles.  Carnosine has a powerful protective effect in the brain and is also believed to enhance exercise performance by buffering the build up of hydrogen ions within muscle cells.

Who Should Consider Taking Carnosine?

Carnosine may be of benefit to people looking to enhance exercise performance and to reduce the damaging effects of oxidative stress.  Carnosine is believed to have positive effects on ageing and animal studie have found it may slow the ageing process.  Since acrnosine is found exclusively in animal tissues it should be especially beneficial for vegetarians.

Summary of Carnosine's Phyiological Effects:

  • Acts as an antioxidant
  • Binds with, and removes, toxic metals
  • Enhances cellular lifespan
  • Reduces damage to DNA
  • Protects against oxidation of "bad" LDL cholesterol
  • Has a protective effect on the brain
  • Reduces the build up of hydrogen ions
  • Improves contraction of cardiac muscle cells

Carnosine Research

Carnosine has been shown to have many health benefits.  It acts as an antioxidant, it chelates (binds with) toxic metals - transporting them out of the body, and buffers against the build up of damaging hydrogen ions (Holliday and McFarland, 2000, Hipkiss, A. R. 2006).  Not only was Carnosine found to enhance cellular lifespan it also rejuvenated ageing cells (Holliday and McFarland, 2000, Hipkiss et al., 2001).

Researchers have found that Carnosine can also extend the lifespan in human cell cultures, and significantly reduced damage to telomeric DNA (Shao, et al., 2004).  In addition, Carnosine appears to protect the lining of arteries from furring up by inhibiting the oxidation of the bad "LDL" cholesterol (Decker et al., 2001; Seifulla et al., 2005).

Carnosine is believed to have a powerful protective effect on the brain health by protecting against damage to the blood vessels of the brain and may help to reduce the build up of plaques within the brain (Salah et al., 2000).

Carnosine is found mainly in fast-twitch muscle fibres (Type II fibres) and is believed to play a role in enhancing maximal exercise performance.  One positive effect that Carnosine has on exercise performance is increased buffering of the build up of hydrogen ions when lactic acid is formed (Holliday and McFarland, 2000;Begum et al., 2005).  Recent research (Suzuki et al., 2006) found that Carnosine significantly enhanced the buffering capacity of the blood. As well as buffering increased hydrogen ion concentration Carnosine also regulates enzyme activity and inhibits the breakdown of proteins. By protecting against protein breakdown Carnosine should help to enhance post exercise recovery.

Research has shown that Carnosine levels were double the level in resistance trained individuals, compared with controls (Tallon et al., 2005), indicating the importance of having adequate Carnosine levels during maximal exercise.

Carnosine has also been demonstrated to improve the function of cardiac muscle cells (Roberts et al., 2000; Salah et al., 2000). This is thought to be mainly due to its regulation of calcium concentrations within cardiac muscle cells.

Is Carnosine effective?

Research shows many positive health effects associated with Carnosine.  It should alsoprove beneficial to athletes, however, further research is needed before this can be fully verified.

How to take Carnosine?

A general recommendation is to consume around 200-400mg daily, in a divided dose.

Carnosine References

Begum et al., 2005

Decker et al., 2001

Hipkiss et al., 2001

Hipkiss, A. R. 2006

Holliday and McFarland, 2000

Roberts et al., 2000

Salah et al., 2000

Seifulla et al., 2005

Shao, et al., 2004

Suzuki et al., 2006

Tallon et al., 2005