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Carnitine is an amino acid derivative, with a role in energy metabolism.
It's energy-releasing role comes from its function as an intra-cellular transporter of fatty acids; it carries activated fatty acids into the mitochondrion for oxidation, and carries bi-products out of the mitochondrion to prevent build up. This is of particular significance to tissues that have a greater dependence on fats as their energy source. These include skeletal and cardiac muscle groups.
Carnitine is synthesised in the liver and kidneys, from lysine and methionine. In a normal individual, consuming a normal diet, the body should produce sufficient carnitine to make up for any shortfall in dietary intake.
The body is able to adapt its absorption of carnitine in response to intake; lower intakes of carnitine are generally better absorbed than high intakes. This means that vegetarians should be at no greater risk of deficiency, even though a vegetarian diet will tend to provide lower amounts of dietary carnitine. It's thought that on average about a sixth (16%) of ingested carnitine is absorbed.
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