Acetyl-L-carnitine is a chemical compound naturally produced in the kidneys and liver. Acetyl-L-carnitine plays an important role in reducing oxidative stress, and it's believed to be involved in nerve cell function and regeneration.
A few clinical trials have tested the treatment effect of acetyl-L-carnitine. In these studies, people with diabetic neuropathy had reduced pain, improvements in other sensory problems and improvements in nerve function tests, though these benefits need to be confirmed in additional studies. Some of these studies suggest that the treatment effect is greater when started early in the course of the disease.
Acetyl-L-carnitine supplements are generally considered safe when taken as directed. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting or agitation.
Don't use acetyl-L-carnitine if you use warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), a blood-thinning medication, because the combination increases warfarin's effect and potentially the risk of bleeding. The use of acetyl-L-carnitine may worsen symptoms in people with hypothyroidism or who have a history of seizures.
A healthy diet is essential
Although research into the relationship between dietary supplements and diabetic neuropathy is ongoing, eating a healthy diet is widely recognized as a key part of managing your blood sugar and diabetes complications such as diabetic neuropathy.
Aim for a healthy-eating plan that's naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. Healthy meal plans focus on:
- Vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy products
- Lean meats, fish, and poultry without the skin
Physical activity plays an important role, too
Exercise is essential to managing your blood sugar well. Check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity, especially if you're taking medications that lower your blood sugar. People with diabetes should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week.
Drink water before, during and after activity to prevent dehydration. And, be sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
June 24, 2017
- Daroff RB, et al. Disorders of peripheral nerves. In: Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 2, 2017.
- Diabetes. Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed March 28, 2017.
- Diabetes and dietary supplements: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/diabetes/supplements. Accessed April 1, 2017.
- Oh YS. Bioactive compounds and their neuroprotective effects in diabetic complications. Nutrients. 2016;8:472.
- Vitamin B12: Dietary supplement fact sheet. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/. Accessed April 2, 2017.
- Jayabalan B, et al. Vitamin B supplementation for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Singapore Medical Journal. 2016;57:55.
- Wang D, et al. Serum folate, vitamin B12 levels and diabetic peripheral neuropathy in type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 2017;443:72.
- Feldman EL. Treatment of diabetic neuropathy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 2, 2017.
- Alpha-lipoic acid. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed April 6, 2017.
- Carnitine: Fact sheet for health professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Carnitine-HealthProfessional/. Accessed April 6, 2017.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine. Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed April 3, 2017.
- Diabetes diet, eating, & physical activity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity. Accessed April 2, 2017.