L-Carnosine (β-alanyl-L-histidine) is a dipeptide of the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine. Carnosine is found throughout your body. The highest concentrations are in high energy demand areas such as your brain, heart and muscles.
L-Carnosine is known as the ‘longevity molecule’. But don’t let that put you off if you’re not concerned about anti-aging. Carnosine levels decrease with age – starting at age 10! And decrease by 63% by the time you reach 70 years.[i]
L-Carnosine is one of the most powerful antioxidants known. It’s a heavy-metal scavenger. It’s a super auto-regulator. And it stands alone when it comes to preventing and reversing advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and cross-linking. And it’s highly concentrated in your brain.
Your brain uses l-carnosine to repair tissue and clear away toxins. And increase the energy output of your mitochondria. It suppresses excess immune responses when your immune system is in hyper mode. And it stimulates the immune response if you have a weakened immune system.
- Neuro-repair: L-Carnosine prevents and reverses the damage done by advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are created in your brain by sugars binding to amino acids, and caused by a variety of things including certain food and cooking techniques. Affecting word recall, response time, and cognition.
- Brain Energy: L-Carnosine can revive mitochondria. And even rescue your brain cells if the mitochondria have stopped functioning.
- Neuroprotectant: L-Carnosine has a powerful antioxidant effect in your brain. It continues to prevent oxidative damage even after brain cells have been attacked by free radicals. Preventing brain cell death and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Table of Contents
L-Carnosine (β-alanyl-L-histidine) is a dipeptide of the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine. Carnosine is found throughout your body. The highest concentrations are in high energy demand areas such as your brain, heart and muscles. (Don’t mistake l-carnosine for l-carnitine).
L-Carnosine is known as the ‘longevity molecule’ and targets several major processes in your brain and body. It removes heavy metals which accumulate in, and damage brain cells causing diseases like Alzheimer’s.[ii] And it prevents cross-linking of proteins which cause the neurofibrillary tangles found in Alzheimer’s.[iii]
L-Carnosine fights mitochondrial dysfunction by relieving oxidative stress caused by accumulation of free radicals in cells.[iv]
This not only works in your brain cells. L-Carnosine is used by athletes to achieve better results. Its buffering nature contributes to the acid-base balance in muscles.
Researchers have found l-carnosine restores neurotransmitter receptors. Receptors that were damaged from stroke or glutamate toxicity.[v]
And l-carnosine reduces damage to telomeres. These caps on the end of DNA strands shorten with each cell replication. This natural, ongoing process is used for example in long-term potentiation needed to form memories. L-carnosine slows the rate of shortening of telomeres.[vi]
Some l-carnosine is naturally produced in your body by the enzyme carnosine synthetase. And you can get l-carnosine from food – primarily from red meat and poultry. But a typical meal provides only about 250 mg of carnosine. It’s then quickly degraded in your body by the carnosinase enzyme.
This means carnosine from food doesn’t last long enough in your body to provide much benefit. And if you’re a vegetarian, you won’t be getting much carnosine other than what’s naturally produced in your body.
Supplementing with at least 1,000 mg of l-carnosine per day overwhelms that carnosinase enzyme. Allowing you to maintain consistent blood levels of this vital nutrient.
How does L-Carnosine Work in the Brain?
L-Carnosine boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.
- L-Carnosine is critical for brain health. L-Carnosine’s antioxidant, neuroprotective, chelating, and anti-glycation activity not only maintains optimal brain health. This dipeptide can be used to prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, diseases of the sense organs (i.e. eyes) and cancer.[vii]
L-Carnosine has been shown to reduce oxidative and glycemic stress.[viii] And it reduces inflammation. L-carnosine reduces the accumulation of b-amyloid plaque which plays a role in cognitive dysfunction and Alzheimer’s. And it helps remove heavy metals that cross the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in brain cells.[ix]
- L-Carnosine is required for healthy mitochondria. In your brain, you can have thousands of mitochondria in each cell. And they pump out energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). 20% of your body’s total ATP is located in your brain.
