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Super Nutrients for Heart Health: L-Carnitine & Taurine

Part 3 of a 4-Part Series   

As we reach our 50s and beyond, maintaining a healthy heart and cardiovascular system may become more difficult.  This is due, in part, to the inevitable loss of lean muscle mass (including heart muscle) which comes with age.  Fortunately, supplementing with two important amino acids—L-carnitine and taurine—has been shown to help protect against damage to the heart muscle and the circulatory system.



L-Carnitine, the Heart’s “Fuel Pump”

L-carnitine is a substance found naturally in most cells of the body, particularly the brain, heart, muscle and neural tissue.  Its primary function is to enable the body’s cellular energy production.

Think of your body’s cells as tiny “factories” which produce the energy required for the function of all your muscles and tissues.  As a fuel source, your cells depend largely on the burning of fatty acids.  In order for long-chain fatty acids to enter into the cells easily, they must be transported by L-carnitine. Because the body cannot produce its own L-carnitine, its transport into the heart and skeletal muscles, as well as many other tissues, is of vital importance.[1]

Healthy heart function is critically dependent on adequate levels of L-carnitine. To your heart, a deficiency of L-carnitine would be similar to trying to run an automobile without a fuel pump.  Despite plenty of fuel, there would be no way to get it to the engine.[1]

L-carnitine is useful in angina due to its ability to improve oxygen usage and energy metabolism by the heart muscle. Also, as a result of improving fatty acid usage and energy production, L-carnitine prevents the production of toxic byproducts,[2] which can be extremely damaging and disrupting to the body’s cells.

Protecting Cells in the Heart and Arteries

Changes in the properties of cell membranes throughout the heart are thought to contribute to impaired heart muscle contraction and increased susceptibility to irregular beats, and to the eventual death of heart tissue. Supplementing the diet with L-carnitine increases levels within the heart tissue, and helps to prevent heart damage.

L-carnitine supplements also boost antioxidant enzyme levels, helping to protect cells from unstable molecules called free radicals. In addition to helping with angina, these cell-protective effects make L-carnitine beneficial in recovery from:  heart attack, deterioration of the heart muscle, irregular heart rhythm, and congestive heart failure.[1,3,4]

Besides its other benefits for heart health, L-carnitine was found to help normalize blood fats by lowering triglycerides and total cholesterol levels while raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good cholesterol.” After 4 months of L-carnitine in patients with elevated blood fats, typical changes included a 20% reduction for total cholesterol, a 28% decrease in triglycerides, and a 12% increase in HDL levels.[1,5]

Similarly, a 3-month study conducted in 2009 found that L-carnitine supplements significantly reduced levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides and apolipoproteins in patients with type 2 diabetes, while significantly increasing beneficial HDL.[6]  Since oxidized LDL contributes to coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis, these findings indicate that L-carnitine supplementation may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

One other very important benefit of L-carnitine is that it allows the heart muscle to use a limited oxygen supply more efficiently. This translates to improved heart function, especially in cases where heart damage may have already occurred.  Improvements after supplementing with L-carnitine have been noted in both exercise tolerance and heart function.[1,5]

Taurine Found to Have Multiple Benefits for the Heart

Taurine is a naturally-occurring substance, found in the tissues of humans and most animal species. The largest amounts of taurine are found in skeletal and cardiac muscles, and taurine is involved in a number of bodily processes.[7]  Various studies indicate taurine is safe and effective for the management of cardiovascular diseases[7] through various mechanisms.

Taurine’s ability to reduce total cholesterol has been described as “striking” based on a variety of experiments. Taurine reduces total cholesterol levels primarily by decreasing very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).[8] These forms of cholesterol are sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol.”

