Carnosine (B-alanyl-L-histidine) is a naturally-occurring di-peptide (a combination of two amino acids), found in muscle, brain and other animal and human tissues. Carnosine is a powerful antioxidant and an anti-glycation agent. Glycation is a process whereby unstable protein and sugar molecules build up in the brain causing a browning of brain matter. It also appears to enhance wound healing; reduce lactic acid accumulation; promote muscle recovery; and enhances muscle contraction. Carnosine is found in high concentrations in skeletal muscles and thus the focus of research has been on athletic performance. It appears to be a powerful antioxidant.
Research has implicated carnosine in a variety of physiological processes. Its most widely researched function is as a "broad-spectrum" antioxidant, able to interact with several free radical species including singlet oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and both peroxyl and hydroxyl radicals. Carnosine is also able to inhibit radical-induced cellular damage caused by iron, copper and zinc. It appears to help activate the enzymes responsible for generating muscle contractions (myofibrillar-ATPase) and act as an intramuscular buffering agent to prevent accumulation of lactic acid. Among athletes, muscle carnosine levels are highest in those with high anaerobic demands (rowers and track sprinters), but levels are also elevated in endurance athletes (marathoners) when compared to untrained subjects. There are a number of potential therapeutic actions of carnosine, including antihypertensive effects; immunomodulation; wound healing and anti-tumor/chemopreventive effects
Current research shows that in animal and test-tube experiments, carnosine inhibits oxidation of LDL-cholesterol and reduces development of breast cancer (in rats). High doses of carnosine may also possess some immune-stimulating activity as shown by animal experiments in which survival time in x-ray irradiated mice was increased by about 50% following carnosine intake (50-200mg/kg.day – a very large dose). It also appears to promote wound healing as shown by animal experiments in which 6-20mg/kg/day for 2 weeks reduced the size and depth of gastric ulcers and accelerated regeneration of the damaged tissue.
Calculating the pool of muscle dipeptides (mainly carnosine) accounts for about 10%-40% of the pH-buffering capacity of muscle tissue. Therefore, during intense exercise, carnosine may play an important role in preventing the reduction in pH caused by lactic acid accumulation – and thereby improving exercise performance. Animal studies in racehorses have shown that muscle carnosine concentrations are higher in muscles with a high percentage of fast-twitch glycolytic fibers and lower in muscles with predominantly slower twitch oxidative fiber types. In addition to its potential effects on anaerobic metabolism (lactic acid), carnosine may enhance oxidative (aerobic) metabolism by increasing the efficiency of mitochondria to produce cellular energy.
Dietary Sources: The average daily intake of carnosine from foods is probably in the range of 50-250mg (based on a diet containing at least one serving, 3-4 ounces, of beef, pork or chicken).
Dosage: Oral doses of 1-3 grams per day have been used with success in managing immune system function in cancer patients.
Side Effects: Rodent experiments have suggested that carnosine is extremely safe – no adverse toxic effects are noted even at doses up to 500mg/kg body weight (about 35 grams for an average-sized man).
Research on carnosine shows the following effects:
1. Protects superoxide dismutase against oxidation
2. Prevents the accumulation of age-related free radicals
3. May protect against the oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer’s
4. Protects neuronal and endothelial cells from damage
5. Has anti-glycating properties
6. Improves memory in Alzheimer’s
7. Improves cognition in Alzheimer’s
8. Protect against malondialdehyde toxicity
9. Provide protection to cells and molecules from free radical damage
10. Delays aging in human cells
11. Protects against toxic aldehydes and thus offers protection from diabetes complications, inflammatory ailments, and alcohol-related liver disease
12. Affects protein metabolism
13. Affects cellular homeostasis
14. Prevents development of senility features
15. Reduces lipid peroxide production
16. Aids in wound healing
17. Enhances the immune system
Carnosine Abstracts (47)