Glycation during this energy production reduces the functionality and efficiency of mitochondria. This is turn can cause apoptosis (cell death).[x] Glycation happens when proteins or DNA bond chemically to sugar molecules.
These sugar molecules go on to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs are implicated in Alzheimer’s, skin wrinkles, hardened arteries, and reducing the function of most major organs. Including your brain.
A study in the Netherland was done to examine the association between AGEs and cognitive function. This population-based study also included 215 people with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers tested for global cognitive functioning, information processing speed, verbal memory (immediate and delayed word recall), and response inhibition.
The study found there was a direct correlation with markers measured for AGEs and decreased cognitive performance. And the associations were no different between healthy people and those with diabetes.[xi]
Another study out of the University of California determined that l-carnosine was able to prevent AGEs.[xii]
How things go bad
Free electrons are a byproduct of ATP energy production. These electrons convert oxygen to a highly reactive form capable of damaging brain cells. And wreaking havoc with DNA in the long-term.
If left unchecked, it leads to neurodegenerative disease like memory loss, cognition dysfunction, and eventually diseases like Alzheimer’s.
↓ ATP levels decline in mitochondria
↓ Cognition, learning, memory and recall decline
↓ AGEs damage brain cells
↓ Free radicals damage brain cell mitochondria
All of these changes can happen at any age. And can start at age 10 or earlier (in the case of autism).
So l-carnosine supplementation can help for age-related cognitive decline, as well as anyone who wants to boost cognition, learning, recall and memory.
There is a proven high correlation between human lifespan and l-carnosine levels. L-carnosine is highly concentrated in your muscles and brain. And is directly involved in a number of life-extending activities.
L-Carnosine helps prevent the buildup of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that damage mitochondria. And eventually end in premature cell death.
It is a heavy metal chelator and works by removing heavy metal accumulation in brain cells. L-carnosine is an anti-oxidant and pH buffer in muscle cells preventing lactic acid buildup.
How does L-Carnosine feel?
When you supplement with l-carnosine you’ll notice younger looking skin. And you’ll have more energy.
You should experience a boost in cognition and decision-making capability. Thinking could be more fluid and your motivation may see a boost.
These changes are reported by neurohackers in their 20’s and 30’s as well as the more senior user.
But most of the talk and research on l-carnosine is on its anti-aging and longevity benefits. So what if I told you it also helps fight the flu?
It turns out that the influenza virus raises nitric oxide (NO) and oxygen free radicals such as superoxide anion (O₂⁻˙). When NO and O2– interact, they form peroxynitrite, the pathogen that causes pneumonia.
The excess amount of toxicity and oxygen radicals generated overwhelms your immune system. A study in the American Journal of Therapeutics reports that l-carnosine can put a stop to this overwhelm. And help you avoid or get rid of the flu or cold.
And eating chicken soup to make you feel better when your sick is not an ‘old wife’s tale’ after all. Chicken soup is rich in l-carnosine.[xiii]
L-Carnosine Clinical Research
L-Carnosine improves cognition
Animal and human studies suggest NMDA antagonists worsen executive function. This dysfunction is often caused by glutamate toxicity. And if this persists, you end up with diseases like schizophrenia.
This double-blind, placebo-controlled study worked with 75 adults with schizophrenia. They were stable in their symptoms at the time of the study. Subjects were randomly selected to receive 2 grams of l-carnosine per day for 3 months.
Executive dysfunction, memory, attention and motor speed were assessed at the beginning, and at 4 and 12 weeks. The l-carnosine group performed much better in executive function tests. And were better at strategy with fewer errors than the placebo group.[xiv]
L-Carnosine improves autism symptoms in children
L-Carnosine enhances frontal lobe function in your brain. And acts as a neuroprotectant. It also works with GABA for an anticonvulsive effect.
This double-blind study work with 31 children with autism for 8 weeks. They were given 800 mg of l-carnosine per day. The scientists then used several autism rating scales to measure results.
