The antidepressive effect of acetyl-L-carnitine

A deficiency in acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is suspected to be one of the risk factors of depression, but data on the effects of supplementing with ALC on humans are limited. A review published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine investigated literature on the effects of ALC supplementation on depressive symptoms.

  • The researchers conducted their search in all major databases without using any language restriction, scouring for articles published from inception until 30 December 2016.
  • The search covered only randomized controlled trials (RCT) involving either just ALC or ALC in combination with antidepressant medications, with a control group taking either a placebo or no intervention or antidepressants.
  • The researchers gathered 12 RCTs, 11 of which were monotherapy. A total of 791 participants, with a mean age of 54 and 65 percent of whom were females, were involved in the studies.
  • Nine RCTs showed that ALC reduced depressive symptoms. Three of the RCTs compared the effects of ALC and antidepressants and found that the former was just as effective as the latter, albeit with fewer side effects.
  • Supplementation with ALC was noted to have been more effective on older people.

The researchers concluded that supplementation with ALC can reduce the symptoms of depression more effectively than placebos or no intervention and as effectively as established antidepressants but with fewer side effects. They recommended large-scale trials to refute or confirm their findings.

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Journal Reference:

Veronese N, Stubbs B, Solmi M, Ajnakina O, Carvalho AF, Maggi S. ACETYL-L-CARNITINE SUPPLEMENTATION AND THE TREATMENT OF DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW AND META-ANALYSIS. Psychosomatic Medicine. 1 February 2018;80(2):154–159. DOI: 10.1097/psy.0000000000000537

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