Supplement Watch: Acetyl-L-carnitine

By Wendy McMillan

Walk out of the grocery store and can’t find your car? Left your keys in the front door—again? Age-related forgetfulness can be maddening, so you’ll want to write this one down: acetyl-L-carnitine. Research shows this amino acid can boost brainpower and memory. Its antioxidant properties repair damaged neurons (information-transmitting nerve cells), increasing your memory and capacity to learn. Acetyl-L-carnitine also shuttles fatty acids to the body’s “power plants”—the mitochondria in your cells that turn fat into energy—all of which further enhances alertness, focus, and concentration. If all this forgetfulness depresses you, acetyl-L-carnitine can help with that, too: It helps your brain make acetylcholine, an essential chemical for regulating moods. Unless you’re wild about animal brains (the only food source of acetyl-L-carnitine), Ray Sahelian, MD, author of Mind Boosters (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), suggests you take 100 to 400 mg in supplement form every morning.