Posted on Mon, 26 May 14
A little known natural medicine for depression has been found in several clinical studies to not only be effective, but safer and better tolerated than anti-depressant medication. Furthermore, it may reverse memory loss with age.
The nutrient acetyl-l-carnitine is a natural occurring amino acid that has long been studied as a dietary supplement for its anti-fatigue, mood and memory enhancing effects.
In the brain, acetyl-l-carnitine has been shown to have anti-depressant, neuroprotective, and cognitive enhancing effects. Interestingly, it has also been shown to improve energy production and mental health in the brains of people with depression and age related cognitive decline (1).
A recent review (2) set out to identify the research to date in which acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC) has been studied in people with depression, and this is what they found:
- Four randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) demonstrated the superior efficacy of ALC over placebo in patients with depression.
- Two RCTs showed its superior efficacy over placebo in chronic depression (dysthymia).
- Two other RCTs showed that it is equally effective as the anti-depressant medications fluoxetine and amisulpride in treatment of dysthymia.
- ALC was also effective in improving depressive symptoms in people with fibromyalgia.
- ALC had no more side-effects than placebo and had less side-effects than anti-depressant drugs.
“In conclusion, ALC may be potentially effective and tolerable next treatment option with novel action mechanisms for patients with depression, in particular older population and patients with comorbid medical conditions those who are vulnerable to adverse events from antidepressants” wrote the investigators.
The optimal dose is unknown, but most studies used from 1000 mg to 3000 mg daily, for at least 2-months. The only side effects appear to be greater feelings of energy and better memory and cognition.
- Brown BI. Nutritional Brain Energy Enhancement for Reducing Mental Fatigue and Improving Mood and Cognition. JOM, 2012; 27(4): 177-186. - Link to free full-text
- Wang SM, Han C, Lee SJ, et al. A review of current evidence for acetyl-l-carnitine in the treatment of depression. J Psychiatr Res. 2014 Jun;53:30-7. - Link to abstract