There are two amino acids that often get mixed up: carnitine and carnosine. What are they and how do they differ? Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Normally, when you eat proteins your body breaks them down into their basic units, called amino acids. Then your body puts them back together in a new way to build protein in your body, such as muscles and organs, and it is used for other bodily functions as well.
Carnitine is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body cannot produce it on its own, so it must be gotten through diet, specifically from protein foods (meats, fish, and eggs have all 22 common amino acids), but can also be taken as an amino acid supplement. Carnosine is a non-essential amino acid, which means that your body produces it on its own; therefore, it is not usually needed as a supplement.
Carnitine and carnosine can both be taken as supplements and are related to other amino acids: Carnitine is synthesized from the amino acids methionine and lysine. Carnosine is made from the amino acids histidine and alanine.
Carnitine and carnosine health benefits
Carnitine helps the body burn fat by transporting fatty acids, and it also flushes waste from mitochondria within cells. Carnitine is found in concentrations within the cardiac muscle and skeletal muscles.
Carnosine works differently than carnitine. In effect, it is an antioxidant. It functions within the brain, nervous system, and skeletal muscles. Interestingly, this amino acid can help remove excess zinc and copper from the body in a process known as chelation.
Carnitine and carnosine and healthy aging
Carnitine and carnosine both promote healthy aging and memory health. These two amino acids also support cardiovascular function.