What’s more, taurine aids in the regulation of intracellular calcium levels, thereby protecting the heart muscle from cell death. [7]

Proven to Help Heart Beat, Blood Pressure & CHF

Taurine’s use in preventing abnormal heart beat is well-known and documented.[9]  Studies have also revealed taurine to be capable of lowering blood pressure, due to its positive effects on the force of muscular contractions of the heart.[10,11]  Other research has shown that taurine functions as an antioxidant, protecting heart tissue from damage by unstable molecules.[12]

An impressive Japanese study found that taurine is capable of helping those with congestive heart failure (CHF). Taurine supplementation was significantly more effective than placebo at decreasing problems with shortness of breath, abnormal heartbeat, crackles from fluid buildup in the lungs, and edema (from fluid retention) in congestive heart failure patients. Taurine also increased their capacity for exercise.[13]

The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease are rapidly emerging. Although more research needs to be performed, numerous experimental and several clinical studies have demonstrated how taurine supports the cardiovascular system.[14]

Most recently, a 2012 study, published online by the European Journal of Nutrition, found that taurine may be protective against coronary heart disease in those with high serum cholesterol levels.[15]

Getting adequate amounts of L-carnitine and taurine, along with other synergistic heart nutrients, can be both simple and cost-effective when you take them as part of a heart-specific formulation. HeartWise is a unique, scientifically-advanced formula which includes both L-carnitine and taurine, along with CoQ10, hawthorn, garlic, grape seed extract, tocotrienols, and Bioperine (for CoQ10 absorption).

This post is Part Three of a 4-Part series on Super Nutrients for Heart Health.

Read All Articles in this Series:



1.  Pizzorno JE and Murray MT, eds, Textbook of Natural Medicine – Carnitine, St. Louis: Churchill Livingstone, pp 809-21, 2006.
2.  Role of carnitine in fatty acid metabolism of normal and ischemic myocardium, Opie LH, Am Heart J, 97(3):375-88, Mar 1979.
3.  L-carnitine. A Preliminary review of its pharmacokinetics, and its therapeutic use in ischemic cardiac disease and primary and secondary carnitine deficiencies in relationship to its role in fatty acid metabolism, Goa KL, Brogden RN, Drugs, 34(1):1-24, Jul 1987.
4.  The effects of L-carnitine treatment on left ventricular function and erythrocyte superoxide dismutase activity in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy, Gürlek A, et al, Eur J Heart Fail, 2(2):189-93, Jun 2000.
5.  L-carnitine Monograph, Altern Med Rev, 10(1):42-50, Mar 2005.
6.  L-carnitine supplementation reduces oxidized LDL cholesterol in patients with diabetes, Malaguarnera M, et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 89(1):71-6, Jan 2009.
7.  Taurine – monograph, Altern Med Rev, 6(1):78-82, Feb 2001.
8.  The effect of taurine on cholesterol metabolism, Chen W, Guo JX, Chang P, Mol Nutr Food Res, 56(5):681-90, May 2012.
9.  Taurine and electrical activity of the heart, Chazov EI, Malchikova LS, Lipina NV, Asafov GB, Smirnov VN, Circ Res, 35 Suppl 3:11-21, Sept 1974.
10. Effects of increased adrenomedullary activity and taurine in young patients with borderline hypertension,  Fujita T, Ando K, Noda H, Ito Y, Sato Y, Circulation, 75(3):525-32, Mar 1987.
11. Central cardiovascular effects of taurine: comparison with homotaurine and muscimol, Bousquet P, Feldman J,  Bloch R, Schwartz J, J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 219(1):213-8, Oct 1981.
12. Taurine protects the heart from neutrophil-induced reperfusion injury, Raschke P, Massoudy P, Becker BF, Free Radic Biol Med, 19(4):461-71, Oct 1995.
13. Therapeutic effect of taurine in congestive heart failure: a double-blind crossover trial, Azuma J, Sawamura A, Awata N, Ohta H, Hamaguchi T, Harada H, Takihara K, Hasegawa H, Yamagami T, Ishiyama T, et al, Clin Cardiol,  8(5):276-82, May 1985.
14. The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease, Xu YJ, Arneja AS, Tappia PS, Dhalla NS, Exp Clin Cardiol, 13(2):57-65, Summer 2008.
15. Serum taurine and risk of coronary heart disease: a prospective, nested case-control study, Wójcik OP, Koenig KL, Zeleniuch-Jacquotte A, Pearte C, Costa M, Chen Y, Eur J Nutr, Feb 2012.

NOTICE: The information herein is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat or prevent any disease or endorse any brand or product. For medical advice consult a health care professional.

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