Carnosine is a small peptide that contains two amino acids, beta- alanine and histidine. It is found in high concentrations in skeletal muscles, cardiac muscle and the brain.12
Carnosine supplements have been popular among body-builders and athletes mainly for improving muscular fatigue. Now, based on over 800 studies, it’s being viewed as one of the most important supplements for longevity based on its amazing properties. It is also a neuroprotectant, a modulator of enzyme activities, and a chelator of toxic metals.34567
Although carnosine’s other benefits have not been extensively researched, based on preliminary studies done in Russia, it has also been shown to be beneficial for its ability to:
- boost immunity and reduce inflammation
- exert anticancer effects
- promote wound healing, protect against radiation damage and reverse post-radiation syndrome. Laboratory animals treated with carnosine were found to have faster and better wound healing rates compared to controls. This has potential applications to treating burns, wounds following surgery, or during nutritional preparation for surgery.8
- protect against the formation of gastric ulcers, and help heal existing ulcers910
- help eradicate Helicobacter pylori, an organism that has been linked to peptic ulcer and stomach cancer11
- reduce or completely prevent cell damage caused by beta amyloid12, the substance found in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients
- help protect against cataract formation
- protect against the effect of glucose damage and protein oxidation
- inhibit (or reverse) glycosylation and therefore slow the damaging – and pro-aging – effects of carbohydrate consumption
- increase muscle strength and endurance
- improve appearance
Are you getting enough carnosine?
Dietary sources of carnosine incude meat, poultry and fish, but with the decrease in meat consumption, many people are getting less and less carnosine in their diet. But even if you do eat meat, as we naturally age, carnosine levels are reduced. This reduction in muscle carnosine concentration may be one of the causes of the decline in muscle mass, strength and function in the elderly.
Carnosine levels decrease with age
There is a high concentration of carnosine found in actively contracting muscles, and a low concentration found in weakened muscles, such as those affected by muscular dystrophy. In fact, people who suffer from a neuromuscular disease exhibit a 63% decline of muscle concentrations of carnosine, from the years 10 to 70.13
Stress and trauma also contribute to a reduction in carnosine levels, which may be a factor in the increased mortality rate in the elderly following stressful events.14 All the more reason to take a carnosine nutritional supplement.
As a potent antioxidant, carnosine stabilizes and protects the cell membrane by quenching the most destructive of free radicals— the hydroxyl radical—as well as the superoxide, singlet oxygen and the peroxyl radical.
Carnosine prevents lipid peroxidation within the cell membrane, and is believed to be the water-soluble counterpart to vitamin E in protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage.15 During the process of lipid peroxidation, lipids (such as the phospholipids in cell membranes and fatty acids in the bloodstream) are subject to attack by free radicals, which damage them by oxidation.
Carnosine has specifically been shown to block a highly reactive end product of lipid peroxidation called malondialdegyde (MDA).1617 If left unchecked, MDA can cause damage to lipids, enzymes and DNA, and contribute to atherosclerosis, joint inflammation, cataract formation, and aging in general.
How does carnosine work as an anti-aging nutrient?
Proteins are the substances most responsible for the daily functioning of living organisms. When proteins are damaged and modified—due to a variety of complex chemical processes including carbonylation,17 glycosylation,18 lipid peroxidation,19 cross linking,20 and the production of AGEs (advanced glycosylation end-products)2122 —there is a dramatic impact on the functioning and appearance of the body. Our faces begin to sag and wither, our energy levels decrease, and without our even realizing it, all of a sudden we look differently than we did 20 or 50 years ago.
According to Karin Granstrom Jordan, M.D. (“Carnosine: Nature’s pluripotent life extension agent” Life Extension Magazine, Jan, 2001), “Modified proteins accumulate as we age, while carnosine levels are declining. Once a protein is modified it has lost its ability to function normally, and when a significant portion of the body’s protein has reached this point, the body becomes more prone to degenerative diseases.” Carnosine is now believed to bind and modify damaged proteins in a vital process that helps our cells properly target them for removal and replacement.
Experience improved facial appearance, muscular stamina and general well being
In a preliminary anti-aging experiment, Marios Kyriazis MD gave carnosine supplements (50 mg. daily) to 20 healthy human volunteers, aged 40 – 75 years, for a period of 1-4 months. No side effects were reported. Five users noticed significant improvements in their facial appearance (firmer facial muscles), muscular stamina and general well being. Five others reported possible benefits, for example better sleep patterns, improved clarity of thought and increased libido. The rest did not report any noticeable effects.
Although this study evokes optimism, we should note that it was only a preliminary study, was not placebo controlled and relied on the participant’s subjective reports.
Dr. Kyriazis reported that it is not surprising that some of the volunteers did not report any noticeable effects because “supplementation with carnosine is not expected to show any significant noticeable benefits in a short time, but it should be used as an insurance against deleterious effects of the aging process. If any benefits are noted, these should be considered as an added extra bonus. It is worthwhile persevering with the carnosine supplementation long term, even if you do not experience any obvious benefits, as you will still be well protected against aging.”