After 8 weeks of l-carnosine use, the children showed significant improvement in behavior, sociability, communication and vocabulary. The researchers concluded that l-carnosine enhanced neurologic function.[xv]
L-Carnosine is anti-aging
In 1965, Dr. Leonard Hayflick found that human cells have a limited capacity to divide. After which they become ‘senescent’. This is now known as the “Hayflick Limit”.
Hayflick discovered that your cells go through 3 phases. This first is rapid cell division called ‘mitosis’. The 2nd is where mitosis slows. And the 3rd stage is ‘senescence’ where the cell stops dividing entirely. They remain alive for a while and then do a particularly disturbing thing. They commit suicide. This programmed cell death is called ‘apoptosis’.
This cell life cycle occurs throughout your body and its trillions of cells. Including in your brain. But what if there was some way to slow down this programmed cell death?
Turns out there is. And it’s called L-Carnosine. Researchers at Sydney Laboratory in Australia found that l-carnosine extended cell life. They put cultured aged human cells in a petri dish with carnosine. The cells reverted back to juvenile cells.
When they put those same newly rejuvenated cells in a culture that had no carnosine, they reverted back to their old self again. Put them back in carnosine and they got young again.[xvi]
This experiment has been done again and again in labs around the world. Establishing l-carnosine as the best anti-aging thing since Ponce de Leon was searching for the Fountain of Youth right here in Florida (where I’m writing this article).
David Guetta thinks that Miami is “the sexiest city in the world”. Could be that everybody in Miami is using l-carnosine.
L-Carnosine Recommended Dosage
Recommended L-Carnosine dosage is up to 1,000 mg per day.
To keep a consistent level of L-Carnosine in your body, split your dose into two 500 mg doses. One in the morning and one later in the afternoon.
One important note on L-Carnosine. When you supplement with L-Carnosine it binds to aldehydes. Preventing them from making proteins. The byproduct is lipofuscin. This age pigment is not dangerous. But shows up as brown spots on your brain, skin and other organs.
As lipofuscin builds up over time, and this process is accelerated when using l-carnosine, it can interfere with proper organ and cellular functions.
This is why I recommend stacking L-Carnosine with CDP-Choline (Citicoline) and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR). CDP-Choline provides a choline molecule for the synthesis of acetylcholine (ACh). And ALCAR works as a cofactor in this synthesis as well as boosting mitochondrial energy production while acting as a neuroprotectant.
You can also try adding DMAE with CDP-Choline and ALCAR which helps flush lipofuscin from your brain and body. So stack your daily dose of 1,000 mg of L-Carnosine with CDP-Choline, DMAE and ALCAR at their recommended doses.
L-Carnosine is water-soluble so you don’t need to take it with a meal, or healthy fat like some nootropics.
L-Carnosine Side Effects
Carnosine is considered an extremely non-toxic and safe. High doses can cause insomnia. And L-Carnosine can cause a stimulant effect. So take your 2nd dose before evening.
Type of L-Carnosine to Buy
L-Carnosine comes in powder, capsule, tablet and liquid form.
Most major supplement manufacturers offer 500 mg tablets or capsules.
But make sure you read the labels and get L-Carnosine in its natural form. Some manufacturers will try to fool you by calling their synthetic carnosine natural sounding names like “nature-identical”. But lab created l-carnosine is not the real thing and not nearly as bioavailable.
Nootropics Expert Recommendation
L-Carnosine 1,000 mg per day
I recommend using L-Carnosine as a nootropic supplement.
Your body does make some L-Carnosine on its own from the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine. And you can get small quantities from red meat and poultry. But it’s easily and quickly broken down by the enzyme carnosine synthetase.
So to get its benefits, and enough to overwhelm the carnosinase enzyme, you must take it as a supplement.
