A new study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center showed that supplementing obese rats with the nutrient carnitine improved their glucose tolerance, a health outcome that indicates a lower risk of diabetes.
The research team, led by Deborah Muoio, Ph.D., of the Duke Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center, also performed tests on human muscle cells that showed supplementing with carnitine might help older people with prediabetes, diabetes, and other disorders that make glucose (sugar) metabolism difficult.
Carnitine is made in the liver and recycled by the kidney, but in some cases when this is insufficient, dietary carnitine from red meat and other animal foods can compensate for the shortfall.
After just eight weeks of supplementation with carnitine, the obese rats restored their cells' fuel- burning capacity, which was shut down by a lack of natural carnitine, and improved their glucose tolerance.
According to researchers, these results offer hope for a new therapeutic option for people with glucose intolerance, older people, people with kidney disease, and those with type 2 diabetes
Muoio says that her team would soon begin a small clinical trial of carnitine supplementation in people who fit the profile of those who might benefit from additional carnitine - older people (60 to 80 years) with glucose intolerance.
The study is published in the Aug. 21 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.