Monday, 12 December 2016

What is Carnosine and What Can it Do?

If you are interested in natural health and antiaging, you have probably heard of the non-essential nutrient carnosine. But what is it? Carnosine is a dipeptide, meaning that it is made of two amino acids, in this case L-histidine and beta-alanine. It is "non-essential" because it is produced naturally by the body, and is mostly found in the brain, nerves and muscles as these are the most energy-demanding. One of carnosine's most important roles is to defend us against toxic substances and excess glucose. It prevents glucose molecules from reacting with proteins (glycosylation) and prevents proteins from cross-linking in ways that cause excess stiffness and interfere with their functioning. Because of this, carnosine helps to prevent the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that worsen the sugar-induced damage to proteins seen in people with diabetes. Glycation and AGEs are a major cause of aging in everyone, partly because of the inflammation they produce. It can also protect cells from damage caused by AGEs that have already been formed, and even slow telomere shortening! (Telomeres are protective caps on chromosomes that are required for cell division) All of this means that carnosine was one of the first substances to be deemed antiaging at a cellular level.

But how has carnosine performed in clinical trials? In one study, 56 volunteers over 65 were given either chicken meat extract, which is high in carnosine, or placebo, for 13 weeks. After these 13 weeks, the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the carnosine group fell significantly compared to placebo, meaning they lost weight. Only the carnosine group saw significant increases in two of the six Senior Fitness Tests and reported less perceived exertion. They were also the only group to improve their scores in the Short Test of Mental Status, in the areas of construction/copying, abstraction and recall. Another trial also looked at the similar "chicken essence", a traditional Asian remedy for fatigue. Twenty healthy men were assigned to either a drink containing chicken essence or placebo for four weeks, and those taking the chicken essence had significantly better energy levels and cognitive performance. These studies mean well for those of us who prefer food over supplements.

Of course, supplementation of carnosine can also be effective, including in the case of congestive heart failure (CHF). Fifty patients received either 500mg of carnosine for six months or a placebo, in order to test differences in walking distance, quality of life and heart function. Patients getting carnosine saw significant improvements in the distance walked over six minutes, quality of life, peak exercise workload and oxygen levels. As for diabetes, a clinical trial of people at high risk for developing the disease found that although insulin resistance worsened in both groups, it increased 3.8 times more in the placebo group than in the carnosine group. Insulin secretion increased by 36% in the placebo group, but only by 3% in the carnosine group. Therefore, carnosine was able to mostly offset the effects of their current diet and lifestyle. The wide range of benefits that carnosine has demonstrated is because of the fact that high blood sugar and glycation affect every inch of our bodies. However, taking it is not an excuse to eat large amounts of sugary, processed foods all the time - but it can be a good prevention strategy for everyday, lower levels of glycation and during times when you do eat a lot of junk food, such as Halloween and Christmas.

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