L-Carnosine is especially helpful for repairing brain cells at the mitochondria level. It removes heavy metals, works as a very powerful antioxidant, and gets rid of AGEs.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) kill brain cells. Foods that are high in AGEs include roasted, fried, sautéed and barbecued meats, nuts and tofu. Those fries you had for lunch? Brain cell death.
Your natural production of L-Carnosine starts to drop at age 10. So anyone will benefit from supplementing with this anti-aging nutrient.
L-Carnosine helps control blood glucose levels, prevent Alzheimer’s, wound healing, protects from the side effects of chemo therapy, alcohol-induced liver damage, combatting heart disease, and eye health by protecting or repairing cataracts.
L-Carnosine is also particularly useful if you’re dealing with autism or Alzheimer’s. For autism, dose up to 800 mg per day. For Alzheimer’s, dose at least 1,000 mg per day.
And don’t forget to stack your daily L-Carnosine dose with DMAE and ALCAR. (See Dosage Notes)
[i] Stuerenburg H.J., Kunze K. “Concentrations of free carnosine (a putative membrane-protective antioxidant) in human muscle biopsies and rat muscles.” Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 1999 Sep-Oct;29(2):107-13. (source)
[ii] Hipkiss A.R. “Could carnosine or related structures suppress Alzheimer’s disease?” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2007 May;11(2):229-40. (source)
[iii] Wang A.M., Ma C., Xie Z.H., Shen F. “Use of carnosine as a natural anti-senescence drug for human beings.” Biochemistry. 2000 Jul;65(7):869-71. (source)
[iv] Nagai K., Niijima A., Yamano T., Otani H., Okumra N., Tsuruoka N., Nakai M., Kiso Y. “Possible role of L-carnosine in the regulation of blood glucose through controlling autonomic nerves.” Experimental and Biological Medicine (Maywood). 2003 Nov;228(10):1138-45. (source)
[v] Khama-Murad A.Kh., Mokrushin A.A., Pavlinova L.I. “Neuroprotective properties of l-carnosine in the brain slices exposed to autoblood in the hemorrhagic stroke model in vitro.” Regulatory Peptides. 2011 Feb 25;167(1):65-9 (source)
[vi] Shao L., Li Q.H., Tan Z. “L-carnosine reduces telomere damage and shortening rate in cultured normal fibroblasts.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 2004 Nov 12;324(2):931-6. (source)
[vii] Budzeń S., Rymaszewska J. “The biological role of carnosine and its possible applications in medicine.” Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine. 2013 Sep-Oct;22(5):739-44. (source)
[viii] Kohen R., Yamamoto Y., Cundy K.C., Ames B.N.. “Antioxidant activity of carnosine, homocarnosine, and anserine present in muscle and brain.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA Vol. 85, pp. 3175-3179, May 1988. (source)
[ix] Brown C.E., Antholine W.E. “Chelation chemistry of carnosine. Evidence that mixed complexes may occur in vivo” The Journal of Physical Chemistry 1979, 83 (26), pp 3314–3319 (source)
[x] Alikhani Z., Alikhani M., Boyd C.M., Nagao K., Trackman P.C., Graves D.T. “Advanced glycation end products enhance expression of pro-apoptotic genes and stimulate fibroblast apoptosis through cytoplasmic and mitochondrial pathways.” Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2005 Apr 1;280(13):12087-95. (source)
[xi] Spauwen P.J. et. Al. “Associations of advanced glycation end-products with cognitive functions in individuals with and without type 2 diabetes: the maastricht study.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2015 Mar;100(3):951-60. (source)
[xii] Pepper E.D., Farrell M.J., Nord G., Finkel S.E. “Antiglycation effects of carnosine and other compounds on the long-term survival of Escherichia coli.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2010 Dec;76(24):7925-30. (source)
[xiii] Babizhayev M.A., Deyev A.I. “Management of the virulent influenza virus infection by oral formulation of nonhydrolized carnosine and isopeptide of carnosine attenuating proinflammatory cytokine-induced nitric oxide production.” American Journal of Therapeutics. 2012 Jan;19(1):e25-47 (source)
[xiv] Chengappa K.N. et. Al. “A preliminary, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of L-carnosine to improve cognition in schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Research. 2012 Dec;142(1-3):145-52. (source)
[xv] Chez M.G., Buchanan C.P., Aimonovitch M.C., Becker M., Schaefer K., Black C., Komen J. “Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of L-carnosine supplementation in children with autistic spectrum disorders.”Journal of Child Neurology. 2002 Nov;17(11):833-7. (source)
[xvi] McFarland G.A., Holliday R. “Further evidence for the rejuvenating effects of the dipeptide L-carnosine on cultured human diploid fibroblasts.” Experimental Gerontology. 1999 Jan;34(1):35-45. (source)
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Dear Mr Tomen,
Is it true that L-carnosine can boost stem cells?
