L-Carnosine: The Anti-Aging Powerhouse Nutrient
The scientific theories of aging are many, from the telomere theory to the “wear and tear” theory, but most scientists agree that one of the biggest contributors to the aging process is damage to cells by free radicals. These unstable reactive organic molecules cause oxidative stress in the body, and over time, lead to the damage that we call aging.
Most of the nutrients that can help slow this free radical damage are in the antioxidant family, but once in a while a new one comes along that rises up above the rest — and L-carnosine is one of those.
Actually a blend of two amino acids, beta-alanine and L-histidine, bonded together covalently, carnosine occurs naturally in our bodies, mainly in our muscle and brain tissues. But while carnosine is broken down easily into its amino acid components, when joined together, these two amino acids work more effectively and work wonders for our health.
Researchers around the world have discovered that carnosine has antioxidant properties which give it the ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS) and alpha-beta unsaturated aldehydes, which result from fatty acid peroxidation in cell membranes during oxidative stress. Carnosine is abundant in long-lived cells such as nerve and muscle cells and carnosine are correlated with the longest life spans in animals.
One of the most powerful protective and anti-aging effects that L-carnosine possesses is its anti-glycation effect. Glycation is a classic sign of chronic and degenerative diseases and happens normally when sugar aldehydes react with proteins and form abnormal proteins, causing significant damage to cells. In chemistry, this reaction is sometimes called a “browning” reaction, seen every time meat is “browned” when cooking. L-carnosine can block this glycation reaction, and prevent the formation of these proteins, essentially slowing down part of the aging process, and having major implications for several degenerative diseases.
For example, carnosine derivatives can clear the build-up of compounds make of abnormal sugar and protein within the eye — which can lead to age-related vision loss due to cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. In animal studies, carnosine has been shown to slow cancer growth and protect against alcohol-induced oxidative stress and chronic liver damage. It is also protects against stroke in mice and has been found to reduce cell damage caused by amyloid plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
In addition, carnosine can bind to harmful metal compounds and inactivate them and make the carnosine/metal compound that results in useful antioxidants that can fight H. pylori, the bacteria that causes ulcers, it can act to fight allergy and improve blood flow to brain. L-carnosine can even help to slow skin aging, minimizing wrinkles and breakdown of skin elasticity, and also may be beneficial in the prevention of atherosclerosis and joint inflammation.
Carnosine has also been found have benefits for children with autism and autistic spectrum disorders. The nutrient has been shown to have a great potential for improving language and behavior in ASD and a study by the Chez, et al, reported that carnosine may improve social skills, receptive language, auditory processing, awareness of their surroundings, and help with fine motor planning and expressive language, compared to placebo and there are no known adverse side effects to taking L-carnosine, even at higher doses (50g+).
So clearly, carnosine is a must have for anyone interested in anti-aging and has added benefits for many others. So how do we increase waning levels as we get older? People who don’t consume enough protein in their daily diet run a higher risk of having insufficient levels in their body. Dietary sources of carnosine include poultry, meat and fish. But even for meat eaters, carnosine levels will eventually decrease with age so a supplement is highly recommended to reap the benefits of this incredible nutrient.
As with other antioxidants, carnosine acts in synergy when taken with different antioxidants such as vitamin E, which when taken with carnosine, has higher levels of both nutrients in cardiac muscle than when they were just taken alone.