Carnosine slows down aging in animals
In one study done on laboratory animals, carnosine was shown to slow the development of aging in “senescence-accelerated” animals (animals bred for rapid aging) when added to their diet. These effects were seen not only on lifespan, but also on behavioral changes and physical deterioration. Carnosine also had a similar though smaller effect on normal, long-lived animals not chosen for their rapid aging features, making it an interesting supplement for those of us worried about premature aging.24
If you want to try a safe and effective anti-aging supplement, you can’t go wrong with carnosine. Carnosine offers potent protection against free radicals and protein modification by itself. For added protection, take it along with vitamin E and/or Co-enzyme Q10.
- Quinn PJ, Boldyrev AA, Formazuyk VE. Carnosine: its properties, functions and potential therapeutic applications. Mol Aspects Med1992;13:379-444.
- Bonfanti L, Peretto P, De Marchis S, Fasolo A. Carnosine-related dipeptides in the mammalian brain. Prog Neurobiol 1999;59:333-53.
- Klebanov GI, Teselkin YO, Babenkova IV. Effect of carnosine and its components on free-radical reactions. Membr Cell Biol1998;12:89-99.
- Hipkiss AR, Preston JE, Himsworth DT. Pluripotent protective effects of carnosine, a naturally occurring dipeptide. Ann NY Acad Sci 1998;854:37-53.
- Hipkiss AR. Carnosine, a protective, anti-aging peptide? Int J Biochem Cell Biol 1998;30:863-8.
- Kudriashov IB, Deev LI, Goncharenko EN, et al. [Radioprotective properties of carnosine] Radiats Biol Radioecol 1999;39:268-71 [in Russian].
- Lee JW, Miyawaki H, Bobst EV, et al. Improved functional recovery of ischemic rat hearts due to singlet oxygen scavengers histidine and carnosine. J Mol Cell Cardiol 1999;31:113-21.
- Ilipkiss A. et al. Protective effects of carnosine against protein modification mediated by nialondialdchyde and hypochlorite. Bioch Biophys Acta 1998, 1380;46-54.
- Nishiwaki H, Kato S, Sugamoto S, et al. Ulcerogenic and healing impairing actions of monochloramine in rat stomachs: effects of zinc L-carnosine, polaprezinc. J Physiol Pharmacol 1999;50:183-95.
- Arakawa T, Satoh H, Nakamura A, et al. Effects of zinc L-carnosine on gastric mucosal and cell damage caused by ethanol in rats. Correlation with endogenous prostaglandin E2. Dig Dis Sci1990;35:559-66.
- Kashimura H, Suzuki K, Hassan M, et al. Polaprezinc, a mucosal protective agent, in combination with lansoprazole, amoxycillin and clarithromycin increases the cure rate of Helicobacter pylori infection.Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1999;13:483-7.
- Preston J et al. Toxic effects of B-amyloid on immortalized rat brain endothelial cell: protection by carnosine, homocarnosine and B-alanine. Neuroscience Letters 1998, 242; 105-108.
- Stuerenburg HJ, Kunze K; Concentrations of free carnosine (a putative membrane-protective antioxidant) in human muscle Biopsies and rat muscles. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 1999, 29: 107-113.
- Tarnha M, et al. Hydroxyl radical scavenging by carnosine and Cu(ii)-carm)sine complexes. Int J Radial Biol, 1999 75(9):1 177-1188.
- Hipkiss A. et al. Protective effects of carnosine against MDA-induced toxicity towards cultured rat brain endothelial cells. Neuroscience Letters. 1997. 135-138.
- Hipkiss A. et al. Protective effects of carnosine against protein modification mediated by nialondialdchyde and hypochlorite. Bioch Biophys Acta 1998, 1380;46-54.
- Stadtman ER. Protein oxidation and aging. Science. 1992; 257(5074):1220-4.
- Berlett BS, Stadtman ER. Protein oxidation in aging, disease, and oxidative stress. J Biol Chem. 1997; 272(33):20313-6.
- Hipkiss AR, Brownson C. A possible new role for the anti-aging peptide carnosine. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2000; 57(5):747-53.
- Bierhaus A, Hofmann MA, Ziegler R, et al. AGEs and their interaction with AGE-receptors in vascular disease and diabetes mellitus. I. The AGE concept. Cardiovascular Research. 1998; 37(3):586-600.
- Munch G, Schinzel R, Loske C, et al. Alzheimer’s disease–synergistic effects of glucose deficit, oxidative stress and advanced glycation end products. Journal of Neural Transmission. 1998; 105(4-5):439-61.
- Ilipkiss A, Ghana 14. Carnosine protects proteins against rnelhyiglyoxal-mediated modicatiations. Biochem Biophys Rcs Goinm 1998. 248 (1); 28-32.
- Boldyrev AA, Gallant SC, Sukhich GT. Carnosine, the protective, anti-aging peptide. Biosci Rep 1999 Dec;19(6):581-7