If not, which nootropics can?
David Tomen says
André bone marrow stem cells. For stem cells in your brain use the search function top right of this website and search for “stem cells” in quotation marks.
Natasha Rose Dodds says
This will be my first time using Nootropics and I have never managed to stick at taking these types of thing before. I also have adhd but am mostly hoping to stop skin ageing and improve memory and brain ability. I am nearly 40. I wanted to ask if you might recommed a plan. After reading your article and couple of others by you, I thought perhaps to start with the Mindlab Pro and maybe add in some l’carnosine. I noticed you said to add in ALCAR, DMAE and CDP if using l’carnosine and I noticed that most of these were in the Mind lab prob. So my question is, would mindlab pro have enough of these ingredients in to support the additional l’carnosine. I worry I might not stick to it well if there are lots of diff pills to take and really want to make it work.
So if I add in some l’carno, DMAE to the mindlab pro 4 and then maybe either an MCT or Omega oil. Will that be a good start? Anything you reccomend adding or any other stack prodcut. I want the least pills poss and the easiest way to keep it up
David Tomen says
Natasha, I highly recommend scheduling a consultation with me. I’ll help you put together a nootropic stack to take care of your issues. Including a schedule to follow during the day. Here is a link to my calendar: https://calendly.com/davidtomen/60-minute-consultation-with-report
is this why they include zinc w/ some carnosine supplements? ZN/Carnosine.
David Tomen says
Denise, it could be because supplementing with zinc helps reduce lipofuscin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7404247/
Hey David !
I am commenting for the first time, though I have been following your blog for the last one year. Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge. This is smashing stuff !
I couldn’t find a recommendation to the “natural carnosine” that you mention has superior bio-availability as compared to the synthetic one. Could you help with a brand recommendation?
Also, would it be fine if one had 1000 mg carnosine without DMAE (though with 500 mg Citicoline and 2000 mg taurine(taurine taken at night, away from Citicoline+Carnosine in the morning)? This is for a couple of months.
David Tomen says
Trivikram look for a Carnosine supplement from a trusted source that says “Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine)” and that contains no “other ingredients”. This is a good example: https://geni.us/aU2uIjq (Amazon). That form is the natural form that your body uses. Another tip is look at the user reviews before you buy.
But L-Carnosine on its own will increase lipofuscin which shows up on your skin as “age spots”. The same thing happens in your body but you cannot see it. Which long-term it can interfere with proper organ and cellular functions.
And if you are using a higher dose like 1000 mg it’s better to use 500 mg twice per day. Once in the morning and again early afternoon. L-Carnosine has a very short half-life so using one large dose means you get its benefit all at once instead of spread over your day.
I will be following your recommendation of taking DMAE while taking Carnosine. Adding to our discussion (with the only intention of making it richer):
I see that reputed brands that sell Carnosine, do not bundle DMAE in the same pill. Here are a couple of examples:
Example 1 – Natural Factors – L-Carnosine 500 mg
Example 2 – Life Extension – Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer with PQQ
A couple of questions:
1. Could you please help me with the DMAE dosage to go with 500 mg Carnosine? If i don’t get the DMAE supplement in the dosage you recommend, i’ll simply break it into half and have it twice.
