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L Carnitine Side Effects & Benefits

By Brian Willett ; Updated August 14, 2017

L-carnitine, often referred to simply as carnitine, is an amino acid. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that it can help your body convert fat into energy through a process called fat oxidation. Carnitine's effects, however, are not limited to just this process as carnitine may also be able to address a variety of medical conditions due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress. As effective as carnitine may be, you may also experience side effects when using it.

Weight Loss

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, carnitine is commonly used for weight loss. The center explains that carnitine may encourage weight loss by increasing muscle mass. Increased muscle mass results in an increase in your metabolic rate, which means you will burn more calories throughout the day. In addition, the University of Maryland Medical Center says that carnitine may reduce fat mass. The institution notes, however, that research promoting this benefit is not convincing.

Reduction of Metabolic Stress

Although exercise has a number of benefits for your general health, it also results in metabolic stress, which can produce effects such as ammonia build-up. However, some research appears that carnitine may be able to ease the effects of metabolic stress. A study published in the December 2008 issue of the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism" found that supplementation of 2 g of carnitine each day resulted in a reduction in ammonia accumulation. The researchers noted that regular carnitine supplementation may be able to diminish the metabolic stress associated with exercise.

Gastrointestinal Discomfort

According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the risk of carnitine side effects is generally low. Carnitine supplementation may, however, result in gastrointestinal discomfort, including cramps and nausea.

Body Odor

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, another potential side effect of carnitine supplementation is a fishy body odor. The institute notes that taking doses of more than 3,000 mg per day can produce this effect. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, use of this amount is recommended in some cases for heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, chronic fatigue and male infertility.

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