2. In the write up on Carnosine, you mention that the “recommended dose” is 1000mg per day. However, in the response to my comment, you mention that 1000mg is a “higher dose”. Could you please clarify whether the typo is in the original writeup or the comment?
David Tomen says
These companies do not bundle DMAE with their L-Carnosine products because they do not understand the complete mechanism of action and side effects of using L-Carnosine.
Scroll back up to the section called, “L-Carnosine Recommended Dosage” where you will find detailed dosage instructions. Dosage for DMAE in this case is 100 mg per dose.
Amy Lo says
I have lots of dreams almost every night! Is there any supplement I can take to stop this or lessen the dreams so that my brain can rest?
Many thanks !
David Tomen says
Amy Lo, there is nothing I know of that can suppress dreaming. And I don’t think you want to because if you succeed in finding something you’ll end up with low quality sleep. Because you mess with your sleep cycle.
Acupuncture can help – this is a symptom of an energetic inbalance, that is well known in TCM. Talk to an experienced
acupunctur practitioner with at least three years of education in TCM.
Strange as it sounds, Ethanol (alcohol) is quite effective at preventing
REM sleep. Take one (maybe two or more – enough to feel its effects) shots of Vodka before sleeping and you will not dream (maybe late in the morning hours). I used this to break the cycle of (“night terrors” – wall to wall nightmares) and it worked beautifully. However you would want to get off of it slowly (few weeks) as your brain learns to sleep normally without so much REM sleep.
I am interested to try L-Carnosine. In you post you’ve written to take L-Carnosine + CDP-Choline + acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) + DMAE to eliminate lipofuscin.
I have headache from CDP-Choline.
What would you suggest to use instead of CDP-Choline?
Thank you in advance,
David Tomen says
Aiva, sounds like you have enough choline then so eliminate CDP-Choline.
Thank you, David!
Hello there! Great article, I just received some L-Carnosine and am looking forward to giving it a trial. Although I am only 29 years old, my long term goal in life is to age graciously lol. Quick question – I am a swimmer, do you recommend taking the first initial dose as a pre-workout? Would its antioxidant effects counteract things such as muscle growth, etc. or does it not make a difference whether my first dose is before vs. after swimming in the morning? Thanks in advance!
David Tomen says
Daniel, 500 mg L-Carnosine twice per day. It does not matter when you take it. Just twice per day every day to get it’s long-term benefits.
Mid 40s here, I supplement with between 500mg – 1000mg of l-Carnosine, I also take ALCAR 500mg x 2 and 250mg of CDP Choline. First off, how should i dose DMAE purely for lipofuscin? Should I be taking it daily or should I be dosing every other day etc? I’m also slightly confused by the dosage because you say “do the conversion for pure DMAE” ?
Also, I noticed that you used to take Carnosine but now its not listed in your list of supplements you take, have you stopped using this? if so why?
David Tomen says
Jay, I just stopped ordering L-Carnosine because I need to draw the line somewhere. I take a LOT of supplements.
Start out with 50 mg DMAE and see how that goes. If all goes well you can increase it to 100 mg per day. Use it for 5 days and take a 2 day break. And add a high quality DHA (OMega-3) supplement to your stack (1,000 mg DHA per day).
Thanks for your reply David.
Yes i hear you with regard to taking a lot of supplements, same here!
And with regard to dosing DMAE, when you say start with 50mg, but then on your DMAE post you say “do the conversion for pure DMAE” like I mentioned. So do you mean start with 50mg of DMAE Bitartrate?
David Tomen says
Jay, whatever form of DMAE you are using keep in simple and start with 50 mg of that supplement.
Hi do any of the nootropics help with knee pain from running?
David Tomen says
Stewie, we deal with the human brain here and not knees. So this is not the best place for this question.
The best supplement I’ve found for pain so far is Kratom. And I did have success years ago relieving muscle pain with Choline Bitartrate.